57.3 F
Fort Worth
Friday, November 27, 2020
Opinion Exploring the Kennedy-Camelot connection

Exploring the Kennedy-Camelot connection

Other News

Exxon’s oil slick

Exxon Mobil is slashing its capital spending budget for 2020 by 30% due to weak demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a market...

Folk music’s Mark Twain: 7 Essential tracks from John Prine,

NEW YORK (AP) — Some people, the songs just come out of them. For nearly half a century, they tumbled out of John Prine...

Tarrant County records another COVID-19 death

Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH) on Wednesday, April 8 reported that a resident of Euless has died as the result of the COVID-19 virus....

Tradition stymied: A year unlike any since WWII for Augusta

The Masters is so intertwined with Augusta, they added an extra day to spring break.You see, the first full week of April isn't just...
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Bill Thompson bthompson@bizpress.net

Each evening, from December to December, Before you drift to sleep upon your cot, Think back on all the tales that you remember Of Camelot.

Ask ev’ry person if he’s heard the story, And tell it strong and clear if he has not, That once there was a fleeting wisp of glory Called Camelot.

Where once it never rained till after sundown, By eight a.m. the morning fog had flown… Don’t let it be forgot That once there was a spot For one brief shining moment that was known As Camelot.

Word association: King Arthur. Knights. Camelot. John F. Kennedy. It seems like a natural string of words and phrases now, half a century after JFK was killed in Dallas. Is there anyone who hasn’t made, or at least heard about, the Kennedy-Camelot connection? For one brief shining moment, our memories tell us, it was real: the charismatic young president with his White House full of brilliant, idealistic associates, spreading hope and enlightenment across the political landscape, making the world a better, safer place. But it wasn’t real. Like the musical Camelot; like The Once and Future King, the novel that inspired the Broadway show; like the myriad tales and legends that chronicled the exploits of the Knights of the Round Table – like all the Arthurian fiction, folklore and fable before it, Kennedy’s Camelot was a myth. And it was a myth, oddly enough, that was concocted after Kennedy’s death, after the imagined wisp of glory had been shattered by the horrible sound of gunfire on Nov. 22, 1963. We’ve heard and read the reference so often that it seems as if the Kennedy presidency was always equated with Camelot, the mythical home of Arthur and his court. The connection was easy to accept, after all: From the stories about his heroism in World War II to his unforgettable inaugural address in January 1961 – “Ask not what your country can do for you,” he urged us, “ask what you can do your country” – to his final public appearances in Fort Worth before the fatal motorcade in Dallas, Kennedy projected the aura of a mythical figure. His coterie of Harvard-wisened advisers and his star-studded White House gatherings of artists, scholars and opinion-makers conjured visions of a Camelotian court of honor. But no one suggested such a thing until a week after the assassination when Jacqueline Kennedy asked journalist-historian Theodore H. White to interview her and write an article for Life magazine – an article that was published in December 1963 and forever linked the Kennedy presidency with Camelot. Mrs. Kennedy told White, whose book The Making of the President 1960 had examined JFK’s presidential campaign, that her husband loved to listen to the Camelot cast album and was especially fond of the lyrics sung by King Arthur in the final reprise of the show’s title song: Don’t let it be forgot That once there was a spot For one brief shining moment that was known As Camelot. Jackie insisted that White make the Camelot reference the focal point of his article, hoping that associating Kennedy with the mythical monarch who brought peace, chivalry and nobility to his kingdom would persuade the public to remember the slain president as a rare and heroic leader whose contributions to history would never be duplicated. In truth, as columnist Robert Samuelson points out elsewhere in this week’s Business Press, Kennedy’s contributions to history were minimal. “It’s not about him. It’s about us,” Samuelson writes, suggesting that our perception of Kennedy and his presidency are projections of our own aspirations for ourselves, our country and our world. More than a leader, Kennedy was a symbol. He embodied not what was but what could be. For that, we can be both grateful and resentful. Kennedy showed us, as individuals and as a country, that it’s possible to be inspired by a leader and that it’s possible to act on that inspiration, to reach beyond ourselves in quest of a greater good. He spoke of a New Frontier, never defining what it was but making us believe it was a worthy destination. But the uplifting rhetoric and mythical imagery, with little substantive achievement to support them, had a downside. The mythology made us susceptible to the lure of a false prophet, a would-be savior who might promise deliverance but deliver only words. JFK primed us to judge our leaders not by how they make us think but how they make us feel. That can be a dangerous standard; it can make us prey for charlatans and demagogues. JFK excited and inspired us, and we’ve been chasing the dream ever since, yearning for a leader who can give us one fleeting wisp of glory, one brief shining moment of hope for the future. Maybe it’s time, as we honor John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his too-soon and too-tragic death, to let go of the dream. Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to Camelot and to the search for unattainable myths that supplant our understanding of reality and erode our willingness to deal with it. Perhaps the time has come to give JFK his due and relinquish him to history.  


Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Latest News

Commentary: When to donate rewards to charity and when to give cash

By ERIN HURD of NerdWalletIf you're looking to give to charity this holiday season but don't want to dip into your bank account, donating...

Commentary: Area mayors say ‘Spread cheer this holiday season, not COVID-19’

Mayors of several cities in Tarrant County released the following message: As we enter the holiday season, it’s becoming all too apparent that this year...

Bill Thompson: Love ’em or hate ’em, Happy Holidays!

For a lot of people, “holiday depression” begins around Thanksgiving, or maybe around the time Christmas songs start blaring on the radio and retail...

Robert Francis: Thanksgiving 1954

If, god forbid, my home ever catches on fire, I would make sure my family was safe, then the pets (my wife might say...

COMMENTARY: Student debt in a stimulus package is not a good solution

Making education more affordable and accessible is critical to our future, but simple, across-the-board debt forgiveness is not the best policy. Student debt has been...