Most people over 55 can tell anyone where they were on November 22, 1963, when they heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas.
The news was unbelievably stunning. A junior at Spokane’s Central Valley High School, I was walking between classes as a palpable murmur surged through the hallways following a brief announcement by the principal.
Many of the girls started crying. Others rushed to their lockers to grab transistor radios to listen for additional news. There was instant confusion, a degree of fear as students tried to assimilate the impossible to fathom news. Rumors swept through the halls: the Russians were going to launch a nuclear missile attack; war was surely coming was the most prevalent.
Over the ensuing days Americans came together as never before, or since (not even 9/11), watching their televisions, listening to the reassuring voice of Walter Cronkite. Indelibly imprinted in the minds of “baby boomers” will be the image of the riderless horse being led down Pennsylvania Avenue following the caisson carrying the President’s casket.
Nor will any forget the heart-breaking image of young three-year-old John Kennedy Junior saluting as the caisson rolled by a grieving Jackie and Caroline Kennedy.
Idaho, like the rest of the nation, shared the grief, and in many respects joined in embracing the myth that quickly became Camelot. Beyond the shared grief, though, JFK impacted Idaho in several ways not recognized by many today.
As the 50th Anniversary is observed there will be numerous stories and various opinions on President Kennedy, his legacy and his impact on people and states. Without question his most lasting Idaho impact was the inspiration he gave a young, 28-year-old lumberjack with one year of college to enter politics.
In the spring of 1960 Kennedy agreed to a stopover in Lewiston to give a speech at the Lewis-Clark Hotel before heading on to Portland to campaign in the important Oregon Presidential primary.
The young lumberjack, Cece Andrus, decided to drive the 40 miles from his home in Orofino down the Clearwater River to hear Kennedy’s remarks. To this day he cannot tell you what exactly it was Kennedy said, but he walked out of the hotel feeling he had heard a great person’s call to others to enter public service, to be part of the new generation taking over in America. (more…)