Generation Y Studies JFK's Life and Times

Forty SMU undergraduates have a unique opportunity to capture the zeitgeist of a turbulent time as the nation prepares to observe the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22. SMU political science Professor Dennis Simon and senior English lecturer Tom Stone in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences are teaching a special course during fall 2013 that examines the life, times and legend of JFK.

The students and professors are blogging about their experiences here. Learn more about SMU’s experts and archival collections related to the presidency and assassination at smu.edu/JFK.

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Growing up with JFK stories

An update from Jackie, sophomore majoring in advertising in Meadows School of the Arts and minoring in business in Cox School of Business:

The Kennedy name has been familiar to me since I was old enough to understand the importance of people in history. It was not deliberate, however, my first name, Jacqueline, was already chosen when Jackie O passed away a week before I was born. My maternal grandmother’s family had a strong interest in history and politics; and because the Kennedys had been part of my grandmother’s era, I grew up hearing a great deal about them.

My grandmother has countless books in her possession that profile all aspects of JFK in regards to politics, his presidency, his personal life, etc. So I am very aware of the opinions of my family regarding party politics in relation to the controversial Kennedy family – one side discussing the Republican platform, the other staunch Democrats. However, I now have an opportunity to hear opinions of other scholars, filmmakers, authors, and especially the input of my professors in order to form opinions of my own.

I did not sign up for this Ways of Knowing class profiling JFK to expand my knowledge of him. It is mostly for the discussion and to hear differing sides and opinions of the JFK legend offered by two brilliant professors. I also am enjoying and learning from my classmates who are my age. The class has truly been one of the most captivating historical experiences that I have had. Although the reading load is quite substantial, I find myself looking forward to what I am going to learn next about the famous/infamous JFK.

The three hours just seem to whiz past as we spend half of the class with Professor Simon discussing the political aspects of JFK’s career and the significant factors that influenced the decisions that he made and his motives. We also discuss the context of the time period and how JFK navigated the controversial waters that surrounded the 1960s era.

Then, with Professor Stone, we discuss the assigned readings (online articles and novels) and how each presents JFK and constructs a certain persona of him. With both professors, we discuss the various (some far-fetched) conspiracy theories and how many people to this day do not agree with the conclusion of the Warren Commission. Overall, I am so pleased to be taking this class, allowing me to participate while learning about a legend at SMU.

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