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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Paying respect to JFK

An update from Sorsha, a sophomore majoring in international studies and anthropology, and minoring in Spanish:

I have always been in love with studying the Civil Rights Movement, an interest that I was able to develop in several other classes with Dr. Simon, namely the Politics of Change and most recently the life-changing Civil Rights Pilgrimage. Both of these classes and my own studies projected an image of President John F. Kennedy that I think many people share: the American hero, champion of civil rights, unflagging martyr for the dazzling, volatile 1960s. When I read about this class, it seemed like the natural next step to enroll so as to learn more about this icon and the time that fascinates me the most. And I’m so thankful I did, because it has transformed my perspective and helped me become a more critical thinker.

While I still have a great respect for and admiration of JFK and all that he represents, it has been an interesting process to learn how he came to stand for all the noble things with which I associate him in my mind. All heroes have their flaws and hidden faces, and no one is a one-dimensional caricature. JFK made mistakes. The lines between his contrived motivations and true passions are sometimes blurry. Our class readings force us to question the image that we’ve learned to love of this mythic president.

And, all in all, I am so grateful to be in a class that pushes me a step further and allows me to confront and reconsider my own views. Considering its alignment with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, I think that this course is especially appropriate, and I hope that my involvement is a way of paying my respect to a man who, despite his faults, will be lovingly ingrained in the common memory of our nation forever.

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