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

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Who was the real JFK?

An update from Rianna, a sophomore:

I was honestly not looking forward to this class. I didn’t really know much about former President John F. Kennedy; I simply knew that he was assassinated in Dallas and that we had a museum about him somewhere downtown. I’ve also never really been into modern history… anything after 1900 gets a bit too political for me, and I’m just not interested enough to follow along.

But this class is so much better than I expected.

The professors, first of all, are amazing. Their knowledge on Jack Kennedy, his family, and various conspiracy theories is outstanding, and their enthusiasm for the subject is contagious. I never expected JFK’s life to be so full of complexity. Reading about him has become so interesting, especially since we have various sources that portray him in such different ways. In one biography, he’s a hero. He’s flawless. He’s charismatic and loved by everyone. Turn around and in the next book he’s a jerk. He’s a womanizer. The reader only sees his flaws. So which is the real JFK? I’m still trying to figure that out, myself, and that’s why I’ve come to like this class so much. It’s a mystery. It’s something I never considered studying and it’s become captivating, as I imagine JFK was to many people across the country during his time.

If this class is offered again, or if you have the opportunity to study JFK, I highly recommend doing so. I’ve heard the files on his assassination will be revealed in 2029 or somewhere around that time, but you can bet that I’ll probably be reading through those, connecting the dots from what I learn this semester.

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