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Tech Professor: JFK’s Assassination Shaped A Generation, Offers Lessons

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Tech Professor: JFK’s Assassination Shaped A Generation, Offers Lessons

The assassination of John F. Kennedy 60 years ago Wednesday shaped a generation and still cultivates perspective.

That according to Tennessee Tech history professor Dr. Krystal Akehinmi. Akehinmi said when she asks, people who were alive in the 1960s can almost always tell her where they were when they heard the news that Kennedy had been killed.

“As we think about Kennedy’s legacy or the death of Kennedy and that an assassination on that level is possible, it can remind us again to live and make our own impact today and to really think more carefully about how we vilify one another,” Akehinmi said.

Akehinmi said the assassination defined the 1960s and an entire generation. Akehinmi compared the event to the COVID-19 pandemic as the event that has shaped the present generation.

Akehinmi said the ’60s were a decade of violence and change, but most of all, a desire for change and hope. Many people had that taken from them when the vessel for that hope was gunned down, she said. But the event ended up playing an important role in facilitating change.

Akehinmi said Lyndon Johnson was able to push some 50 pieces of legislation through the Senate that had been stalled because of friction with Kennedy. This resulted in federal education funding, the Peace Corps, and unprecedented civil rights legislation.

“Look at the past, aiming to put yourself in the shoes of the people who were in that time period to not try to judge or understand them from your own moment, but to use whatever happened in the history that we study to think about what you can be doing today,” Akehinmi said.

Akehinmi said Kennedy’s death changed the public’s perception of his presidency and blinded people from some of the problems with his presidency. Akehinmi also said the event added to the apathy of the younger generation and left them disaffected seeing their hope for change seemingly dashed.

Sixty years later, Akehinmi said Kennedy’s assassination reminds us to work to find common ground.

“Those who you think are of a political stripe that is not your own, who have views that are not ones that you share, even people who disagreed with Kennedy could grieve that the national leader was shot down in that capacity,” Akehinmi said. “I think just thinking about our own mortality as people should help to civilize our political interactions.”


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