EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally appeared in the Nov. 21, 2003, edition of the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
Forty years after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in the streets of Dallas, conspiracy theories abound. Most are seeking answers to the same questions: Who killed Kennedy? Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone? How many shots were fired? On the eve of the anniversary of his death the Tyler Morning Telegraph asked Chapel Hill High School students how much they know about Kennedy, and what they believe about his death.
Tamika McLean, Senior, Band, Student Senate
I don’t know too much about Kennedy. All I really know is that he was our president and that he died really young. I believe he was a great president and that his death was really tragic. Last year in history we got to watch a tape of the assassination — it was traumatic. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to all the conspiracy theories but mine is he was shot, he’s dead, let’s be done with it. It’s sad because as a president he could have done a lot more for this country. When you’re young you have fresh ideas and you ambition — a desire to do something with your life. I can understand why people found such hope in John F. Kennedy. I think he would have done a lot to make America great.
Steven Davidson, Senior, Tennis, Debate
Basically, I’ve grown up being taught that John F. Kennedy was by far one of our greatest presidents. He was an honest man that made some mistakes but he was also a man of integrity because even when he did make mistakes, whether it had to do with the Cuban missile threat or Marilyn Monroe, he admitted to it and admitted he was wrong. He didn’t try to hide things. All my life I’ve been told that he was a good man and that his death was a tragedy. A lot of times people just don’t understand how one man would act on his own — why one man would have his own reasons for killing another man, so we use conspiracy theories as a crutch â€¦ to help explain what might have happened. I know that one of them is that Oswald was working with the KGB — that might have been possible but I think it might be a crutch, it’s something to lean against for some sort of comfort. There really is a possibility that he acted alone, that he held some personal grudge against Kennedy and it was all him and no one else. People do crazy things to get what they want. If we wanted fame, it may not have been what he wanted to be famous for, but he is famous — infamous — because of his actions.
Alex Ramirez, Senior, Debate, Baseball
I have always viewed Kennedy as a good leader. He was a good president — he got the space program going and supported integration. I don’t think he was a perfect man but he was a great leader. As far as conspiracy theories, I think there is a great deal that goes on behind the scenes. I think there is a lot we don’t know and a lot that we probably won’t ever know. Maybe that’s for the best. Sometimes I think it’s to protect us, but sometimes I think it has a lot to do with greed and power. I definitely think there is more to his assassination — it’s sort of curious that the only suspect was shot in broad daylight. It’s just a huge mystery, you know, the grassy knoll, was there a second shooter? They’ve examined the angle of the shots and there is some stuff that just doesn’t add up. Sometimes I think conspiracy theories come out of nowhere. Not everything is black and white and it’s not always about corruption and evil. It might just be a coincidence that all this happened and that we’re just looking for answers because he was such a good leader. We’ll never have all the information. Tragic things just happen.
Modesto Rosales, Senior, Debate, Newspaper
He was a good man, a good president. He had a lot of fortitude from what I understand and he did solve the Cuban Missile Crisis. I know he was shot while in a parade in Dallas and that it was supposedly Lee Harvey Oswald who shot him from a building that is now a museum. Then Jack Ruby shot Oswald. That’s all I really know. I’m not really one to buy into conspiracy theories. They’re interesting but nothing is going to change. He’s still going to be dead. That’s why I don’t like conspiracy theories, especially ones that are 40 years old.
Tim Lamonte, Senior, Debate, Baseball
Kennedy was a good man but a bit of a womanizer. He was one of the first presidents to promote racial equality, one of the first to make a stand even though the Bay of Pigs turned out to be a political disaster. He learned from it and didn’t make the same mistakes with the Cuban Missile Crisis. The CIA and FBI weren’t on real good terms with him after the Cuban Missile Crisis. I don’t think Oswald acted alone, if he acted at all. Think about it, how hard would it be for the CIA or FBI to find a “fall guy?” I don’t know if they did it but I think the CIA and FBI knew before hand what was going on. There are people who know. What reason do they have to not answer questions if they don’t have anything to hide? Why plead the 5th unless what you have to say is incriminating?
Jamie Cooper, Senior, Drill Team
I know he was president, he was young and that the media really liked him. I know that he was assassinated in Dallas. I know that Lee Harvey Oswald was also killed so there was never a trial. I think there is a lot that we haven’t been told — that the government has kept a lot from us. Because there is so much we don’t know people start to form their own opinions. People are looking for answers and sometimes they think the worst of the government — not that I think the government is bad but they do keep a lot from the public. The media can only report what is given to them and sometimes that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. You assume the government is hiding something when it’s not up front about things.