I’m making this a three-part series about Camelot myth vs history. In smaller doses.
~ from the 1960 Broadway musical, CAMELOT, by Jay Lerner
Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment
That was known as Camelot!
One Brief Shining Moment
Just look at these photographs. How could this kind of glamor, intelligence and culture in our White House not inspire comparison to Camelot?
It was a controversial administration in a turbulent time, and nobody called it Camelot until President Kennedy was dead.
Soon after that awful day in Dallas, his grieving widow collected herself enough to direct a legacy. From backward boots on the saddle of a riderless horse in the funeral procession, to an interview one rainy night at the family compound in Hyannisport, Mrs. Kennedy intended that we all remember John F. Kennedy as a tragically fallen hero, and forever dream what might have been.
I found the original magazine issue on eBay and scanned the article to share: http://adriennelacava.com/americas-camelot/
I was eleven years old when this tantalizing myth not of King Arthur’s Court gained legs. Guinevere had always been my go-to character when playing pretend as a child so I bought it, and I remain enamored by glamorous images and wonderings of what might have been.
Research work for my novel, No One Can Know led me to examine history alongside the mythology.
Strength but non-aggression
The political landscape of 1963 America was deeply divided. A bellicose Congress perceived JFK as weak. They knew he supported a globally superior defense structure, but disfavored aggression by our military.
JFK was a decorated naval officer in World War II, so he came to office as an informed warrior… and a brand new father.
Mrs. Kennedy said he had an epiphany during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. He just couldn’t stomach the idea of children as collateral damage.
The depth of harm in war looked different to him as a father, and he challenged the aggressive posture of his Joint Chiefs. About one conflict in particular he’d weighed carefully and decided. America would not send soldiers to Vietnam.
Kennedy had a change of heart, but the military industrial machine had already achieved unstoppable momentum. Many believe this is why he became a marked man.
I try not to idolize, but because I study these books and speeches, it’s not easy. John F. Kennedy was an admirable public servant. His election as a Catholic sparked new tolerance, and initiatives like Civil Rights, the Peace Corps, and NASA brought us into his vision of New Frontiers—that would lead us away from aggression, toward prosperity, and global leadership of the good kind.
Mrs. Kennedy was devoted to her role as well. During their administration, she was sometimes criticized in the press and as a schoolgirl, I remember being drawn in by those controversies… and coming away enlightened about culture and sophistication and the arts.
Lady Bird had HUGE shoes to fill, and not just because Jackie wore size 10.
Next up, I’ll opine about some of the complexities impacting the Kennedy White House.