A 50 ANNI DALLA MORTE
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Cinquant’anni fa, il 22 novembre 1963, moriva J.F.Kennedy. Le scuole americane, a distanza di mezzo secolo, cercano di ricordare il 35° Presidente degli Stati Uniti con occhi più obiettivi, fuori dal mito in cui quella morte lo ha avvolto.
Il New York Times ha proposto 10 modi attraverso i quali gli studenti Americani possono riflettere sulla vita e sulla morte del presidente Kennedy.
Offriamo queste piste alle colleghe di inglese come strumento da utilizzare nelle proprie classi
Teaching About J.F.K.
With The New York Times
By TOM MARSHALL, MICHAEL GONCHAR and KATHERINE SCHULTEN
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Fifty years ago this week, the president of the United States was shot and killed. Are we any closer to understanding who he was and why he died? In this lesson we offer 10 ways in which students can reflect upon the life and death of President John F. Kennedy.
Teachers may wish to pick one idea as a whole-class starting point, or let students follow their interests and report on their findings. The resources below can also be used as the starting point for research and inquiry.
Ways to Teach about President Kennedy and His Assassination
[stextbox id=”grey” mright=”100″ image=”null”]1. Assessing the President[/stextbox]
Was Kennedy among the greatest presidents in our modern history, or has his importance been overstated? In the article “Textbooks Reassess Kennedy, Putting Camelot Under Siege,” Adam Clymer writes about J.F.K.’s changing standing in history textbooks:
* The first — and for many the last — in-depth lesson that American students learn about the 35th president comes from high school textbooks. And on the eve of the anniversary of his assassination 50 years ago, a review of more than two dozen written since then shows that the portrayal of him has fallen sharply over the years.
* In general, the picture has evolved from a charismatic young president who inspired youths around the world to a deeply flawed one whose oratory outstripped his accomplishments. Averting war in the Cuban missile crisis got less attention and respect. Legislative setbacks and a deepening commitment in Vietnam got more. The Kennedy-era glamour seemed more image than reality.
After reading the article, answer this question — What kind of portrayal does your textbook provide of J.F.K.? — and use evidence from your book to support your answer. As part of your analysis, you can compare specific passages on key issues, such as the Bay of Pigs invasion and civil rights, to the excerpts included in this Interactive feature.
[stextbox id=”grey” mright=”100″ image=”null”]2. Memories and Heartbreak[/stextbox]
From the moment Americans heard the news of the assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, they began documenting their reactions through photographs and memorials to the fallen president.
You can visit PBS’s collection of memories from the day the president was shot — or this collection in The Los Angeles Times. Then you can interview relatives or elders in the community, asking questions like:
- * Where were you when you heard the news?
- * What memories do you have of President Kennedy?
You can also visit “An Idea Lives On,” an online project by the John F. Kennedy Library where people share stories that show how the president’s legacy continues. Then, using photography, video and text, you can curate your own local museum of memories about the president and his assassination.
[stextbox id=”grey” mright=”100″ image=”null”]3. Lots of Theories[/stextbox]
Who killed Kennedy, and did that person act alone? The anniversary of the president’s assassination has prompted many reviews of the evidence, including analyses of the famous Zapruder film and the man behind it; a profusion of theories on whether Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman; and speculation on which people or governments might have been involved if there was a conspiracy.
You can explore a variety of perspectives, including the article “No Stranger to Conspiracy” and “Mystery From the Grave Beside Oswald’s, Solved” by the New York Times reporter Dan Barry and the video “The Umbrella Man” by Errol Morris. Then you can write an essay or make a poster or infographic in which you make an evidence-based case for the most persuasive interpretation.
[stextbox id=”grey” mright=”100″ image=”null”]4. Public Speaker[/stextbox]
What do Kennedy’s speeches reveal about his leadership in times of crisis? Several Op-Ed articles from this summer explore that question. In “Two Great Speeches,” Adam Clymer writes about two groundbreaking speeches that Kennedy delivered on June 10 and 11, 1963:
- These days it is hard to imagine a single presidential speech changing history.
- But two speeches, given back to back by President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago this week, are now viewed as critical turning points on the transcendent issues of the last century.
- The speeches, which came on consecutive days, took political risks. They sought to shift the nation’s thinking on the “inevitability” of war with the Soviet Union and to make urgent the “moral crisis” of civil rights. Beyond their considerable impact on American minds, these two speeches had something in common that oratory now often misses. They both led quickly and directly to important changes.
“J.F.K. and the Power of Practical Idealism” and “J.F.K.’s ‘Strategy of Peace” delve further into the president’s foreign policy speech on June 10, 1963, while “Kennedy’s Finest Moment” offers further commentary on the president’s civil rights speech on June 11, 1963. “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” reflects on Kennedy’s speech two weeks later in West Berlin.
Below are the transcripts for these three speeches:
- June 10, 1963: Commencement Address at American University.
- June 11, 1963: Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights.
- June 26, 1963: Remarks in the Rudolph Wilde Platz, Berlin.
You can read these Opinion articles, select one speech on which to focus and read the original transcript. Then you can write your analysis of the speech, including its content and context, and make an argument about what it says about the president.
[stextbox id=”grey” mright=”100″ image=”null”]5. Why Kennedy Remains a Cultural Icon[/stextbox]
An estimated 40,000 books, countless television specials and multiple museum exhibits have been devoted to John F. Kennedy.
Why do you think we are still so fascinated by this man and his family? In “A Camelot Nostalgia Tour for Those Who Remember, and Those Who Don’t,” Peter Baker reviews the “deluge” of “all things Kennedy” that has hit museums, movies, magazines and marketplaces this year, and speculates about why the nation remains so mesmerized by the 35th president:
* Kennedy’s death occupies a distinctive place in the American story, harking back to an often romanticized era.
* “It’s amazing that Kennedy should have this extraordinary hold on the public’s imagination 50 years after,” said Robert Dallek, a historian, whose book “Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House” is being released in October. “He’s the one president along with Reagan who gave people hope. It’s hope, it’s optimism, it’s the feeling that he could have made this a different world.”
* It is also heartbreak and mystery, the beautiful widow and their young children, the whispered tales of secret assignations, the never-dispelled suspicion that there was more to his death than officially acknowledged.
- * Although three-quarters of Americans are too young to really remember his presidency, Kennedy has become a tabula rasa on which they can paint their own portraits.
Interview others your age about what they know — or think they know — about Kennedy, his life, his family, his role as president, and his death. Take notes, then compare with others in your class. What “facts” do most people you interviewed seem to agree on? What misconceptions do interviewees have? What notions about the man and his time period were revealed in these interviews that echo the ideas quoted above about why J.F.K. still fascinates? Use your interviews as a starting point to conduct your own research into what’s fact and what’s fiction.
[stextbox id=”grey” mright=”100″ image=”null”]6. Original Reporting[/stextbox]
Another way to delve into this history is to read the original Times reporting about the assassination and related events. Below are key articles reporting on the president’s assassination, the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald and the Warren Commission report:
- “Kennedy Is Killed by Sniper as He Rides in Car in Dallas; Johnson Sworn In on Plane”
- “President’s Assassin Shot to Death in Jail Corridor by a Dallas Citizen; Grieving Throngs View Kennedy Bier”
- Warren Commission Finds Oswald Guilty and Says Assassin and Ruby Acted Alone; Rebukes Secret Service, Asks Revamping
Select one of the three events, read what your textbook has to say about the event to get an overview and then read the relevant Times article. Next, compare how the two sources treat the event. Does your textbook have additional information that was revealed after the original reporting? Does the Times article include details that were dropped from the textbook? What other reactions do you have to the two sources?
[stextbox id=”grey” mright=”100″ image=”null”]7. How 1963 Changed Dallas[/stextbox]
Is it fair to blame the City of Dallas – or any geographic place and its populace – for a horrific event that happens within its borders? And how can a historical event change that place forever? Read this Opinion article about the city where the Kennedy assassination took place, as well as two letters to the editor responding. Then read this article about how much Dallas has changed in 50 years, even though extremism is still alive and well in Texas and around the nation. Next, write an analysis of whether you think Dallas was an “actor” and not just a “stage” for the president’s assassination, based on Times sources, and consider how you think the city should reflect on the legacy of the president’s assassination.
[stextbox id=”grey” mright=”100″ image=”null”] 8. Is It Art or Commerce?[/stextbox]
In some cases, museums or auction houses have shown an interest in artifacts from the Kennedy era, such as the bloodstained pink suit worn by Jacqueline Kennedy on the day of the assassination.
Are such collections and memorials useful or unseemly?
Consider whether you think such articles are valuable pieces of history and then write in your journal or discuss with your classmates about the ethical dimensions of publicly displaying such items.
[stextbox id=”grey” mright=”250″ image=”null”]9. Historical Social Media[/stextbox]
Can social media help history come alive for students? The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is running a “historical tweeting” project on Twitter by sending updates from the life of the former president using the account @JFK_1963.
Read through some of these tweets and then create your own J.F.K. Twitter or Facebook account. Select 10 or more key moments from Kennedy’s presidency and create posts that feel historically accurate. Use the president’s actual words whenever possible.
[stextbox id=”grey” mright=”100″ image=”null”] 10. Obituary[/stextbox]
Immediately after the president’s assassination, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Reston published “Why America Weeps” (PDF) in remembrance of John F. Kennedy. He wrote:
- America wept tonight, not alone for its dead young president, but for itself. The grief was general, for somehow the worst in the nation had prevailed over the best….
- The irony of the President’s death is that his short administration was devoted almost entirely to various attempts to curb this very streak of violence in the American character.
- When the historians get around to assessing his three years in office, it is very likely that they will be impressed with just this: his efforts to restrain those who wanted to be more violent in the cold war overseas and those who wanted to be more violent in the racial war at home.
Read Mr. Reston’s article, and then write your own obituary for President Kennedy. Use the Times articles included above and the resources listed below to conduct your research.
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- Flash Points: Searching for Modern Lessons in the Cuban Missile Crisis
- The Miller Center at the University of Virginia: John F. Kennedy (1917–1963)
- John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
- The Sixth Floor Museum
- Newseum Exhibit: Artifacts, Photos and Historic Front Pages