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Christine Jardine MP writes: Reflections on “Camelot” 60 years on

It was Jackie Kennedy who first likened her husband’s presidency to Camelot, the mythical court of King Arthur, in an interview with Life magazine in 1963.

The musical of the same name was apparently the President’s favourite.

On the sixtieth anniversary of his death little of the inspirational quality she evoked seems to have been lost.

If anything the passing of time has enhanced his image and invested his three short years in the White House with a significance that has prompted generations to search for their own Kennedy.

But why is it that those of us who know him only from grainy black and white news footage, or endless biographical books and movies, are so enthralled by a Presidency which promised much but was denied fulfilment?

Of course there is an element of ‘what if’ about Kennedy.

The feeling that a generation was robbed of a leader who would have lived up to his inauguration’s pledge to:

Pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.

The glamour of his young administration was a stark contrast to the immediate post war years and seemed to herald a new beginning.

He was after all the youngest to be elected, and the first Roman Catholic President.

A war hero who brought his children to play in the Oval Office and whose wife gave the role of First Lady a new elan.

And whose death was etched deep in American consciousness not just by those horrifying final pictures in Dallas but by the heartbreaking image of a three year old JFK Junior saluting his father’s coffin.

But that is only part of Kennedy’s story.

While he introduced more bills in his first hundred days than any president had since Roosevelt they were stuck in a log jam created by a Congress that wasn’t won over by his infamous charm.

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