More than 300,000 people have already visited an exhibit at the Newseum that includes newspaper front pages and photographs.


Get ready for all things Kennedy

  • Article by: PETER BAKER
  • New York Times
  • August 31, 2013 - 6:25 PM


– After all the ceremonies for MLK, there’s now JFK.

For anyone interested in another momentous era in American history, attention is turning to John F. Kennedy’s Camelot with as much intensity as the commemorations last week for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Now, 50 years later, the assassination of America’s 35th president will once again captivate the nation and the nostalgia industrial complex — or so hope museum curators, publishers, filmmakers, documentary producers, magazine editors and conspiracy theorists.

Not content to wait until November, the marketplace is already brimming with all things Kennedy, the start of a “deluge,” as the producer of one coming documentary put it.

Newsstands are making space for photo-heavy commemorative issues with essays by the likes of former President Bill Clinton. Bookstores are crowded with new volumes re-examining the single-gunman theory and Kennedy’s “vampire romance” with Marilyn Monroe (complete with exceedingly graphic sex scenes). Movie theaters and television sets will recreate the glory and the tragedy with actors like Rob Lowe playing the martyred president.

At the Newseum in Washington, more than 300,000 people have already trooped through exhibits displaying the first United Press International bulletin on the assassination and a collection of intimate photographs. Even amid the year’s other mile markers, including the 150th anniversaries of the Battle of Gettysburg and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Kennedy’s death occupies a distinctive place in the American story.

“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.”

That rosy view, while not always shared by historians and shaded by revelations of recent years, has made him the most popular modern president. In a 2010 survey by Gallup, 85 percent of Americans approved of him, higher than any president who has followed.

“Most politicians, presidents included, after they die they’re forgotten,” said Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, whose bestseller “Killing Kennedy” is being made into a movie. “But not Kennedy. Kennedy is special. They still have a presence; the family is still a presence in politics. It’s still very relevant.”

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