In a November 20, 2014 interview at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, former President Jimmy Carter was asked by Ronan Farrow the following question: “How does President Kennedy’s legacy echo in your mind today?” Carter gave a very moving response in which he recounted where he was and his response when he heard about Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963.
Carter’s recollections of JFK: Here’s what Carter said:
“I wish that some of you would go to Google and look up the speech I made here when the Kennedy Library was dedicated. I was President of the United States, and I came here to Boston with my heart filled with emotion. I was a peanut farmer when President Kennedy was shot, and I heard about it from one of my customers. I went outside and sat on the steps and wept. And to me, that was the greatest blow that I had suffered since my father died. Because I felt that he epitomized with his words and with his actions the finest aspects of my country, and I guess I felt closer to him because he and I were both in the navy. I was on two battleships and three submarines. It was one of the most grievous blows I ever felt, and I expressed those sentiments to some degree when I was the main speaker at the dedication of this library – and I still feel that way. And it’s a great source of pride to me whenever I might be compared in some ways with him.”
Carter in 1963: In 1963, Carter had just turned 39 years old, just a few years younger than the assassinated Kennedy, who he never met. While he was a peanut farmer, he had also been elected in 1962 to the Georgia State Senate.
Carter at 1979 dedication of JFK Library: At the October 20, 1979 dedication of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, where President Carter was the main speaker, he provided a few additional details of where he was and his response to Kennedy’s assassination:
“On that November day, almost 16 years ago, a terrible moment was frozen in the lives of many of us here. I remember that I climbed down from the seat of a tractor, unhooked a farm trailer, and walked into my warehouse to weigh a load of grain. I was told by a group of farmers that the President had been shot. I went outside, knelt on the steps, and began to pray. In a few minutes, I learned that he had not lived. It was a grievous personal loss–my President. I wept openly for the first time in more than 10 years–for the first time since the day my own father died.”
Mike Purdy’s Presidential History Blog
© 2015 by Michael E. Purdy