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People tell me that my sarcasm and cynicism will get me into trouble some day. We'll see.

Friday, November 24, 2006

JFK Jr's famous salute

This week marks the 43rd anniversary of a famous event: that image seen around the world when little three year old JFK Jr lifted his arm and gave a finely formed salute to his departed father, John F Kennedy, our nation's 35th President.

Who could forget that tribute to his dad, captured forever by photographers and sent to the world-wide press via the news wire. It's a touching image. Do a Google image search and you can see numerous iterations of that fateful photo.

And who has not seen the footage of little John John raising his arm to honor the late President during one of the many televised documentaries about JFK, JFK Jr, or Jackie O on one of the stations such as A&E or CNBC?

What you won't see

What you won't see in that footage is the little boy lowering his hand after that salute. You'll see him standing with his mom and his uncle as the coffin approaches, then you'll see the salute, then the camera cuts away to something else.

So who cares, you ask? What makes the difference? The kid salutes, he stops saluting, and life goes on, right?

Maybe. I remember watching the many live newscasts that week in '63. These were the televised productions that were being presented before they were edited into the newsreels we see today as the historical record. For whatever reason, perhaps in the mind of an impressionable elementary-aged school student that I was, I remember it slightly differently than that which is presented today.

In that live footage, I remember John John raising his hand to salute, which he held for several seconds, and then I seem to recall either his mother or his uncle noticing this gesture and then gently helping the lad lower his arm back to his side.

If it did indeed happen as I believe I recall, I'm sure it was nothing more than an instinctual response on the part of Junior's relative. Kids make gestures all the time, some appropriate, others not, and three year olds are specially prone to such behavior. It is a parents' or relatives' instinct to try to correct a child's deeds on sight without having the time to consider its historical significance, specially at a time while grieving. Which parent of a three year old do you know who has not had to leap into action as their kid was fidgeting with their trousers or picking their nose in public?

Here's what I think happened. When the media got raw footage from the videographers of the day, they saw the magnificent salute, followed by the well intended "correction," and decided to run the video up to the salute only, so as not to taint America's love for the Kennedy family in general. And specifically to avoid tarnishing that historical image with a follow-on gesture that would imply the action was somehow prohibited. The salute is so powerful that to run the insignificant and harmless aftergesture would greatly reduce the emotional impact of the moment, so why not cut the tape at the peak of the moment?

What's the point?

Why do I bring this up? No reason. Every year since 1963 about this time, we see documentaries and biographies about the Kennedys. Every time I see one, I see that stock footage. And every time I wonder, Was I imagining this? Granted I was young, but the memory is so strong. I've often wondered how I can prove my theory. Somewhere in this world, somebody owns that original news footage. Besides, the funeral of our beloved President was a well attended event, and video cameras did exist in 1963. Somebody has a private clip of that moment.

Anyway, if you were "there" in '63, or if you might have seen the original, unedited footage, do you recall if young JFK Jr had any help in completing the salute seen 'round the world? Or am I just imagining things?


Blogger James Burnett said...

When I read stories like this a small part of me wishes I'd been around to see some of this history take place in the '60s.

Monday, November 27, 2006 2:57:00 PM  
Blogger The Sarcasticynic said...

Yeah, the '60s were a trip. Trouble is, no one knew it at the time!

Monday, November 27, 2006 6:52:00 PM  
Blogger James Burnett said...

I have a collection of '60s era neckties. Very skinny. I rarely have the nerve to wear 'em.

Sunday, December 03, 2006 4:15:00 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I had actually heard a rumor that Jacky Kennedy had coached her son to salute his fallen father, but that sounds incorrect in light of your post.

I don't think the adult "correcting" the boy takes away one iota from the boy's gesture. If that's true, then it only reinforced the magnificence of that moment--that he was NOT coached and it was a three year-old boy's instinct to salute his father.

Yeah, I missed out on the 60s and just remember a year or so of the 70s... I remember my corduroy pants.....

Sunday, December 10, 2006 6:15:00 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I'm not sure whether you're saying the "correction" was to help the boy salute or not. I thought you were saying the adult meant to stop John from saluting.....

Sunday, December 10, 2006 6:17:00 PM  
Blogger The Sarcasticynic said...

I meant the correction was to stop the lad, as if to say, "That will be enough of THAT, young man!"

James, send the ties on to me. I can't stand the wide ties. Also, the narrow ones go great with my cords.

Sunday, December 10, 2006 7:29:00 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

but you know, a salute is not necessarily instinctual behavior. it's learned. even if you're an adult in the army....

Sunday, December 10, 2006 8:01:00 PM  
Blogger The Sarcasticynic said...

well, with Commander in Chief as a dad, the lad might have had lots of opportunity to witness salutes, I would imagine ...

Sunday, December 10, 2006 8:14:00 PM  
Blogger briliantdonkey said...

Hey Sarc:

Not sure if this post is the one you were pointing me to or not. Either way, I find it QUITE fascinating, as I had never heard anything like that before. If you were pointing me here hoping to find and answer to your question, sorry I can't help you. That was a few years before my time. It would indeed be interesting to know if that had happened and got cut out or not. What is that old saying? something about history being ultimately written the way we WANT it to be written or something like that. I am sure I butchered that but oh well. Other examples of this are the whole Christopher Columbus thing, and the ultra famous Iwo Jima flag raising picture being real but re-staged. Thanks for the fascinating read. I am quite interested in what you find out as well.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007 9:36:00 AM  
Blogger The Sarcasticynic said...

Thanks for the visit, BD. More responses to your comments below this entry.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007 5:48:00 PM  

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