'This terrible bereavement, for our nation and for all mankind'
It's still the 22nd of November in the USA (just). Here is Senator Jacob Javitz's (R) eulogy for JFK delivered at a Senate memorial service in December 1963.
This is such a beautiful piece of writing, delivered from ‘across the aisle’ by a Republican senator. The writing is sublime, ‘not until the vacuum of disbelief was filled with the horror of comprehension’. He was a master of reflective phrases, just as JFK was, setting up a word in the first half of a sentence and then calling it back in the second.
‘He was vigorous and healthy and smiling and friendly — a complete human being, concerned about other human beings who were no longer as vigorous and not quite as healthy as they used to be.’
Anyway, the whole speech is a treat. Read it and weep for the current level of division and discord - and stupidity - in public life.
Jacob was a liberal Republican, who supported labor unions and the civil rights movement. He fought for endowments for the arts. He predicted an African American president by the year 2000.
He died in 1986, aged 82. RIP Jacob Javitz. RIP President Kennedy. 60 years on.
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JFK’s Pulitzer Prize winning biographer Frederik Logervall was a guest on the Speakola podcast, talking about another, more famous speech:
Here is the Javitz eulogy.
For John F Kennedy: 'He was vigorous and healthy and smiling and friendly', Senate memorial service, by Jacob Javits - 1963
November 1963, Washington DC, USA
Mr. President, hundreds of thousands of words have been published, and hundreds of thousands more have been spoken into the microphones of the world since John F. Kennedy was struck down in Dallas, but none of them were really adequate. Words never are in the face of senseless tragedy.
Words cannot describe how the American people felt when they lost their president. Not until the vacuum of disbelief was filled with the horror of comprehension did any of us realize how much we identified ourselves, even apart from personal friendship, with the president — this intellectual, vigorous young man — and he would have been that if he were eighty — expressing the very essence of the youthfulness of our nation. It seems of little consequence now that there were political differences, or objections to this or that legislative product, though as far as I am concerned there was a very large measure of agreement. What matters is that feeling of loss — that personal sense of emptiness — that all Americans feel because their president was cut off in the prime of life. As a nation, we have lost a president who understood the institution of the presidency, gloried in its overwhelming responsibilities, and discharged his duties with dash and joy, which were an inspiration to the youth of our nation.
But John F. Kennedy was more than that. He was a man filled with the joy of living. He was a husband, a father — and my friend.
For myself, I remember coming to Congress the dame day he did. We were sworn in together on the same January day in 1947. A photograph on my office wall shows that we two, returning veterans, looked a little uncomfortable at the moment in our civilian clothes. It shows us looking at the Taft-Ellender-Wagner housing bill, and it recalls the first job we did together when we called on the National Veterans Housing Conference of 1947, which we had organized, to back this bill. It was the beginning of an association which extended throughout our careers in the House and Senate. We collaborated in many bipartisan matters, as is not unusual in the Congress. Indeed, in our service together in the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, we worked closely — as did Senator Morse and others — on the minimum wage bill, the Labor-Management Disclosure Act, and other similar measures which were major aspects of Senator Kennedy’s legislative career.
I am a personal witness to the fact that he was resourceful, optimistic, and creative. He became and was my friend, and this is a deep source of gratification to me and to Mrs. Javits and our family.