Each generation of Americans has that moment when its world changes, when its members lose their innocence and are forced to grow up. For baby boomers, that moment was the assassination of Jack Kennedy by a communist in Dallas on this date 50 years ago.
Kennedy was as inspiring as President Reagan and more popular than President Obama, with more experience and a better vision of what America could be.
Early in Kennedy's presidency, he challenged the nation.
"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard," Kennedy said.
And we did.
Kennedy was the last Democratic president who unabashedly opposed the Soviet Union. He relished his duties as leader of the free world.
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty," Kennedy said at his inauguration.
He engaged the Soviets diplomatically, militarily and ideologically, establishing the Peace Corps to help shepherd the Third World into the Second World through an American alternative to communism.
The son of a millionaire, he once responded to a question by pointing out how in the military one draftee gets a desk job and another is sent to the front line.
"Life is unfair," he said.
Kennedy also pushed for lower taxes, which truly stimulated the economy, fulfilling his prophesy that "a rising tide will lift all boats."
But he also assembled the team of "the best and the brightest" who pushed the nation into the Vietnam War after his death. His over-reliance on the resume and curriculum vitae should have warned his successors to hire a few not-so-bright and second-best people who might not be so quick to act.
Today, critics say Camelot was a public relations scheme. Indeed, the press ignored his many flaws, especially his infidelity. But he was a genuine leader who brought out the best in Americans.
On this 50th anniversary, we should celebrate his life, and not dwell on his death.