JFK Remembered | Sr. Margaret Claydon SND ’45 | Trinity Washington University

JFK Remembered | Sr. Margaret Claydon SND ’45 | Trinity Washington University


Well at Trinity when Kennedy was first elected President there was a great deal of excitement and happiness and rejoicing. It was the first time, really that we had had a Catholic president and as most of the population was Catholic there was tremendous hope that he was going to be a wonderful President. My own thought when Kennedy was elected was somewhat like the students, but a little more adult perhaps. I thought from listening to him in the Senate, I really thought that he had some wonderful ideals and principles hat we needed to have at that time in the history of our country. So I too was full of expectation. I was full of sort of exultation that here we have this young, energetic, witty President. And I was With him, and thinking, oh come on now JFK, let’s go! With other college Presidents when we went to the White House, we were called not really just to meet President Kennedy, but he wanted to urge us to accept more international students and that was really the gist of that whole meeting. But it was fun to be there and you know again… I was struck as I had been before when Kennedy spoke at Trinity with the kind of aura that surrounded him. There was something about him that you got excited to be in his presence and to hear what he had to say, and you always felt uplifted after you had been in his presence. I still remember both times that he spoke here. I was always struck by the effect that his personal appearance had on others. Our student body, not too much at Commencement, but at another time when he spoke in O’connor Auditorium, this whole student body just sort of came alive and cheered and clapped and they couldn’t stop clapping just because of his presence. When Robert Kennedy Spoke here at Trinity in 1963 the whole College was excited. It was really for Commencement and he was a Commencement speaker and of course we all were hoping that it was going to be a beautiful bright sunny day when we could have as many people as wanted to be there, and we were swarmed. But unfortunately it was pouring and so we had to have the Commencement down in Notre Dame underneath the Chapel so there were a lot of people all gathered outside the windows of that auditorium and I remember when Molly Cellini was a given her degree the whole class turned to the right and looked up at the window and Bobby Kennedy leaned over to me and said. “Now what’s that all about?” I said oh up at that window is Molly Cellini’s fiancé, George and they all wanted him to be sure and see Molly, so when Bobby got up to speak he said oh your Excellency Archbishop O’Boyle, Sister Margaret etc, etc, and George! And it brought the whole audience into laughter. It was a wonderful occasion. The terrible news of JFK’s assassination reached me right after lunch when I went up to my room. The phone rang and it was my secretary and she said Sister the President has been shot. I just could not believe it. Two minutes later practically, Walter Cronkite came out with the news that the President had died. It happened to be the day that there was going to be a huge S.G.T. where people from all over the city were being invited. Of course we canceled that and that was the last time we ever had what had been an annual S.G.T We gathered at the front door that night as night was falling. Each of us had a lighted candle we marched from the front door over to Notre Dame Chapel and there we all prayed for the President who was now gone, for his family and of course for our country. There was trepidation, there was fear ,kind of what’s going to happen with him gone? And we had never experienced in our lifetime the assassination of a President so again that fear was almost palpable and terrible sorrow and grief. The enduring legacy of President Kennedy. I think well first of all and this is probably personal, I have often wondered to myself what he would have accomplished had he not died. He did leave us the drafting for a civil rights bill that Johnson got through and passed. Kennedy also inaugurated the Peace Corps program which has lasted even down I think to this day. I think the memory, even though there’s been a lot of debunking as far as his personal life has been concerned, it’s in his legacy of excitement and hope and idealism for our country. It is s still there in many ways, if someone could only take and run with it.

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