It’s been 54 years since the life of President John F. Kennedy was cut short in Dallas, Texas. The date was November 22, 1963.

The release of troves of government documents this year related to Kennedy’s assassination has prompted renewed interest in the tragedy. Tidbits of information from newly declassified reports generate fresh headlines. And a curious public once again debates fact and fiction surrounding the tragic event more than a half-century ago.

But, what would the U.S. and the world have been like – then and now – had Kennedy not been shot?

The question has been the source of great speculation by many who knew Kennedy or have studied his life, politics, motivations, and actions. Some have suggested a much more limited American involvement in Vietnam, thus avoiding the strife of the anti-war and counter-culture movements. Others believe the nation’s hallmark civil rights legislation of the era would likely have stalled because of Kennedy’s limited political influence with key constituencies.

What about relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union? And, the effect of Kennedy’s relationships of other sorts?

We’ll never know, of course. Which makes the speculation all the more fascinating.

For more insights, check out this article from The Atlantic.

This perspective from historian Robert Dallek is also worth a read. It’s from the archives of The New York Times.


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