What might have been...

It is not often that the one story dominates all the world’s headlines. We got a sense of it a few years back when we were all under the curse of Covid. For the first time, perhaps ever, the entire globe was at the mercy of the one ailment; the entire global news cycle carrying the same, but localised versions of the same story. We all had variations of the one restrictions; we lived our lives in the manner that the regulators dicated.

This day 60 years ago, the world’s media was also carrying the one story with the news of the previous day’s shooting in Dallas reverberating around the globe. It was that first moment in time when people recalled an engagement with media, whether it be radio, newspaper or TV. Decades on, people can recall where they were when they heard that news.

Here in Galway, it was felt particularly acutely, not just because Kennedy was the first identifiably Irish president that modern times could remember, but because just a few months earlier, his shadow fell across the Square where I am writing these words now.

Kennedy was a colourful politician in an era of black and white. In a world of stuffy and formal men, he was the boyish All-American with the bang of the American dream about him, who stood out when he came here. Around him, we all looked gaunt, half-starved and over-eager.

His death was felt keenly because here he had engaged with a generation. He had charmed all and promised to come back. The White House archive contains hundreds of fantastic photographs from his visit to the west that show his beaming smile, the pictures he painted with his words... the ‘On a clear day, you can see Boston’ speech remaining iconic. Now on those same docks lie companies from his own country, here creating valuable clean jobs for a new generation.

Maybe if he had lived on and won a second term, the shape of the sixties might have been different, globally and in both halves of our own country. Instead, dull men in dull suits ran a world that went on fire for decades.

We are still on fire and this morning (Thursday ), with the beginning of a ceasefire in the Middle East perhaps we can sense some hope again, after a few years of dashed opportuity and conflict.


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