Abraham, Martin and Now John, Jr., by Star Parker

I haven’t cried yet over the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. I guess one reason is because I didn’t know anything about him. I just found out that he was the only son of the late, great President John F. Kennedy.

I am sad though. I’m sad because I didn’t know him. I didn’t know how he felt about the vision his dad had for this country. I also didn’t know if he had the desire, the passion or the anointing to continue that vision. This was a vision birthed during one of the most intense periods of America, where his dad dared to challenge all of us to, “Ask not what this country can do for you but what you can do for this country.”

I was 7 years old when JFK was assassinated. It was the first time I ever saw my parents cry. It took years, the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the death of Senator Robert Kennedy, for me to see the same intensity of those tears from them again. And since.

My parents grew up in the segregated south. They sheltered me and my brothers and sisters from the pain of this historic American experience by my dad going into the Air Force and finally settling in the north. But JFK was his hero.

President Kennedy was a hero for millions of black men like my dad because his agenda wasn’t about handouts; but about personal integrity, responsibility, excellence and equal access to opportunity. Perhaps life today in black America would be different if JFK, Jr. were old enough to have been the successor of this legacy.

Instead we got the vision of a “Great Society” as termed by President Lyndon B. Johnson: welfare, forced busing and government-controlled affirmative action. It was almost as if the Johnson Administration misread JFK’s edict to say, “What you can do for the country is pay excessive income taxes so that the government can pretend to do for you.”

The lesson for me in the tragedy of the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. is to work while it is today. I need to make sure that a sense of purpose is established in my every effort of influencing my kids, developing my career and building my personal relationships. It grieves me to hear from news commentators that John Jr. may have had political ambitions but that he thought he had time to postpone this call until sometime in the future. I still have such goals.

Maybe one reason so many strangers to John Jr, his wife and her sister gathered at his old residence to mourn is because this type of emotional expression will keep them for thinking about the finality of life. If they think too hard about purpose and the future, they might have to think about the infinite in this age of moral relativism. How sobering, and scary.

“Has anybody here seen my old friend John, can you tell me where he has gone? He freed a lot of people but it seems the good they die young, Abraham, Martin, John.” And now John Jr.

(Star Parker is a member of Project 21’s National Advisory Board and president of the Coalition on Urban Renewal & Education. She can be reached at [email protected].)

Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.

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