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A Shot Felt Around The World

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    November 22nd, 1963 the world was changed forever. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Three days later on November 25th, the world had to say goodbye to a beloved president at his state funeral. One of the most iconic images from those few days was the photo of JFK Jr., age 3, giving his father’s casket a final salute as it was carried out of St. Matthews Cathedral. I argue that the JFK Jr. saluting image functions as an iconic image to rhetorically demonstrate a nation coming together and showing strength in a time of great tragedy through composition, color, and environment. This image works to unify Americans and create a sense of patriotism, but it also shows the violence that has historically been and continues to be a part of America. At age 46, almost three years into his presidency JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald during a presidential motorcade.

    President Kennedy was shot in both the neck and the head. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The funeral which occurred three days after his death, and on John Jr.’s birthday, was planned by officials; Jackie, his wife, added many personal touches such as walking behind the casket instead of riding in a car. Jackie who watched her husband get shot and even picked up a piece of his skull remained strong and composed in the days following his assassination and during the funeral. The funeral began with the procession to St. Matthews Cathedral where funeral mass was held. Then after the funeral mass JFK was buried at Arlington cemetery. Moments after the casket was carried down the steps of the cathedral John Jr. saluted his father’s’ casket. This iconic photo taken by Dan Farrell, is the image I have chosen. As Robert Andrews put it “in that moment, he suddenly became the brave soldier his father would have wanted him to be on this day, of all days,” (UPI).

    The children were considered too young to attend the final burial service, so this was the children’s final goodbye to their father which makes the moment even more heartbreaking. Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaities define iconic images as images that are widely recognized, reproduced over a wide range of media, are understood to be representations of historically significant events, and activate a strong emotional response. The image of JFK Jr saluting was one of the most iconic images of the 1960’s and one of the most iconic pictures of JFK Jr. (MAYBE ADD MORE) The image was produced over a wide range of media being published online, in newspapers, and in magazines (among other things). JFK’s assassination was a pivotal moment of the 20thcentury. Kennedy is one of only four presidents who have been assassinated but he was the first president of which many Americans felt a deep personal connection. Kennedy was the first television president which allowed for Americans to feel closer to him.

    The death of this handsome and vigorous president shocked the nation and his funeral was a monumental event. Representatives from over 90 countries were there, more than a million people lined the route of the funeral procession, and millions more watched on TV. Millions of eyes were on the Kennedy family but more specifically Jackie, Caroline and John Jr. This photo captures that famous family. This image activates an extremely emotional response. The nation had just lost a beloved president and many people’s hearts were broken for Jackie, Caroline and John Jr. At only 34 Jackie had lost her husband in such a violent and traumatic way and Caroline, 5, and John Jr., 3, were left fatherless. John Jr. being so young never really got to know his father and now he wouldn’t be able to; he would only know what others told him. This image broke the heart of millions

    Hariman and Lucaities explain several important functions that iconic images serve, which are that they reflect social knowledge and dominant ideologies, shape understanding of specific events and periods, influence political action, and provide figural resources for communicative action. This image reflects the social knowledge of the profound sense of loss and the ideology that the nation really had to come together. This image helps people understand the overwhelming loss, sadness and shock that was felt at the time. (MAYBE ADD MORE). This picture reminded and inspired the push for issues that were important to Kennedy such as space exploration and civil rights to keep moving forward. I think that this function ties very closely with the previous function; but it also might have inspired citizens to embody Kennedy’s ideals more.

    The rhetorical force of this image is knowing that a nation but more specifically a family had suffered this immense loss and were now grieving. The composition of this image lends to why it is so powerful. One of the most apparent elements of design is proximity. Everyone is wearing black and all of the Kennedy family is standing close together. Their close proximity to each other shows them as a united strong force which America and the world needed. Another example of this, is the proximity of Jackie between Robert and Edward Kennedy, both slightly behind her and her two children standing on either side of her. This almost frames Jackie a little bit. Another element of design is alignment. Though people are taking up most of the image the focus of the image, John Jr. is in the lower third which is part of what makes the image as powerful as it is. Another element of design that can be applied is contrast. Everybody but Caroline and John Jr. are dressed in black.

    When John Jr. is standing off to the side in his blue outfit, whose color can be seen in other photos from the day, the lighter contrast of his outfit compared to the others he is standing near makes him stand out. Another aesthetic element that can apply is color. Though there are other images taken in color the image I chose is in black and white. The fact this image was taken in black and white and is circulated in black and white adds to the power of this image. The black and white almost adds some elegance to the picture. The black and white also matches the somber more of the picture to me. The absence of color symbolizes the shock and greyness people were feeling. Dark colors often symbolize sadness, and this applies to this photo.

    The environment overall is also aesthetically powerful. The somber look on everybody’s faces and seeing John Jr. and Caroline as the only children contrasted by all of the adults. John Jr. and Caroline surrounded by all the adults I think is an extremely important part of the environment. It symbolizes the children being forced to deal with adult level loss, emotions, and even problems. Both were most likely most likely too young to truly understand what was going on and its implications. They were too young to understand how violent the world is and why it was their dad that was gone. I believe this a big reason why this image resonated with so many people and why it became so iconic. People’s hearts ached for John Jr and the rest of first family and that’s why this image became so iconic.

    One of the biggest implications of this picture was how powerful it was. This image captures raw sadness and represents a nation that was grieving an unimaginable loss. This image is a lasting legacy of the grief the nation felt, and that trauma the JFK’s death had caused. This image remains one of the most iconic images of the 60’s, the most iconic image from President Kennedy’s funeral and one of the most iconic pictures of John F. Kennedy Jr. This image makes the viewer feel the grief and pain the nation felt. As Jackie Kennedy said in first interview after his death, “There will be great presidents again, but there will never be another Camelot.”

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