(Video interview) Prominent politicians discuss Kennedy assassination


    By Sunny Layne

    Joe Cannon, Utah State Republican Party chairman, and Democrat Ted Wilson, former director of the University of Utah Hinckley Institute of Politics and former mayor of Salt Lake City, review the Kennedy assassination and its influence on society and politics.

    Producer: Anne Ireland

    Technical Director: Tom Hiatt

    Interviewer: Becca Silva

    Article by Sunny Layne Myers, NewsNet Staff Writer

    Forty years after his assassination, John F. Kennedy”s memory is still vibrant in the minds of two prominent Utah politicians.

    Newsnet”s Becca Silva sat down with former Salt Lake City mayor Ted Wilson and Chairman of Utah”s Republican party, Joe Cannon, to discuss Kennedy”s legacy and what today”s young adults can learn from it.

    “Until Ronald Reagan, there has not been a president that could electrify people like John F. Kennedy could,” said Cannon, who also is the chairman of Geneva Steel.

    Wilson, also former director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, similarly remembered Kennedy”s infectious passion.

    “When [Kennedy] said, ”Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you,” we were ready to go storming,” he said.

    Wilson also said one of Kennedy”s main contributions was teaching people they could make a difference — a powerful idea missing these days.

    “If there is a problem today, not just with young people, but with the whole nation, is that we are really so relatively well-off, we don”t give a hoot,” he said. “We don”t think we need to make a difference. And I think if [Kennedy] can give people, by focusing on the 40th year of his assassination, if he can reinvigorate people with the idea that one person can make a difference, I think that”s huge.”

    Cannon said he remembers feeling apprehensive when Kennedy was nominated for president, but years later he changed his tune.

    “I come from a real Republican family,” he said. “I remember when he was nominated, I went out and looked at the smoggy L.A. sky, and the moon was orange. I remember thinking, ”It”s the last days! A Catholic democrat [is going to be president] — things are going to heck. What are we going to do?””

    But 20 years later, while working for Reagan”s transition committee, Cannon was assigned to cover the first 100 days of Kennedy”s presidency. He said he read everything Kennedy wrote and said he soon became a Kennedy enthusiast.

    “It probably killed my political career,” he said, “but I became a big fan.”

    Cannon said he would take quotes from Kennedy to other Reagan employees and ask, “Who said that?” People would usually tell him Reagan said the profound phrase.

    Cannon said he realized Kennedy held many conservative ideals. He was a strong anti-communist and strong on defense in his foreign policy.

    “The Democratic Party of 1960 was very different from the Democratic Party of today,” he said. “It wasn”t nearly as partisan and bitter as it is [now].”

    Wilson, a Democrat, said he thinks the Democratic Party would be different today had Kennedy lived through eight years of presidency.

    “I think he would”ve kept the party much more on a centralist path than it took Bill Clinton to finally to realize after several years of presidency, running on welfare reform and other more conservative things,” he said. “I do concern about my party. Over the years we”ve pulled too far to the left and made it very difficult to win elections. Maybe we should”ve followed the Kennedy model for a lot longer than we did.”

    Ultimately, Wilson and Cannon said Kennedy led America bravely into a new, more open era for for the United States. With his charisma, intelligence and youth, he charmed Americans from all walks of life and left a legacy no one can forget.

    “Republicans and Democrats alike can be invigorated by his idea of youth, can be invigorated by his idea of challenge, by his idea of nation before self, by his idea of one person can make a difference,” Wilson said. “If you don”t think one person can make a difference, go to bed with a mosquito. [Kennedy] gave us that zap.”

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