Remembering JFK 50 Years Later
Today is, of course, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I wasn't alive on that horrible day in Dallas, but I've visited the site recently, when living in the DFW area, and I know there's still a bit of a lingering sense of community shame that this happened there.
I recently just learned that JFK spoke on 11/21/63 in my current home of San Antonio, at the then-Kelly Air Force Base (the site where my wife now works… they have a display commemorating that).
Probably most interesting was my chance, back in 2006, to do a Lean assessment for a department at Parkland Hospital, where JFK was taken (and where Lee Harvey Oswald and, later, Jack Ruby both died). I had some free time and I stumbled across a display case in a basement hallway of the hospital.
The case held some artifacts (clothing from doctors and nurses) from 11/22/63 and honored those who worked on that day, even though JFK was beyond saving through no fault of theirs.
Items from the JFK's treatment room are “locked away” now, as this news report describes, after the trauma room was demolished as part of a hospital expansion. Dallas County is currently building a “new Parkland” on a site nearby. In recent years, Parkland has been in the news for quality problems (including a patient who died waiting in the ED) and the CEO was fired a few years ago, after 30 years (!!) in the job.
With all of the conspiracy theories, there's so much interest in how JFK was killed (and by whom and why)… I think it's an interesting question (and a Lean question) to ask how it could have been prevented.
I saw an article yesterday, while up in Canada, talking about JFK's insistence on using open-top cars, putting politics (and vanity?) above safety:
The article starts with a good “Why” question:
Why would they let an American president ride through crowded streets in an open car? The question occurs to everyone at some point, and the answer is simple: John F. Kennedy wouldn't have it any other way.
Maybe having the bubble top on might not have helped?
Mr. Kennedy's limo for those trips, and for Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, was an unarmoured stretch Lincoln Continental with a detachable bubble-top that was seldom used and not bullet-proof.
In a surprising and weird bit of government frugality, the JFK limo remained in use after the assassination (that's hard to imagine):
Surprisingly, the car stayed in presidential service after Kennedy was killed. Reinforced with titanium, bullet-proof glass and a non-removable top, the repainted car carried Lyndon Johnson to his inauguration in 1964 and remained in the presidential fleet till 1977.
It's easy to ask questions like:
- Why was JFK's route published in advance? Or was it changed at the last minute, and why?
- Why did the motorcade route have such a sharp turn, slowing the car so much in front of the Book Depository?
- Why did JFK ignore warnings that it might not be safe for him in Dallas? (He had threats against him in other cities, though)
Thankfully, the Secret Service has gotten much better at protecting Presidents since, although Presidents still often ignore their requests (demands?) that they avoid risky situations like handshake lines along routes.
One JFK theory suggests the fatal shot was actually friendly fire from a Secret Service agent who accidentally discharged his gun and, supposedly, this embarrassing situation was covered up — something to try to error proof through better training of agents in handling weapons? Who knows.
If you were around, what are your recollections of that day? Are there any Lean questions or Lean thoughts that come to mind regarding the assassination, how it could have been prevented, or how some of the allegedly botched investigation could have been prevented?