The Camelot Myth

Kennedy turned out to be merely another feeble human

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy is a day most everyone over 70 can recall. It was as if that latent American dream for a Camelot regime died with him. His witty political adroitness, savvy speeches, and New England accent hinted of royalty. Those talents lent an aura to his presidency, wherein he skillfully negotiated high tension in the civil rights and Cuban missile crises.

In those days, his adulterous escapades during his ten years of Catholic marriage got winked at by the populist media. “If I don’t have sex every day, I get a headache,” Kennedy used to tell people who would listen, according to the New York Post. He even stood accused of using his special assistant David Powers to line up willing women like Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, and Angie Dickinson, among many other dazzling celebrities of stage and screen.

All that hanky-panky got swept under the rug, enough so youths like me at that time nearly worshiped him as a saint. His father’s moneyed influence, his PT109 courageous leadership, and his cultivated image for being happily married to his trophy wife Jackie were major factors in his becoming the youngest ever elected president.

To my bedazzled young mind, he symbolized the legendary knight in shining armor, a heroic, dark horse warrior Lancelot, come to rescue us from the evil in the land. Kennedy raised the Camelot myth to life, convincing us he was one who could do no wrong, one worthy of our undying devotion.

Only after his tragic death was the throw-rug lifted, disclosing all the scuzzy dirt hidden beneath. Like that virgin hero Sir Lancelot…turned adulterer, Kennedy turned out to be merely another feeble human being, not so morally virtuous or heroically good as I had imagined. He had done nothing to rid the land of evil.

So the Camelot myth lies under a perpetual flame entombed with that “good Catholic gentleman.” They come to us as towering heroes of church and state, but with feet of clay.

I keep forgetting to “Call no man good, except God alone” (Mark 10:18).


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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