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THE IMPACT OF John F. Kennedy's assassination radiated out in all directions, like the ripples from a stone dropped into water. The event had such force that we still feel it today, nearly forty-five years later. The echo from Dealey Plaza reverberated around the world and altered the course of American life. It also affected countless individual lives, one of them mine. I knew John Kennedy. I shook his hand and looked into his eyes, and I served, for a brief but critical time, at his side. I sensed in my heart, as many people did, that he understood the troubles of the common man and shared the pain of all downtrodden and oppressed people. He labored to make the promises of a better country a reality for all Americans. Born into great wealth and privilege, he did this not for any personal gain but simply because he knew it was the right thing to do. He wanted to do his best to foster equality of opportunity for all the citizens under his charge, and even those beyond our borders. John F. Kennedy entrusted me with his life, making me the first African American to serve on the Secret Service White House detail. No one can ever take that honor away from me.

I can't say for certain who fired the fatal shots on that day, November 22, 1963. The government rendered its official opinion, and legions of authors and researchers have offered theirs, but we are likely to debate the whys and wherefores of this event for a long time to come. What I do know is that the president died because of a failure of the security around him, a situation that some of us saw 1 coming. I wasn't there that day, but I saw what went on among the agents who were pledged to protect him to the very best of their ability. I was one of those agents. This is my story, the story of my journey from a small town in southern Illinois to the door of the Oval Office, and then to the depths of personal crisis in the aftermath of that service. Although I have changed some names to protect the identity of certain people, the story is true, and speaks to us today about the state of the society that we asked John Kennedy to lead, and the kind of country he left behind...

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