Dallas' Sixth Floor Museum gives bigger picture of JFK assassination

•The president grabbing his neck after being wounded, as Connally turns around in agony after he, too, realizes he has been hit.

• The infamous frame 313 showing blood and brain matter erupting from Kennedy's head as the fatal bullet strikes.

• Jacqueline Kennedy crawling on the trunk of the vehicle to retrieve a piece of her husband's shattered skull.

• Secret Service agent Clint Hill leaping onto the trunk to protect her as the vehicle speeds toward Parkland Memorial Hospital.

In an interview in 2012 for my JFK book, Hill told me, "Any agent would have done the same thing. I happened to be one.... None of the other agents had a chance. I did have that opportunity, but it was too late."

Hill's words — and the next exhibits — elicit "What if?" questions I have pondered hundreds of times. There is Kennedy's place setting of china from the head table at the Trade Mart and a program for a fundraising dinner scheduled that evening in Austin.

A few yards away, photographs of vigils in world capitals — Dakar, Senegal; London; Buenos Aires; Mumbai, India; Tokyo; and Bern, Switzerland — seek to illustrate the impact of Kennedy's assassination outside the United States. That aftershock is reinforced by an image of a bookshelf with some of the hundred and hundreds of books written about JFK.

Nearby is a photo of Kennedy with a quote from historian and author Daniel J. Boorstin that captures one important aspect of the legacy of the 35th president: "To those who have the misfortune to die young, history assigns the role of inspirer."

As I entered the elevator taking me down six floors and back to 2013, I pondered those words and Kennedy's life and legacy. Fifty years after his death at age 46, he still inspires young people.

Molly Kimmel, a 16-year-old Michigan girl, is one. "He was extremely good looking," she said in a note to me after reading my book about a president who died before even her parents were born. "He was the first president born in the 20th century, and he stood for a new generation of change for the 1960s. He was also extremely relatable to everyone, he was 'hip' and modern and used television and photography to capture people, which had never been seen in a presidential candidate before."

Intelligence and inspiration, it seems, manifest themselves in many ways, sometimes by influencing politics and public policy but no less so by cultivating hearts and minds.