Today is the 50th Anniversary of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. President Kennedy's death is a wrong seared into the consciousness of tens of millions of Americans. His death well epitomizes the saddest words - "It might have been." America's youth in late 1963 surely felt this. Kennedy's call for 'a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself" had a resonance that lasted beyond his death. This resonance, however, was soon tempered by the Vietnam War and had waned by the end of the decade.
Some commentators believe that Kennedy's death marks the end of America's innocence. Other commentators mark the event as the beginning of America's loss of its moral compass. However his death is viewed, it is worth contemplating his loss to America and Americans these fifty years later. For most of my generation, Kennedy was a catalyst for idealism. His words, his youth and his actions provided the "moral support" needed to act and think differently - whether as to civil rights issues or issues of global poverty.
Moral support is defined as "support or help whose effect is psychological rather than physical." Some contemplation of Kennedy might help us to think about moral support as an element of wrongful death damages.
Moral support is psychological factor rather than a physical one. It takes little imagination to apply everyday experiences as examples of moral support. The mother who helps with homework, who dries tears brought by conflict, and who supports her child "through thick and thin" surely provides moral support. The spouse who encourages her husband in persevering through hardship provides moral support. The husband who shares his life with his wife, in all its joys and difficulties, provides moral support. When the person who provides moral support is gone, life feels untethered - much like the youth from Kennedy's time felt untethered. The psychological strength that someone is there for you - someone psychologically supports you - evaporates when that someone is gone.
Moral support - one more element of wrongful death damages - will always have stories of its own. Whatever stories support this loss, it is truly a loss - a devastating loss and one that should not be trivialized by defense counsel.
It is a fitting time to contemplate the idea of moral support as an element of damages in wrongful death actions. John F. Kennedy's death was a wrongful death - a death that shook the western world - a death that shattered his family as it then existed. For my generation it is a day, an hour, and even a few seconds that we will never forget.