I've been trying to determine whether the Kennedys ever saw the stage production, which opened in December, 1960, just after his election, and closed in January 1963. There were no references to their attendance in the New York Times, and the JFK library database doesn't show a theater visit. But I don't doubt that the music was liked and heard in the White House.
The metaphor caught on -- despite no public discussion of JFK as a modern Arthur during his presidency -- because of some wonderful phrases in the title song.
Lerner wrote of a "fleeting wisp of glory:"
Ask ev'ry person if he's heard the story,And he ended the show asking us to remember that "one brief shining moment:"
And tell it strong and clear if he has not,
That once there was a fleeting wisp of glory
Don't let it be forgotThinking back today, the Kennedy presidency looks much less glamorous and successful than it seemed at the time, and even the impressions then were shaped by a worshipful and unchallenged media. But there was a palpable sense of loss, of a dashing leader struck down before his time, of opportunities missed and now unattainable. I was a naive young person at the time, caught up in the excitement of the Kennedy presidency, well attuned to Broadway musicals and the emotions they could stir, and thus quite willing to believe that we had had a glimpse of "Camelot."
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known