Nov. 22, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of both one of the greatest American tragedies of the 20th century and a celebration of one of the greatest figures in American history.
John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated on this day in 1963. While traveling in a presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, gunshots rang out at 12:35 p.m.
Kennedy was fatally shot by a sniper(s) and pronounced dead just 30 minutes later.
The Warren Commission conducted a ten-month investigation following the assassination and concluded it was the work of lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald. At the time the report was released, it was mostly supported by the American public. Polls conducted between 1966 and 2003, however, showed that as many as 80 percent of Americans suspected there was a conspiracy involving more that one shooter.
While the country may never know the full truth of the assassination, the one thing that is undeniable is JFK’s legacy. The Inquirer would like to take a brief look at that legacy.
Kennedy came into office at a critical time in American and world history: The growing tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was leading to the threat of nuclear war, communism was spreading, the region of South Asia was becoming unstable, and internally the Civil Rights Movement was raging.
One of the first things he did as president was creating the Peace Corps. Kennedy also used his position to move the country forward with science and technology, namely the space program, as well as the education system.
Although he faced tough decisions during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, his ultimate vision was world peace, or eliminating the “common enemies of man”: Tyranny, poverty, disease and war.
Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Address is on Time Magazine’s list of the 10 greatest speeches ever. Of course, the most quoted line from it is the famous “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
However, several other parts of Kennedy’s powerful speech are still relevant today.
“We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”
“To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support — to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective, to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak, and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.”
At this point in Galion’s history, government leaders and citizens are advised to take heed to this line from Kennedy:
“So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.”
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Mass. is dedicated to Kennedy’s legacy. The organization’s website (www.jfklibrary.org) states: “President Kennedy’s death caused enormous sadness and grief among all Americans. Most people still remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.”
The Kennedy Center for the Arts opened in 1971, formerly known as the National Cultural Center. It was renamed in Kennedy’s honor because he was a lifelong supporter of the arts.
Harvard University created the Harvard Institute of Politics as a memorial to him.
Forty thousand books have been published about Kennedy’s life, presidency or assassination to date, and 10 new books were published this year alone.
There is even a website dedicated specifically to the 50th anniversary of the assassination: www.jfk50.org. It features an interactive timeline, so you can look at significant events in JFK’s history and the nation’s history.
The city of Dallas will hold a moment of silence on the anniversary, followed by a special ceremony held at Dealey Plaza.
Here we conclude with more words from the American icon: “The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”