Today marks 48 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
It is a time when all Americans (even those who were not yet born in 1963) stop to reflect on what our country lost that day – for we lost so much more than more than just a man — and we ponder what role that tragic event played in shaping the world we now find ourselves living in.
While it is important that we pause to remember the past, and to ask these questions about America’s future (he would want us to), let’s not allow ourselves to forget the man Jack Kennedy was. Because it seems that far too often, we focus our attention on his death and the many questions that still remain unanswered. Shouldn’t we instead remember his life?
Since this somber anniversary happens to fall around Thanksgiving, it just doesn’t seem appropriate somehow to be mournful. Rather, let us give thanks for all of the good things he brought to this world as a catalyst for change. Let us recall the way he inspired people around the globe; the hope and optimism he brought to the presidency. Let’s celebrate his vision, his strength, his courage, his razor-sharp mind, his grace, charm, and of course, that delightful, sometimes wicked wit.
This would be a perfect time to reach for one of your favorite books on the shelf and immerse yourself in some of his words. Listen to some of his best speeches. Because these things are the legacy he left us. His words will live in history forever and cannot be erased.
Naturally, we all have our own favorite books and speeches of JFK’s; I’ve certainly got a long list of works I find deeply moving and inspiring, but I’ll refrain from making any recommendations here because I feel that how each of us remembers him today should be a strictly personal choice.
But there is one little tidbit I want to share:
On November 19, 1963, just three days before his death, President Kennedy wrote this message for the re-dedication ceremonies of the national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:
“The goals of liberty and freedom, the obligations of keeping ours a government of and for the people are never-ending.”
Just one sentence, but this says it all. Written nearly a half century ago, his words serve to remind us all that there is still so much work to do. Lest we forget.
President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
May 29, 1917- November 22, 1963
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