It was 50 years ago, today, that the assassination of John F. Kennedy shocked our nation and the world. It is a vivid moment frozen in time for those who were alive and old enough to remember, and still a poignant and indelible mark in history for those of us who were not.
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The televised events of that day forever associated the city of Dallas with the brutal slaying of a popular president, and wide-spread criticism, blame, and resentment left a black cloud over a city some labeled “the City of Hate.” After 50 years, today Dallas hosts its first commemoration of the death of JFK, and the nation reflects on the loss of a bold and courageous leader with conservative ideals no longer found in the Democratic party.
According to AFP,
Dallas — With flags fluttering at half-staff, the United States paused Friday to mourn President John F. Kennedy and a generation’s broken dreams, cut down 50 years ago by an assassin’s bullet.
The young leader’s brutal televised death, a dark turning point even in an era gripped by the Cold War nuclear stand-off and bloodshed in the jungles of Vietnam, shocked a global audience of millions.
Five decades on the wound is still raw, with many still obsessed by the conspiracy theories surrounding his death, and others gripped by regret for the America they imagine might have been.
Across the nation, at ceremonies large and small, many took comfort in reflecting upon the words of a charismatic man whose soaring rhetoric and call to service continues to inspire.
“Today, we honor his memory and celebrate his enduring imprint on American history,” President Barack Obama declared.
Across the Atlantic too, Kennedy was remembered.
A wreath-laying ceremony was planned in the Berlin neighborhood where Kennedy gave his famed Cold War-era “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech to a rapturous crowd.
At Kennedy’s tomb in Arlington Cemetery outside Washington, two kilted pipers from the Black Watch of the British army repeated a tribute their regiment had performed at his funeral 50 years ago.
‘The power to change this country is ours’
In a proclamation ordering flags be lowered at government buildings and even private homes, Obama recalled Kennedy’s leadership in the Cuban missile crisis, his speech in Berlin and his drive to advance the rights of African Americans and women.
“Today and in the decades to come, let us carry his legacy forward,” Obama wrote Thursday.
“Let us face today’s tests by beckoning the spirit he embodied — that fearless, resilient, uniquely American character that has always driven our Nation to defy the odds, write our own destiny, and make the world anew.”
‘Ask not what your country can do for you’
In Arlington, a steady stream of mourners visited Kennedy’s grave, including his last remaining sibling Jean Kennedy Smith.
“It was a major shock to the world,” said Tom Brown, 71, a retired civil servant. “Here we are, 50 years later, and we still remember. We still want to acknowledge him and his presidency.”
Student Caitlin Coffey, 22, said she came down from Toronto specifically for the occasion.
“It’s just remarkable to think that one person, one family, was able to make such a global difference,” she told AFP.
Kennedy’s voice still echoes through history to so many Americans.
“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” he urged Americans at his inaugural address on January 20, 1961.
Cut down in his first term at the age of 46 as he was driven through Dallas, Texas in an open-top limousine on November 22, 1963, Kennedy’s unfulfilled promise has become a symbol of the lost nobility of politics.
He was a president who enlisted the nation in lofty goals — like putting a man on the Moon — “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
The anniversary has sparked a prolonged period of national and media reflection on the unfinished tenure of the nation’s 35th president, his tragedy-stricken family and the evocative period in the early 1960s when his political star illuminated the world.
He was the fourth US president to be killed in office, but the first whose death was caught on film.