Dear UCO community,
I could not let this day pass without comment.
If you are 55 years old or beyond, today, November 22nd, likely holds a unique place in your life. You, and I, are able to answer the question, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” For us at the time it was a defining moment in our lives. Historians and political analysts declare that it was equally a pivotal national and global event.
Interest in the circumstances surrounding that fateful Dallas day is eclipsed only by speculation about what our world might have been like had that motorcade turned a street early, had the shots not been so deadly accurate, had something been different to alter those fleeting moments captured on the Zapruder Bell and Howell movie camera.
We now know that in the minutes, hours and days that followed, television and TV journalism rose in prominence and relevance as Americans and the world never turned their sets off. We believed in the promise inherent in the vitality and vision of this young president and his telegenic family. Suddenly, that life was violently and instantly extinguished for all of us to see again and again. We can only speculate about the altered course of US and global history of the last half century had Kennedy served out his term, and perhaps another . At times when our contemporary world seems fractured and discordant, we recall the sense of national unity that emerged around this tragedy
Most of us can recite at least one of Kennedy’s lasting maxims, such as “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Many of us responded with commitments to public service, at home and abroad, by creating networks of non-profits and NGOs worldwide dedicated to assisting others. Others sought public office, government and military service as a personal response to the President’s clarion call.
What follows is an excerpt from President Kennedy’s American University commencement address deliver on June 10, 1963. Jeffrey Sachs labels it the “Peace Speech”. In the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, Kennedy offered us a clarifying view of the world in our time, and our roles in it.
“So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.”
Some writers refer to the thousand days of the Kennedy administration as Camelot. Portions of his message and his legacy these 50 years on remain clear and compelling. Public service is a valued and noble life pathway; we are all inextricably interwoven on this place we call earth; and we are the change, and our collective thoughts and actions create the world around us. Perhaps a dimension of the Kennedy vision influenced your choices and brought you to this meaningful service in public education.
Fifty years from now, I am confident that scholars, political leaders, and school children, each in their own way, will discover a gem of hope and inspiration in the life and words of this fallen president.
My best wishes to each of you,