Before there was 9/11 there was 11/22.
I was only nine years old when President Kennedy was assassinated. Coming home from school at Halls Cross Roads in Aberdeen, Maryland, I was met by my mother at the bus which had arrived late because I was on flag duty, getting the opportunity to take down the school flag for the day.
I remember her telling me President Kennedy had been shot. It didn’t mean much to me at that age. What was it when a President gets shot? I remember all of the news stations turning to the assassination news and then the funeral.
We cannot forget President Kennedy.
He was a President who expressed the possible. Who asked us to sacrifice for our government. He didn’t pander to the public promising to give them their taxes back. He knew that for all of us to accomplish good in this nation and in the world we would have to pay for it. He knew that America could be a beacon for the rest of the world, bringing peace and hope to those who didn’t have the opportunities. And the world loved him for it.
Senator Mike Mansfield said it well in his eulogy delivered November 24, 1963, in the rotunda of the United States Capitol:
There was a sound of laughter; in a moment, it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.
There was a wit in a man neither young nor old, but a wit full of an old man’s wisdom and of a child’s wisdom, and then, in a moment it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.
There was a man marked with the scars of his love of country, a body active with the surge of a life far, far from spent and, in a moment, it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.
There was a father with a little boy, a little girl and a joy of each in the other. In a moment it was no more, and so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.
There was a husband who asked much and gave much, and out of the giving and the asking wove with a woman what could not be broken in life, and in a moment it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands, and kissed him and closed the lid of a coffin.
A piece of each of us died at that moment. Yet, in death he gave of himself to us. He gave us of a good heart from which the laughter came. He gave us of a profound wit, from which a great leadership emerged. He gave us of a kindness and a strength fused into a human courage to seek peace without fear.
He gave us of his love that we, too, in turn, might give. He gave that we might give of ourselves, that we might give to one another until there would be no room, no room at all, for the bigotry, the hatred, prejudice, and the arrogance which converged in that moment of horror to strike him down.
In leaving us — these gifts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States, leaves with us. Will we take them, Mr. President? Will we have, now, the sense and the responsibility and the courage to take them?
I pray to God that we shall and under God we will.
We hardly knew you John.