Thousands heeded the call from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to brave the cold and rain Friday to honor the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy 50 years after his death.
“We the people of Dallas honor the life, legacy and leadership of the man who called us not to think of our own interest but that of our country,” Rawling said as light rain fell over Dealey Plaza.
The somber ceremony drew a diverse, respectful crowd, which was no accident. The city’s decision to issue 5,000 tickets to carefully screened attendees ensured a tightly-controlled event.
“I came here to commemorate the good things that JFK did, not the horror that happened,” said Miguel Andrews.
Emile Gosslin came to Dallas from Vermont to witness history firsthand. “To be here in person, it’s an honor,” Gosslin said. The 61-year-old still vividly recalls the day 50 years ago when JFK was shot.
“I was 11 years old, and I remember it like it was yesterday.”
Grand Prairie resident Miguel Andrews was living in Mexico City in 1963. He said the president’s death had a deep impact on him as a child, but he doesn’t want to dwell on the assassination or conspiracy theories today.
“I came here to commemorate the good things that JFK did, not the horror that happened,” Andrews said.
Although Dallas is home to many reminders of JFK’s assassination, the 50th anniversary marks the first official city event held in Kennedy’s memory. In addition to the ticketed event in Dealey Plaza, the city set up public viewing locations AT&T Plaza at American Airlines Center, Annette Strauss Square and the JFK Memorial at Founders Plaza.
“The man we remember today gave us a gift that will not be squandered,” Rawlings said. “Kennedy and our city will forever be linked. In tragedy, yes, but out of that tragedy an opportunity was given to us … a chance to hold high the torch even when the flame flickers.”
Dallas dedicated a new monument to JFK to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his assassination. It bears words from Kennedy’s unspoken speech, the one he was going to deliver the day he has shot.
Renowned presidential historian David McCullough praised Kennedy’s command of language.
“His words changed lives. His words changed history,” said McCullough, who devoted most of his keynote speech to quoting Kennedy. “He had high hopes, and so did we. And on we go.”
In closing, the Rev. Zan Wesley Holmes prayed for blessings on Dallas and the world and offered thanks for the inspiring legacy of President Kennedy.
“As we go forth, grant that we won’t be centered on where have been or what we have done, but where we are going and what is possible by your grace.”