JFK series: a perspective of Howard Lestrud

by Howard Lestrud

ECM Political Editor

The assassination of a United States president is something that transcends generations.

There were adults and impressionable children who never have forgotten where they were and what they were doing on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963.

I recall very vividly leaving my college classroom in Austin, Minn., after taking an exam and heading to a local pool hall to unwind. As I shot pool, I heard the radio get louder and louder. I asked the recreation center worker what was going on. He said, “The president has been shot.” The time was 12:30 p.m.

A portrait of President John F. Kennedy
A portrait of President John F. Kennedy

Today, learning of tragedy as it happens is not unusual, thanks to technology. Fifty years ago the communications world was still maturing. From 12:30 p.m. on and continuing for four days, many of us watched our televisions and listened to our radios to follow the tragedy that shook the world.

Now, 50 years later, the city of Dallas, Texas, where this terrible shooting took place, will honor the memory of our 35th president.

“The 50th: Honoring the Memory of President John F. Kennedy” is a public memorial taking place Nov. 22, 2013, in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Paid for by private donations, the commemorative event is organized by Dallas Mayor Michael S. Rawlings and a committee of 25 local leaders, in cooperation with the city of Dallas.

The memorial will unite the city to remember the spirit of Kennedy and ultimately look forward into the “new frontier” that he passionately communicated.

Kennedy’s death left an immeasurable impact on anyone old enough to remember the tragic events of Nov. 22, 1963. However, “The 50th” will also teach younger Americans about the president’s legacy.

The event will be free and open to the public, with tickets distributed through a secure, online ticket request process. The limit  on tickets has reportedly been met.

Video screens will be placed in strategic locations around downtown Dallas to ensure everyone can take part in the memorial. The event is being paid for by private donations raised by individuals and foundations.

“It’s important that the direction for this event was generated by citizens of Dallas, and not by any one person or City Hall, so I chose members who were symbolic of the whole community from a diversity standpoint and a thinking standpoint,” Rawlings said.

“I chose members that represented Dallas and its leadership, and also members who were actually here 50 years ago, some of them on the streets, others who were at the Trade Mart, like committee Chairwoman Ruth Collins Altshuler,” he added.

A longtime Dallas philanthropist and civic leader, Altshuler created the program for the memorial and invited presidential historian David McCullough to remember Kennedy with a special reading of Kennedy’s speeches.

“We’re honored to have a historian of David McCullough’s stature speak on this historic occasion,” said Altshuler. “As the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of several presidential biographies, he’s uniquely qualified to speak about the lasting legacy of our 35th commander in chief.”

In addition to Chairwoman Altshuler and Honorary Chairman Rawlings, the committee is made up of Lindalyn Bennett Adams, the Honorable Lew Blackburn, Adelfa Callejo, Linda Pitts Custard, the Most Rev. Kevin J. Farrell, Nancy Strauss Halbreich, the Rev. Zan W. Holmes Jr., the Honorable Clay Lewis Jenkins, the Honorable Ron Kirk, Bobby B. Lyle, the Honorable Anita N. Martinez, Linda B. McFarland, Cappy R. McGarr, Ken Menges, Blaine L. Nelson, Erle Nye, Rick Ortiz, Margot Perot, the Honorable Jeanne L. Phillips, Caren Prothro, Deedie Potter Rose, Terdema L. Ussery II and the Honorable Royce West.

“This is a part of our history. The story of Dallas’ growth and success can only be understood in the context of this unspeakable tragedy,” Rawlings said. “It’s important that the city of Dallas has a strong voice in remembering this very solemn day and honoring a great president who was a hero to so many people around the world.”

For more, visit http://www.50th HonoringJohnFKennedy.com.