There are certain turning points in history that are so powerful and searing that those who lived through them can recall them as if they were yesterday.
December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001 are two of those dates. So is November 22, 1963.
Today marks the 46th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I was 11 years old at the time, a 6th grader at Bradford Elementary School in Montclair, New Jersey. Just three years earlier, on November 9, 1960, my parents had woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me the great news that Senator Kennedy had won the State of California and with it, the presidency.
But now it was tragic news, delivered by our principal at a special assembly, that we Americans had lost our president.
John Kennedy inspired an entire generation of Americans, including me, to get involved in government. He was a war hero, a civil rights advocate, the pioneer of the program that landed two Americans on the moon in 1969, and the strong, patient leader who got America ‘€“ and the world ‘€“ through the most dangerous 13 days in the history of the world, the Cuban Missile Crisis.
We all have our favorite Kennedy quotes. Here’s mine, delivered during a speech at American University on June 10, 1963, in which President Kennedy urged the Soviet Union to work with the United States to achieve a nuclear test ban treaty that would reduce the threat of a nuclear war that could destroy the world:
‘€œOur problems are man made — therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable — and we believe they can do it again.’€
‘€œSo, let us not be blind to our differences — but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to 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 future. And we are all mortal.’€
President Kennedy died less than six months later. Let us remember him today and work for a world without war.