Nov. 22, 2013 marks fifty years since President Kennedy stepped off Air Force One at Dallas’ Love Field and was assassinated a few hours later while riding in his motorcade in downtown Dallas, Texas.
It was a dark day for this nation and the rest of the world. We may never fully know how those events that day in Dallas fully transpired. Was their another shooter on the grassy knoll? Was there a larger motive to President Kennedy’s assassination? Why did Jack Ruby assassinate Lee Harvey Oswald at the Dallas Police Headquarters two days later? These are questions that conspiracy theorists could spend a lifetime studying.
What is necessary to reflect on fifty years later is the legacy that President Kennedy left behind. If President Kennedy would have given the prepared remarks he was scheduled to give at a meeting of the Dallas Citizen’s Council that day he would have said “We in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom.”
A hallmark of his short presidency was that the civil rights of all American citizens must be respected. Before his assassination President Kennedy had been ferociously working on making civil rights legislation a reality. His successor, Lyndon Johnson, would sign the first comprehensive Civil Rights Act in 1964, many claiming as a tribute to the legacy of his predecessor.
This act made it illegal to discriminate against women and those who make up racial and ethnic minorities. While President Kennedy’s legacy is still alive in the Civil Rights Act, I think we have a ways to go in protecting the civil rights of all people that call the United States home. For example, in 29 states a person can be dismissed from their job based on their sexual orientation.
No matter your political affiliation, race, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status everyone can contribute to the greatest experiment in democracy ever attempted. Our democracy works better when all people can equally participate and have equal opportunities. While the world lost a great American on Nov. 22, 1963, his legacy does not have to be forgotten. I challenge the rising generation to think in a way that fosters peace through a sense of collective understanding. –As the world marks fifty years since this horrific event, think about how you can bring about a more equal society that is united in bringing freedom and democratic values to all corners of the globe.