It has been said that America lost her innocence the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and that today, 50 years after the national tragedy, we’ve still not recovered the sense of hope and resilience of the Camelot years.
Kennedy and his family brought a youthful exuberance to Washington and, along with it, examples of how to love one’s country and work for it and its citizens. They were examples Americans set out to follow … and then, with shots fired from Lee Harvey Oswald’s gun, all that hope, all that exuberance, all that desire to follow the example of a young president somehow began to fade.
As we look at our country today, we tend to agree with that what once was is no more.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We are the potters who can shape our country. Rather than miring ourselves down in what we lost on that fateful November day 50 years ago — and on all the other tragic days that have occurred in our nation’s collective history since — we should work to restore our country to the America that Kennedy believed in and encouraged others to work for.
We can work toward doing for our country rather than waiting on our country to do for us, righting social injustices along the way, remembering that people — from the poorest to the wealthiest and regardless their skin color, religion or sexual orientation — have, as Americans, the same rights and should be treated equally.
Hear Kennedy’s words: “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air; we all cherish our children’s future, and we are all mortal.” Let those words sink in. Apply them to the way you think and, perhaps, the way you judge others.
All of us, no matter our station in life, are flawed human beings. It is because we are flawed that we have little reason to judge others or begrudge them the help they may need.
Again from Kennedy: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
If America lost its innocence and sense of hope when Kennedy was killed, isn’t it now our responsibility to work to restore it, putting action behind the words of a man who inspired so many? Wouldn’t that be the best way to honor a man who still wields great intrigue and inspires great emotion?
Shouldn’t the torches we carry burn as brightly as the eternal flame, inspiring action rather than reaction, hope instead of despair, trust more than uncertainty.
America has changed in the 50 years since Kennedy’s assassination, and not always negatively. It’s only when we’ve allowed ourselves to be mired down by the past and overwhelmed by the present that we’ve somehow become stuck.
Kennedy was correct in his assertion that “change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
It’s time we stopped doing that. Instead we should open our eyes to the possibilities this great country still holds — the possibilities Kennedy saw — and doing our part to ensure that those possibilities become realities.
Again from Kennedy: “I look forward to a great future for America — a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose …”
We pray for that future and pledge to do our part. Will you?