Dallas will observe the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination Nov. 22 at Dealey Plaza, where the young President was shot as his motorcade rode through downtown in 1963.
At the fateful site this Nov. 22, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra will begin the ceremony by playing music from 11:45 A.M. until 12:30 P.M., the time President Kennedy was shot. After a moment of silence, bells will toll throughout the city.
Then, double Pulitzer Prize-winning Presidential biographer David McCullough will read selected passages from speeches by Kennedy, who had won a Pulitzer for “Profiles in Courage”.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings will pay tribute, and the U.S. Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club will sing in honor of Kennedy, a Navy veteran of World War Two. A ceremonial military flyover will be followed by religious leaders offering prayers and a benediction.
The free event honors “the remarkable life, legacy, and leadership of President John F. Kennedy,” said Mayor Rawlings, honorary chairman of the committee for The 50th: Honoring the Memory of President John F. Kennedy. “His death forever changed our city, as well as the world. We want to mark this tragic day by remembering a great President with the sense of dignity and history he deserves.”
The mayor is urging Dallas residents, especially ones too young to have experienced that tragedy, to learn about Kennedy, and follow his leadership and legacy by doing public service that day.
Kennedy was the youngest man ever elected U.S. President, at age 43, and the youngest to die in office, at age 46, after serving only 1,000 days.
The U.S. government’s Warren Commission concluded in 1964 that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in shooting President Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository, where Oswald worked.
That site is now The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, with some 400 photographs, 45 minutes of documentary films, and artifacts that chronicle the assassination and its aftermath, and puts that in the context of the early 1960s. The museum exhibit even has the handcuffs Oswald wore when he was being transferred from the city jail to the Dallas county jail, and was shot to death by local nightclub owner Jack Ruby.
The museum has partnered with Dallas’ Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Tower Center and the recently opened George W. Bush Presidential Library for commemorations throughout this 50th anniversary year.
Also, the Dallas Museum of Art and Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art organized an exhibit “Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy”.
The museums reassembled masterworks loaned by Dallas and Fort Worth museums and art collectors to enhance the Kennedys’ Hotel Texas suite, where they stayed on what would be the last night of his life.
Paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Thomas Eakins (his famed “Swimming”), Maurice Prendergast, Marsden Hartley, among others, and bronze sculptures by Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore are among the works.
Although the exhibit closed mid-September at the Dallas Museum of Art, it will be on view in nearby Fort Worth at the Amon Carter Museum from October 12 through Jan. 12.
The exhibit demonstrates both communities’ long-time passion for the arts, and the Kennedys’ enduring legacy regarding the arts.
The Warren Commission termed the assassination “a cruel and shocking act of violence directed against a man, a family, a nation, and against all mankind.”
Dallas could feel as if it had been directed against the city. Is half a century too soon for the stigma to end?
A spokeswoman for the city told me Sept. 25 Dallas “has definitely changed the perception that some people had. Within the past two decades, $15 billion was invested in new developments to showcase the city’s arts, culture and opportunities for success. Dallas is a can-do city where optimism meets opportunity. And optimism breeds success.”
For more info: The 50th: Honoring the Memory of President John F. Kennedy, http://50thhonoringjohnfkennedy.com/, President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Foundation, 2001 Ross Avenue, Suite 3170, Dallas, Texas, 214-880-0398, info@50thHonoringJohnFKennedy.com. Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, http://www.visitdallas.com/jfk/.