On Friday morning Dallas commemorated President John F. Kennedy at Dealey Plaza on the 50th anniversary of his assassination in the cold and rainy 37 degree weather. Mayor of Dallas Mike Rawlings and presidential historian David McCullough honored the legacy of JFK by speaking about how Dallas has moved forward as a city from 50 years ago to the almost 5,000 attendees from all over the world dressed in big coats, gloves and rain ponchos.
This was the first time since his death that Dallas publicly paid tribute to the late president of the United States. It was an important event for Dallas to have and it showed how much it meant to the citizens of Dallas and the nation through the turnout from the crowd. Two men originally from England, who had not seen each other for 17 years, decided to reunite at this ceremony in order to celebrate the life of JFK, recognize what he did as the president for this country and to see how much he meant to the people of Dallas. A mother of an SMU graduate student flew in from Nashville for the event because she had grown up learning about the Kennedy family and saw it as a time capsule of her life.
An overall message rang true throughout the entire day: we need to move forward, not only as the city of Dallas but also as a nation. This message was highlighted in McCullough’s speech.
“John Kennedy’s words, again and again, [stated that] we owe it to those who went before and those who will follow, to measure up, and, yes, perhaps even surpass the achievements of the past with what we accomplish and with the values we stand by,” McCullough said. “America has been a joint effort all down the years and we must continue in that spirit.”
And Dallas has moved forward as a city. Mayor Rawlings was given the opportunity to establish the growth of the city through his words.
“The people of this city have been filled with a sense of industry born of tragedy – driven to improve the substance of Dallas, not just the image of it,” Rawlings said. “Today, because of the hard work of many people, Dallas is a different city.”
With that speech, Rawlings unveiled a memorial in the Dealey Plaza that has the last lines of the speech President Kennedy wrote to speak the day he was assassinated in Dallas.
The ceremony itself was only an hour long — short, sweet and to the point. Which was good, because people began to leave early due to the uncomfortable weather. Chairwoman of the 25-member committee in charge of organizing “The 50th” event, Ruth Collins Altshuler, was honored through a video at the beginning of the ceremony — during which she stated why this event was so important for the city to hold.
“We want younger generations to know about President Kennedy’s vision and his important place in history,” Altshuler said.
There were a only few protestors scattered in the crowd for the ceremony. Most of them wore bright yellow T-shirts that read, “50 Years in Denial is Enough. Free the Files. Find the Truth.” Many of them were conspiracy theorists that do not believe all the information has been brought out to the general public from the government. Some theories that were shared included ideas that the mafia was involved or that there was more than one shooter.
Dallas has moved forward as a city . Yes, a tragic series of events has happened here and Dallas has that hanging over its head. But through this ceremony Dallas was able to pay tribute to a great man and a great president while highlighting the steps the city has taken to become what it is today.