The city’s plan for commemorating the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination calls for the right ingredients: simplicity, dignity and focus on the slain president’s memory.
And it places the program of Nov. 22, 2013, in the spot where, Dallas has seen from experience, people will want to be.
Dealey Plaza, consecrated in national tragedy, evokes emotion like no other place. On next year’s observance of that tragedy, the intensity of that emotion will be like no other time, and it will exert a strong pull on those who want to join in honoring Kennedy’s legacy.
Holding next year’s public memorial in Dealey Plaza is a good call, even though it brings with it logistical challenges. The plan to limit access to the area will ensure dignity for the presentation, which is envisioned as lasting no more than 45 minutes. Organizers also want to make sure it doesn’t become a VIP-only event.
After the memorial, conisisting of a few speakers and music, access to Dealey Plaza will be unrestricted, which is the way it should be.
It’s clear there are a lot of details to work out, but this plan is on the right track.
The fundamental starting point is sound: The commemoration will be focused on Kennedy, whose memory still electrifies the imagination. The fact that he was slain in the heart of Dallas has caused this city decades of sorrow and shame.
Although the nation’s eyes will be trained on Dealey Plaza again next Nov. 22, it is not a time for Dallas to seek its own catharsis. Instead, it will be a time, as Mayor Mike Rawlings told this newspaper, for a serious, respectful ceremony that honors Kennedy’s life and leadership.
Rawlings also made a good choice in asking civic leader and philanthropist Ruth Sharp Altshuler to chair the commemoration’s steering committee. With a heart for the city’s needs, through decades of service leading boards and fund drives, Altshuler also has a personal connection with the events of November 1963. She was among those gathered for the Trade Mart luncheon to welcome the president — a banquet room that reacted in horror as the awful news spread. She was also a member of the grand jury that indicted Jack Ruby three days later for the murder of presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
The broad-based committee draws on many other key leaders, including vice chair Linda Pitts Custard, a longtime charity leader; U.S. Trade Ambassador and former Mayor Ron Kirk; and attorney Ken Menges, chairman of the Sixth Floor Museum board.
There is no subject of greater sensitivity that Dallas deals with on an ongoing basis. It’s also one that stirs strong individual emotions. The job of finding the right tone in commemorating that day and the nation’s loss is a tough one, but the broad outlines are in place.
Published: 20 November 2012 12:05 AM