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November 22, 2013

Dallas Observes 50th Anniversary of Kennedy Assassination

by Greg Flakus

On a cold, rainy day, thousands of people gathered in Dallas, Texas, to honor the memory of President John F. Kennedy near the spot where he was killed 50 years ago by a sniper. Friday's commemoration focused not on the tragedy, but on the inspiration Kennedy provided to people around the world.

The simple ceremony took place in Dealey Plaza next to Elm Street, where an assassin's bullets ended the life of President Kennedy. That tragic day was bright and sunny, but the commemoration took place under cloudy skies, with participants bracing against cold, blustery winds and light rain.

For Dallas, this was an especially poignant moment, as the city has struggled for decades to remove the stigma of the assassination. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said that "hope and reality" collided on that day in his city, but that the city has grown and changed, partly because of the inspirations Kennedy provided.

"Today, because of the hard work of many people, Dallas is a different city. I believe the new frontier did not die that day on our Texas frontier," said Rawlings.

Kennedy's inspiring and youthful image also was recalled when historian David McCullough took the podium. "He was young to be president, but it did not seem so if you were younger still. He was ambitious to make it a better world and so were we."

That Kennedy spirit is what drew people, young and old, to brave the weather and attend the ceremony in Dealey Plaza. Miguel Andrews was a five-year-old living with his parents in Mexico City when President Kennedy was assassinated. He credits Kennedy for setting ambitious goals, like the mission to the moon.

"He really drove the will of the Americans to go to the moon. I don't think anyone could have done or inspired this to be done in less than 10 years," he said.

U.S. astronauts landed on the moon nearly six years after JFK's death and many of his other projects, like civil rights, also took effect in the years following his assassination in Dallas.

Dallas resident Charlene Wyatt was 12-years-old 50 years ago, but she credits Kennedy for having proposed the civil rights legislation that would later allow black people like her to fully participate in society.

"We got a greater sense of being able to do things that we were not able to do before, go to school, get degrees and stuff."

In 1963, Dallas and most of the southern U.S. states were racially segregated, but Dallas today is a diverse city where interaction among races and nationalities is common. The city is twice the size it was then, with a metropolitan area population, including the nearby city of Fort Worth, of more than 6 million people. Dealey Plaza, the museum in the building where the assassin fired, and the nearby John F. Kennedy Memorial, will remain to remind people of the crime and the man whose promise was cut short.

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