I could tell you where I was on November 22, 1963 but I wouldn't have much detail to share. I was safely in my mother's womb, 11 days away from becoming a citizen of planet earth. Thus, the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination has mostly served to remind me that I'm very close to celebrating my own milestone. The avalanche of documentaries, reenactments and docudramas in the last week or so have brought that day back to life for all of us. I guess it's a day by which one could mark time, much like September 11, 2001 is for my generation. There's life before that day and life since that day...two separate realities.
A few weeks ago I was in Washington, D.C. standing and staring in awe at the Lincoln Memorial. It was a freezing day and a wind that could cut you whipped through there, causing most to make it a very abbreviated visit. But I couldn't walk away. Not just because it was my first trip to D.C. but because I couldn't quit reading. If you've been there you've seen the inscriptions on the two opposite walls - one side the Gettysburg Address, the other side his second inaugural address. I read each one twice. I got tears in my eyes and not just from that wind. I told my bride "My God, leaders used to sound like leaders."
"Ask not what your country can do for you..."
"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer."
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
"The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose and that is the path of surrender..."
So there is a tragedy that I take away from, not just that day in Dallas, but from each and every day that I watch those who are in power sound less and less powerful. That is that today we are mourning not just the loss of a great man, but also of a great mindset. The mindset that we are, by the grace of God, Americans and all that encompasses is something that should be respected, even revered. I've not seen much to hold in reverence coming from the marbled halls of government lately. Not here in a year when we saw those halls collectively become a zoo with finger pointing, Dr. Seuss recitals and sophomoric, self-centered gesturing that eventually shut them down. I hope that sometime before I leave this planet I'll witness individuals leading us by word and example so great that we're once again compelled to start building memorials.
"A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on."