The Library’s commemorative events that day also included a new exhibit called “A Nation Remembers.” This video tribute opened with a 50-year-old broadcast from radio station WGBH, captured during the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s performance of a Rimsky-Korsakov opera score.
Thirty minutes into that afternoon’s program in 1963, music director Erich Leinsdorf interrupted. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Leinsdorf told the matinee audience, “we have a press report over the wires. We hope that it is unconfirmed, but we have to doubt it. The president of the
Gasps of disbelief filled Symphony Hall. Leinsdorf continued: “We will play the funeral march from Beethoven’s Third Symphony.”
The country, as so many later observed, had changed forever.
Veteran newsman Robert MacNeil, in Dallas that day to cover Kennedy’s speech and parade through the city, recalled the vivid sense of promise that colored the parade’s beginning: in MacNeil’s recollection, the “resplendent” presidential couple descending to the tarmac at Love Field, the strawberry-pink suit the first lady wore, the sheaf of blood-red roses she carried, the hand reaching through the fence to break off a souvenir bloom from the bouquet.
That morning in
The presidential party left Love Field on November 22 at 11:40 a.m. The motorcade reached
The rest lives in collective memory: the Secret Service agent spread-eagled over the back of the convertible, the message sent to
It was for many Americans, said a BBC commentator on the 50th anniversary, “as though hope itself had died.”
On the grassy knoll, Mayor Michael Rawlings unveiled a new monument inscribed with words from a speech Kennedy had prepared for the Dallas Trade Mart, a speech that was never delivered. In it, Kennedy spoke of the essential need for righteousness to underlie strength: “‘except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’”
In Kennedy’s 1963 Civil Rights Address to the country, he spoke of “a moral issue,” one “as old as the scriptures and … as clear as the American Constitution …” Kennedy’s brand of Hibernian optimism and inclusion continues to animate today. A young student vibrant with energy told a BBC newsman on the anniversary date of the assassination that Kennedy’s call to action is “as relevant today as it was in the sixties.”
“So close your eyes,”
In February 2014, Anne Flaherty will present a three-lecture course titled “Pennsylvania’s ‘Molly Maguires’: Prosecution or Witch Hunt?” through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) program at American University.