When in the course of human events …
A half century ago this week, the nation inaugurated its youngest president, a victorious candidate who was asked to set the course of a great nation. A mandate for change was bestowed upon a man, a country and its politics. In his address to the nation he spoke of a new generation poised to reach for the stars, defend freedom and accomplish unconsidered good.
With that one speech a moment was proffered where hope sprang eternal in a time when two super-powerful nations engaged in a battle words, ideologies and mutual animosity. It was in that time of suspicion that he preached understanding. It was in that time of turmoil that he sought serenity and it was in that time of enmity that he sought civility. In the face of adversity and uncertainty this incoming leader spoke of peace and negotiation, of trust and cooperation.
With steeled will and passionate prose he espoused a dream for our nation, a peaceful path to follow and unexplored trails to blaze.
Offered to a yearning populous was a vision of charity and compassion and an impassioned plea to inspire the service of others.
It was a point in time defined by its uniqueness, a moment when the direction of the world was malleable enough to be shaped. He spoke of an era that could be forged for the betterment of mankind as a whole. It was a time where the excitement was palpable about the possibilities for humanity, both endless and unexplored.
His words rang out on a crisp January morning. Like the peal of a Liberty Bell, truth was pleaded and hope was coaxed from cynicism.
“Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens:
We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom – symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning – signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago…”
(for full effect, President Kennedy’s inaugural speech should be inserted in full)
“…Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
One year, ten months and two days after this day of great hope, several cracks of gunfire broke the spirit and hope of a world that yearned to revel in the possibilities of humankind.
As the years continue to slip by, I can’t help but wonder if we shall ever find our way back to a moment in time where the course of events, the very path of man can be righted.
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