Six days later after that day that changed the world as I had known it, on Thanksgiving Day, LBJ took the oath of office standing next to a very distressed widow and announced that Florida's NASA Launch Operation Center would be renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Center and he asked the public to remain "determined that from this midnight of tragedy we shall move toward a new American greatness."
I was already overfilled three days prior with the repetitive images of JFK being shot and John-John during the motorcade funeral procession. Forty-four years later and I still cannot get that little guy in his short coat with his knees exposed out of my head. John-John saluted the casket as it rolled by, but nobody knew why it had to be that way and life as I had known it all changed.
President Kennedy in his Inaugural Speech inspired this little one of Levittown, Long Island when he challenged my generation and our Nation and I offer but an excerpt:
"The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe - the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.
"We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage - and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
"…we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny….we shall always hope…to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.
"…this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbours know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere…our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support - to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective - to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak…we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.
"…So let us begin anew - remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof…let us never fear to negotiate.
"Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us. Let both sides…formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms - and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.
"Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah - to "undo the heavy burdens -. and to let the oppressed go free."
"In your hands, my fellow citizens…each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty…Now the trumpet summons us again - not as a call to bear arms…not as a call to battle…rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation…a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty…and war itself.
"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger…The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.