Billy Crystal:Of course, when I asked her where she was when Kennedy was shot, she said ‘Ted Kennedy was shot?!’”

Bruno Kirby: “No! No!”—dialogue from When Harry Met Sally

Where were you when Kennedy was shot? It’s a question that defines and is shared by a generation. My generation, the Boomers.

My answer to the query is that I had just turned 12 and was sitting in a seventh-grade classroom when the news broadcast was piped in over the speaker above the blackboard. I remember very little else—not my reaction or that of my classmates or that of my parents (who were no fans of Kennedy) when I got home that afternoon.

It would be years later, at my high school graduation, before I thought much again about John Kennedy. Because the valedictorian didn’t like to speak in public, I, as salutatorian (by a fraction of a grade point) was tapped to give the speech instead. My first, hastily written and lazy draft wasn’t approved by the Powers That Be, so I had to get to work on a real talk. When I went to the library and started looking for resources and direction, Kennedy provided the inspiration.

Here is what I said:

‘WHEN AT SOME FUTURE DATE THE HIGH COURT OF HISTORY SITS IN JUDGMENT ON EACH OF US… OUR SUCCESS OR FAILURE… WILL BE MEASURED BY THE ANSWERS TO FOUR QUESTIONS: WERE WE TRULY MEN CF COURAGE… WERE WE
TRULY MEN OF JUDGMENT… WERE WE TRULY MEN OF INTEGRITY… WERE WE TRULY MEN OF DEDICATION?’ THUS SPOKE THE LATE PRESIDENT KENNEDY BEFORE THE MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE IN 1961. HIS WORDS ARE TO BE
HEEDED BY US TODAY AS WE SEEK THE TRUE MEANING OF COMMITMENT.

What if the values Kennedy recommended, and I found inspiring in 1970, were embraced by all of us, especially public leaders, in 2o13?

© 2013 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.