, Muskogee, OK

November 21, 2013

Kennedy still inspires

— Today marks the anniversary of the death of a man of vision.

John F. Kennedy was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. 50 years ago today.

Kennedy, the first Catholic president of the United States, was cut down before he saw many of his dreams come to fruition. Nevertheless, he has left a legacy that should inspire us as Americans today.

In his inaugural speech, Kennedy delivered a line that continues to inspire, calling Americans to service to their country. The second part of the quote is often forgotten, but it, too, is inspiring, calling on all to work together for freedom across the world.

Kennedy did several things to put the vision he shared with the nation into action.

He founded the Peace Corps, which today continues to promote peace and friendship by sending thousands of volunteers around the world to help the poor and needy.

He worked for racial justice, signing executive orders prohibiting racial discrimination and laying the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

He also had a dream that galvanized the nation to leap beyond the bounds of the earth, to reach to the stars.

The country had been challenged and embarrassed by the Soviet Union’s successes in space, including the first satellite and the first man to orbit the earth. Kennedy’s call to go to the moon was in part a response to our Cold War foe. But it was also an ambitious goal that pulled our nation together and brought us boldly into a new era.

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” Kennedy told Congress. And we accomplished the goal.

As a nation, we need a similar goal. Perhaps we should determine to cure cancer in 10 years. Maybe putting a man on Mars should be our goal. Regardless, we are our best when we pull together to reach beyond our limits.

Kennedy led us to do just that.