by JONATHAN RIENSTRA / Austin Culturemap
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Ruth Altshuler and former mayor Ron Kirk announced plans Tuesday at the Old Red Museum in Dallas for next year’s 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death.
Headed by a 25-person committee, “The 50th” is a public memorial that will take place at Dealey Plaza on November 22, 2013, beginning at 12:25 pm.
“It was important the direction of this event was generated by the citizens of Dallas,” Rawlings said. “Not by one person, and not by any one group and not even City Hall. That’s why for the creation of the 50th committee, members were selected that were symbolizing the whole community.”
The event will be free and open to the public, Altshuler said, though the committee is currently figuring out a ticketing system for those wishing to attend.
Private donors have and will fund the 50th, ensuring that the city will not absorb any of the costs. Altshuler said that they have already raised more than $1 million and hope to reach at least $2 million.
Altshuler also said that noted historian and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough will be the guest speaker, mostly touching on quotes from some of John F. Kennedy’s speeches. Bells across the city will mark the beginning of the ceremony.
Mayor Rawlings said that he hopes the entire city will observe a moment of silence at 12:30 pm and plans to ask mayors around the country if their cities will follow suit.
“The death of President Kennedy lives with us in the year 2012,” Rawlings said. “It was an event that altered the lives of anyone that was old enough to remember the tragic events of November 22, 1963. His death forever marked our city, but his life changed the world.”
Rawlings and Kirk expect the rest of the country and the world to be looking at Dallas this time next year. Rawlings said they hope to honor the life, legacy and leadership of JFK and to mark the day with a sense of dignity and honor.
“The 50th will be a serious, respectful and understated public memorial,” Rawlings said.
Former mayor and current US Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk said that in his travels around the world, he has found that Dallas is closely associated with JFK’s death.
“This story is going to be told,” he said. “It’s so much more important that it be told by Dallas, because I don’t think any community was forced into the level of retrospection that Dallas was.”
Mayor Rawlings believes the 50th will explore how that day defined the growth and development of Dallas moving forward. He spoke of how it can be difficult to reconcile the past with the present and the future.
“When John F. Kennedy launched his presidency,” Rawlings said, “he told Americans, ‘We stand today on the edge of a new frontier, of unknown opportunities and paths.’ That is why we will honor the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy, and in doing so, we honor the spirit by heading forward in this new frontier.”