The JFK Assassination


Early Monday morning I boarded a plane for Washington to attend the funeral of a great man, the late President of the United States. Outwardly my attendance at the funeral was to represent the students of SMU in a tribute to President Kennedy, but inwardly I was going there in search of understanding, in search of why our country had been denied the life and leadership of a man who stood for the things that all men should stand for: freedom, equality of opportunity, world peace, and the elimination of prejudice and bigotry.

At his funeral, as most of you know, there was a 21 gun salute, a blowing of taps and a “flyover” of armed services aircraft in an incomplete formation – incomplete to the extent that only one plane was missing. All of these were meant to be a tribute, but in austere reality they represented a recognition of the triumph of hate. Without hate in this world the bugle never would have been blown, nor the canons fired, and the aircraft would have been flying in a complete formation. I am not talking just of the hate which caused a single man to kill our President, which caused a man to place a bomb in a small church in Birmingham or which caused the death of 6 million Jews in Germany in World War II. I am concerned also with a hate which transcends everything political – a hate of which I am guilty and of which all of us are guilty, even though many will never admit it or even realize it. Herein lies the necessity for the bugle yesterday.

What then shall I, as a student, as a member of a generation which someday must provide the leadership of our country, say to these things? Or better, what must I say to these things? My answer lies within the lines of a poem which has been, up to this time, a statement of my personal convictions, but now has become something that I want to share with you:

I believe in man, in the awareness of man.
Each man can follow the light; each man has
The individual capacity to own it; each man is
In full possession of self-salvation.
This life I cherish and enter into it with
Turbid enthusiasm to GIVE. Give to this life
And men all that is within. To live so
Furiously that upon the last moment
There remains no feelings undiscovered.
When the end does come it is the life in me
Which I failed to express that will determine my salvation.

In short, I am committing myself, and I am asking you to commit yourself, to a life of “what I can do for my fellowman,” not a life of “what my fellowman can do for me.” If some of us enter the business world after graduation, let us do so out of a desire to contribute to our country and to the world, not out of a desire to gain prestige, wealth or false security. If some of us enter the teaching profession, the clergy, or work in the government, let us follow the same principles. Indeed, this demand of our generation is single, no matter how we choose to express “the life that is within.”

In Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, it was an ending in a sense for John F. Kennedy, but from his own words in his inaugural address there was a “new beginning.” We cannot hope to accomplish these goals in a day, a 100 days, a 1000 days but we can begin to formulate our lives around the principles of our University and our nation. In the words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “Let us begin.”

John A. Hill
President, Students’ Association
Southern Methodist University