The following statement by Lucinda Johnston, Chair of the Pinellas Democratic Party, was released today as a personal memory of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on this date in 1963.
Fifty-eight years ago today, I was checking out a copy of Charlotte's Web from our school library and looking forward to defying my teacher by laying it in my lap and reading it during her math lecture that was to occur right after we returned from the library. But there was no math class that day. As bewildered children watched in horror, the adults around us began sobbing and our principal, who was uncharacteristically shaken, announced over the loudspeaker that everyone was to return to their classrooms, close and lock the doors and windows and await further instructions. Then he uttered these words: “President Kennedy has been shot and we don't know if he's alive or dead.” We've all experienced many "Where were you moments?" since then, but this was my first and it still haunts me. However, this incident, along with the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcom X, the attack on the Oklahoma City Federal Building, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and so many more were not the most frightening to me. I always had faith that America could survive and come together to continue striving to live up to the ideals on which this not-so-perfect union was founded. That changed on January 6, 2021, when the President of the United States, aided by members of Congress, facilitated a domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol Building in order to stop the certification of a Presidential Election. For the first time in my life, I felt that our democracy may not survive. -- at least not without our concentrated efforts to change the trajectory of our elections. But what does all this have to do with where it started for me, when someone shot and killed our President? I believe that as flawed as it is, with all that is wrong with it, and all that could be made better, the Democratic Party is the only hope for our country. I also believe that there is more that unites us than divides us. We are not two heads of the same snake. We are not just as bad as they are. We are better, much better! So, I'll leave you with the final words of an imperfect man who believed in our imperfect union and that an imperfect political party could make our nation stronger, fairer and more just. These words are the last paragraph of a speech that John F. Kennedy was to give in Austin, Texas on the evening of November 22, 1963 if he hadn’t been gunned down on that dreadful day in Dallas. It should resonate with all Democrats in these trying times and guide our actions today and as we face a challenging future.
"This is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a party is not to our party alone, but to the Nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.
So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation's future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause--united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future--and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance."