Fifty years ago today President Kennedy was killed. We all remember where we were when we heard the news. I also remember where I was just before.
I was in a college government class. I had been fortunate enough to get the only Government 101 class taught by the chair of the department. He was funny, intelligent, wise, inspiring ~ all the things you want a professor to be. He let us read the text for ourselves. He taught out and beyond what was written on our pages.
On that Friday morning he had been lecturing on the peaceable transfer of powers. He ended his lecture with these very ordinary ~ and for that morning ~ amazing words: Remember, in this country we change governments every four years, by the vote, not by guns and assassinations.
I left class, walked the two blocks to my husband’s office to meet him for lunch and as we got in the car, the university church bell began to toll. As we looked up wondering, a colleague ran out to stop us and told us the news, “The President has been shot.”
We went home and spent the weekend as most did, glued to our tv set, crying, upset, speaking in muted tones to each other and friends.
On Monday morning I was back in government class. The professor walked in. He had no notes. He stood in front of us and he spoke. He spoke of freedom, of peace, of the greatness of this country even in times of trial. He spoke with eloquence about a country founded with a system of government that spread the power across all the people; a government of, by and for the people. He spoke with the passion of a man who loved his country.
When he was done, he turned and walked out. We sat, muted, moved and more wise than we had been when we walked in an hour earlier. And then we too left the classroom. And somehow life was never quite the same.