Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dallas, Dallas, Uber Alles

The city’s plan for commemorating the 50th anniversary of John F. 
Kennedy’s assassination calls for the right ingredients: simplicity, 
dignity and focus on the slain president’s memory.

And it places the program of Nov. 22, 2013, in the spot where, Dallas 
has seen from experience, people will want to be.

Dealey Plaza, consecrated in national tragedy, evokes emotion like no 
other place. On next year’s observance of that tragedy, the intensity of 
that emotion will be like no other time, and it will exert a strong pull 
on those who want to join in honoring Kennedy’s legacy.

Holding next year’s public memorial in Dealey Plaza is a good call, even 
though it brings with it logistical challenges. The plan to limit access 
to the area will ensure dignity for the presentation, which is 
envisioned as lasting no more than 45 minutes. Organizers also want to 
make sure it doesn’t become a VIP-only event.

After the memorial, conisisting of a few speakers and music, access to 
Dealey Plaza will be unrestricted, which is the way it should be.

It’s clear there are a lot of details to work out, but this plan is on 
the right track.

The fundamental starting point is sound: The commemoration will be 
focused on Kennedy, whose memory still electrifies the imagination. The 
fact that he was slain in the heart of Dallas has caused this city 
decades of sorrow and shame.

Although the nation’s eyes will be trained on Dealey Plaza again next 
Nov. 22, it is not a time for Dallas to seek its own catharsis. Instead, 
it will be a time, as Mayor Mike Rawlings told this newspaper, for a 
serious, respectful ceremony that honors Kennedy’s life and leadership.

Rawlings also made a good choice in asking civic leader and 
philanthropist Ruth Sharp Altshuler to chair the commemoration’s 
steering committee. With a heart for the city’s needs, through decades 
of service leading boards and fund drives, Altshuler also has a personal 
connection with the events of November 1963. She was among those 
gathered for the Trade Mart luncheon to welcome the president — a 
banquet room that reacted in horror as the awful news spread. She was 
also a member of the grand jury that indicted Jack Ruby three days later 
for the murder of presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

The broad-based committee draws on many other key leaders, including 
vice chair Linda Pitts Custard, a longtime charity leader; U.S. Trade 
Ambassador and former Mayor Ron Kirk; and attorney Ken Menges, chairman 
of the Sixth Floor Museum board.

There is no subject of greater sensitivity that Dallas deals with on an 
ongoing basis. It’s also one that stirs strong individual emotions. The 
job of finding the right tone in commemorating that day and the nation’s 
loss is a tough one, but the broad outlines are in place.

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