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The Passing of Presidents

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 22, 2009

U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on 22 November 1963. On this anniversary, and in light of the sick humor? even sicker sincerity? of the currently popular “Prayer for Obama,” consider Richard L. Evans’s words of tribute and prayer, broadcast with the music of the Tabernacle Choir in 1963:

The Passing of the President

With a sorrowing America, we join this day in mourning the passing of the President. John Fitzgerald Kennedy is mourned by unnumbered multitudes, not only here, but wherever there are knowing human hearts. In a short lifetime he realized an almost incredible accomplishment, and will be remembered unpredictably far into the future.

But our thoughts today are more for those who mourn him in the close relationship of life – his loved ones. The official loss does not make less their personal loss. May the peace and comfort and understanding of the Father of us all be with them in these anguished hours, and in all yet future difficult days – with faith in eternal continuance – faith in his eternal plan and purpose. “There is a future, O thank God! [1] – a future where our loved ones wait.

And now our fellow Americans, may we turn our thoughts a moment to some words from the past that have much meaning for the present: “It is a time … for searching of the conscience, for humility of spirit, for the heartfelt prayer of the whole people for light, for guidance, for strength, for sanity, for that passion for righteousness which consumes all pride, scorn, arrogance, and trust in the things that perish. … Therefore, let the Nation search itself. … And thus let us plead and pray: Almighty God, who in former time leddest our fathers forth … give Thy grace … to us their children, that we may always … do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Defend our liberties; preserve our unity. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion … and from every evil way.” [2]

From a century past we add to this these lines from Abraham Lincoln: “It behooves us then, to humble ourselves … and to pray for clemency and forgiveness … All this being done in sincerity and truth … that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high. …” [3]

Our fathers’ God, to thee,
Author of liberty,
To thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light.
Protect us by thy might,
Great God, our King! [4]

[1] Henry de Lafayette Webster, Lorena.
[2] Editorial, The Outlook, November 29, 1902.
[3] Excerpt from Proclamation, March 30, 1863.
[4] Samuel F. Smith, My Country, ’Tis of Thee



12 Comments »

  1. Thanks for the post. I feel it is quite appropriate, especially in today’s poisoned political climate.

    Comment by Steve C. — November 22, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

  2. Ardis, this is great. We really need more people like you.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 22, 2009 @ 7:25 pm

  3. A wonderful antidote to the viciousness elsewhere in the world. Thank you, Ardis.

    Comment by Alison — November 23, 2009 @ 8:16 am

  4. The Washington Examiner is a free paper that is tossed in my driveway every Sunday. On the page with news of crimes there is always in one corner an historical crime, something a bit quirky and interesting to hear about thirty or seventy years after the fact. Yesterday that space was occupied by the Kennedy assassination, recounted in just the same way as the usually obscure items found there. It was weird to see the event shifted out the “world-shaking calamities we mark our lives by” category into the “quirky crimes from the past” category, more like the murders of McKinley and Garfield.

    Comment by John Mansfield — November 23, 2009 @ 10:18 am

  5. Very nice, Ardis.

    Thank you.

    Comment by kevinf — November 23, 2009 @ 10:28 am

  6. Add my note of thanks for your thoughtful post.

    Comment by Phoebe — November 23, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  7. I bemoan “today’s poisoned political climate” as much as the other commentators. I suppose, though, that the type of acerbic rhetoric we hear so much of in 2009 is not really exceptional in the grand sweep of time. Caustic and and destructive exchanges will probably always be with us; it’s human nature.

    And so it’s that fact that makes this Richard L. Evans article all the more important to me. I applaud his model of modest and respectful commentary.

    Comment by Hunter — November 23, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  8. One thing to be said about “today’s poisoned political climate”–unlike that of 46 years ago, it hasn’t resulted in the assassination of a president. So, ugly as some of the talk is, maybe Hunter’s right–the talk isn’t exceptional. But, thankfully, actual political violence is relatively rare.

    Regarding John Mansfield’s comment, perhaps the JFK assassination has been relegated to the “quirky crimes from the past” because so many have no memories of that day. My ward is relatively young (I’m old enough to be father of most of the members), and almost nobody seemed to have any idea what had happened on November 22.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 23, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  9. Thank you very much for this important message, Ardis.

    Comment by Hellmut — November 23, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

  10. Ardis,
    Thanks for this. I remember the assassination and its aftermath well. Would that we could hear Richard L. Evans read his words on this occasion today. He had a tone, cadence, and dignity that made anything he read or said a pleasure to hear, second only to the talents of today’s David McCullough.

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — November 26, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

  11. I’m a little late, but I liked this post.

    Let’s be sure not to accuse Dallas of killing JFK. Lee Harvey Oswald, possibly aided by (pick one) the CIA, the Mafia, etc., killed JFK. Oswald had minimal ties to Dallas itself.

    And if anyone ever visits Dallas, I’ll invite you to go through the Sixth Floor Museum… It’s a sensational museum. You can even go stand behind the grassy knoll. And people (not the museum) keep an X painted on the street at roughly the correct position where JFK’s motorcade was. It’s really, really eerie.

    Comment by queuno — December 12, 2009 @ 8:44 pm

  12. Queuno: I have been to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. I agree. It is worth the visit. Daley Plaza is quite interesting. Not to get off track too much, but when I was in high school our hs band marched in the Cotton Bowl parade. Our band had a cowboy motif and the drum majors shot .38 revolvers (loaded with blanks, of course) as part of the routine. We were about a block away from Daley Plaza (and could see the Texas Book Depository) when our drum majors shot off the .38s. You should have seen the security jump out of the woodwork when they heard gunshots.

    I enjoy visiting Dallas and all there is to do there. Thanks for the reminder.

    Comment by Steve C. — December 12, 2009 @ 9:37 pm

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