Remembering President Kennedy

Although I grew up in a Kansas Republican family, President Kennedy became a personal hero for me when he signed my Eagle Scout Certificate shortly after entering office.  This made Frau Mayfield’s whispered announcement two years later when she tardily entered our 5th hour German class at Fairfield High School with the news she had just heard in the front office, “The President has been shot!” all the more devastating.  At first we thought she was joking, because she had a quick wit and a wry sense of humor.  Her stricken look, however, belied that motive; she was deadly serious.  Usually playful and light-hearted with her in class, the five of us guys instantly turned somber.  The swift report of the President’s death came as a powerful aftershock to the initial verbal earthquake that had sent us reeling.  Quiet reigned throughout the building.  We trudged uncertainly and sorrowfully to our remaining classes.  Activities were being cancelled.

One activity concerned our whole senior class.  We had been working for two months to perfect our Senior Play, Robert Sherwood’s Abe Lincoln in Illinois.  Our Director Don McCrory was weighing whether to reschedule the opening night’s performance out of respect for President Kennedy or to go ahead that evening as scheduled.  He sought our input and told us all to “stand by.”  Ultimately he decided to go ahead.  Before the performance that Friday night he explained to the audience that we wanted to show respect for President Kennedy on this devastating day, and he thought we could do that better by performing this play about another great president who was assassinated than by cancelling or postponing the performance.  That night we all played our parts with increased intensity knowing it was one small way we could honor both fallen presidents.  I’m glad we did.