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JFK’s life, legacy and leadership honored on 50th anniversary of his final day

November 22, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
Americans around the country paid tribute to President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Hari Sreenivasan reports on ceremonies in Washington, Dallas and Boston, where the late president's words and actions inspired somber remembrances.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Americans and the world marked the 50th anniversary today of one of the 20th century’s defining moments, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Hari Sreenivasan reports on the day’s events.  

(“TAPS” PLAYING)

HARI SREENIVASAN: The gray skies at Arlington National Cemetery this morning matched the somber occasion.

Joined by family members, the president’s sister and last surviving sibling, Jean Kennedy Smith, laid a rose at the grave, where a flame burned as it has for the last half-century.

Hours later, at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, people gathered in bitter, wet cold as bells tolled at 12:30 Central time, the exact moment when the president was shot as he motorcaded through 50 years ago.

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Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said his city has grown since that horrific day.

MIKE RAWLINGS, mayor of Dallas, Texas: While the past is never in the past, this was a lifetime ago. Now, today, we, the people of Dallas, honor the life, legacy and leadership of the man who called us to think not of our own interests, but of our country’s. We give thanks for his life and service. We offer condolences to his family.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The mayor unveiled a new memorial imprinted with words from a speech that President Kennedy had been set to give in Dallas.

It also rained in the slain president’s native Boston, as Governor Deval Patrick laid a wreath at the Kennedy statue outside the Massachusetts Statehouse.

CHOIR (singing): America, America.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Across the city, music marked the day at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

And excerpts of his speeches were read aloud, including the address to the nation on civil rights in June of 1963, five months before the assassination.

ELAINE JONES, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund: We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The remembrances extended around the world as well. In Britain, Kennedy’s granddaughter, Tatiana Schlossberg, laid a wreath at a memorial to the slain president.

TATIANA SCHLOSSBERG, granddaughter of John F. Kennedy: We have come here today to honor his memory as this monument does so well. But today is a difficult day, because it is a reminder of a moment of profound sadness for my family, for America, and for the world.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And back in Washington, the 44th president met with Peace Corps volunteers carrying on the legacy. The organization was created during the Kennedy presidency.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama said today the Kennedy assassination reshaped the Secret Service, and that the agency does an outstanding job. He told ABC News he doesn’t worry about his own safety.