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Author Hampton Sides, a frequent AMERICAN EXPERIENCE consultant and author of Hellhound on his Trail, on which our 2010 film Roads to Memphis was based, draws a parallel between the Arizona shooter Jared Loughner and the infamous MLK assassin James Earl Ray in a recent Newsweek article. "Though he spent his criminal career striving for anonymity, he desperately wanted the world to know he existed," wrote Sides. "Like a certain deranged young man in Tucson last week, Ray imagined the best way to leave his mark was the gun down someone young, eloquent, and charismatic."
At his 1961 inauguration to the presidency, John F. Kennedy issued a challenge to the American people that, fifty years later, leaders are trying to revive. "My fellow Americans," Kennedy proclaimed into the frozen January air, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." The speech was in part an exhortation to the American people to change their attitudes toward government and become active participants in civic life. On the 50th anniversary of his famous inaugural speech, we can't help but wonder: are Americans taking his words to heart?