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Kennedy Memorial Ceremony: Bells, Speeches, Somber Mood in Dallas

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In Dallas, somber and thoughtful ceremonies were set for Friday afternoon to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who was gunned down on Nov. 22, 1963, as his open-air motorcade traveled through the city.

Bells were expected to toll throughout Dealey Plaza, where sniper Lee Harvey Oswald fired upon Kennedy, who was traveling with his wife, Jacqueline, and Texas Gov. John Connally and his wife, Nellie. The death of Kennedy, the nation’s youngest president, plunged the word into mourning, and even today he continues to remain a figure of hope and unity.

Historian David McCullough was scheduled to read passages from Kennedy’s speeches, including his much-repeated call to service made during his 1961 inaugural address: “Ask not what your country will do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Organizer Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor, said he sought to acknowledge the occasion in a way that would respect President Kennedy’s legacy. The city has long come to terms with its locale as one of the darkest moments in U.S. history, even as conspiracy theorists continue to preach on the plaza’s notorious grassy knoll.

The ceremony was due to end with the unveiling of a new monument to the 35th president, inscribed with a passage included in a speech he was set to give, but never did, that fateful day.

“We in this country, in this generation, are watchmen of the walls of world freedom,” President Kennedy was going to say. “So we ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility.”