November 22, 2008: Barry Cauchon

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 at 12:30pm CST (1:30pm EST). And on November 19, 2008, we celebrated the 145th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.

Photo of clock on the Texas School Book Depository showing time of the assassination. This photo was not taken on the day of the actual event.

The clock on the Texas School Book Depository showing the time of the assassination. This photo was not taken on the same day.

So I was curious to know what happened on November 19, 1963, when the country celebrated the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s famous speech, especially in light of the fact that just three days later President Kennedy would be assassinated.

According to an article on BBC HOME, H2G2, this is what they wrote. It’s very interesting.

John F Kennedy and Gettysburg

During 1963, the 100th anniversary of the pivotal American Civil War battle was commemorated at the Gettysburg National Military Park by a variety of special events.

For the 50th and 75th anniversaries of the battle, Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D Roosevelt had come to the battlefield on 4 July and given speeches. In 1963, President John F Kennedy was invited to speak, but a previously arranged tour of Europe prevented him from doing so1. Undeterred, the anniversary organisers recruited the closest president they could find – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania resident Dwight Eisenhower.

Kennedy did tour the battlefield in March 1963 in an Oldsmobile convertible. He is said to have impressed his tour guides by being able to read the Gaelic inscription on the monument to the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry2.

On Memorial Day3, Kennedy did not attend the ceremonies at the battlefield and sent Vice President Lyndon B Johnson in his stead. At the time, Johnson’s remarks drew little notice, but once he became president they took on special meaning: he had been the first Southerner to speak at Gettysburg about Civil Rights.

The final special event at the battlefield in 1963 was to mark the 100th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s reading of his famous Gettysburg Address at the National Cemetery.

Again Kennedy declined an invitation to speak and again Eisenhower filled in admirably. Kennedy did send a message which read ‘Let us remember those thousands of American patriots whose graves at home, beneath the sea and in distant lands are silent sentries of our heritage’.

Kennedy had not been able to attend this event because he was needed in Texas to settle a political squabble between two Texan politicians – Governor John Connally and US Senator Ralph Yarborough. Instead of attending the ceremonies on 19 November, Kennedy flew down to Texas and stayed the weekend at Lyndon B Johnson’s ranch.

Three days later, on 22 November, Kennedy was assassinated as he rode through the streets of Dallas.



On November 19, 1963, although not in Gettysburg, Kennedy made the following statement for the Centennial.
“From the past man obtains the insights, wisdom and hope to face with confidence the uncertainties of the future. Abraham Lincoln was keenly aware of this when, a century ago, he journeyed to Gettysburg to make “a few appropriate remarks.” Today, as we honor Lincoln’s immortal eulogy to the dead on Cemetery Ridge, let us remember as well those thousands of American patriots whose graves at home, beneath the sea and in distant lands are silent sentries of our heritage. Lincoln and others did indeed give us “a new birth of freedom;” but the goals of liberty and freedom, the obligations of keeping ours a government of and by the people are never-ending. On this solemn occasion let us all re`dedicate ourselves to the perpetuation of those ideals of which Lincoln spoke so luminously. As Americans, we can do no less.”



Let us remember our fallen Presidents and the soldiers who have served and died for their country by celebrating their deeds, their accomplishments and their lives rather than celebrating the anniversary of their deaths. The country must always honor their memories and be proud of what they’ve done for us.