Fifty years after President Abraham Lincoln was shot while watching a play alongside his wife at Washington’s Ford Theatre, the nation honored his memory by closing all government buildings and ordering flags flown at half-staff on April 14-15, 1915.
Now a California representative has asked President Barack Obama to order flags flown at half-staff Friday in honor of President John F. Kennedy, who died from gunshot wounds sustained Nov. 22, 1963, while riding in an open limousine during a parade in Dallas.
US Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) asked Obama in a letter sent Tuesday to fly the flags at half-staff Friday in Kennedy’s honor, the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Calif., reported. Calling the day Kennedy died “one of the most horrible days in American history,” Hahn said a presidential order would be a significant way to honor JFK’s memory.
In Chicago, a citywide moment of silence will be held at 1 p.m. CST, the time Kennedy was pronounced dead. Other cities and venues across the nation will hold similar memorials.
Hahn is absolutely right to suggest that Obama order the flags flown at half-staff to honor the memory of the 35th president. Additionally, Obama should join Chicago and set a national moment of silence at 1 p.m. It is the least we as a nation can do to remember and honor the man most Americans believe to be the most outstanding US president in the past six decades.
Kennedy’s death, in perhaps as profound a sense as the assassination of Abraham Lincoln nearly 100 years earlier, transformed the trajectory of the nation more than can ever be calculated or imagined. In honoring Lincoln 50 years after his death, the nation ground to a virtual halt, as explained this excerpt from The Pittsburgh Press of April 14, 1915:
The closing of government buildings, the half-masting of flags and other testimonials today marked the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and his death the following day. Flags will be at half mast throughout the United States today and tomorrow, services will be held by the veterans of the Civil War, and President Wilson has ordered that all government buildings be closed.
Wilson, the 28th president, issued an executive order April 13, 1865, honoring Lincoln, the 16th president. As recorded in the Boston Evening Transcript of that day, it read:
As an evidence of the profound affection of the American people for the memory of Abraham Lincoln, it is hereby ordered that the executive offices of the United States shall be closed and the national flag displayed at halfmast upon all Federal buildings and at all forts and military posts and naval stations, and on all vessels of the United States, and that the representatives of the United States in foreign countries shall, in like manner, pay appropriate tribute to his memory on Thursday, April 15, 1915, the fiftieth anniversary of his death.
The owners and masters of all merchant ships are requested similarly to display the flag at halfmast.
The profound affection untold millions of Americans feel for Kennedy is just as real today as sentiments for Lincoln were in 1915. The president should take Hahn’s advice on lowering the flags and follow Chicago’s example in setting a moment of silence. The world’s business can wait as we reflect upon what we lost, and what we might have had, if not for the tragic events of Nov. 22, 1963.
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Additional sources and resources:
History channel on Abraham Lincoln’s assassination
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