“And We Are All Mortal…”, American University, June 10, 2014
Every June 10th at 12:00 noon, the Coalition on Political Assassinations has held a commemoration of John F. Kennedy’s American University address, also known as his “Peace Speech“, at Peace Speech Memorial on the campus of American U. First held in 1999 by COPA co-founders John Judge and Bill Kelly, and longtime COPA board member, T Carter, a small collection of seasoned researchers and interested citizens, led by COPA Director John Judge, have gathered annually to honor JFK and reflect on his vision for peace, which was delivered less than 6 months before his assassination.
I’m sure all are now aware of the recent passing of John. A devastating loss not only to his friends, but to the research community as well. While no one can possibly replace John, we friends and supporters of COPA felt passionate that John’s commemoration of JFK’s speech should continue. This year, however, we would also be honoring John, and his life spent fighting for the same vision of peace expressed in JFK’s speech.
On June 10, 2014, I was honored to lead COPA’s 16th “And We Are All Mortal…” Annual Commemoration of JFK’s American University Peace Speech. Joining me was Deborah Cunningham, Pat Simon, Assassination Archives and Research Center (ARRC) Founder & President Jim Lesar, AARC Director Jerry Policoff, Karl Golovin and Chris Hager. The morning was sunny and warm, a typical beautiful DC summer day. But as the time got closer to 12 noon, the skies slowly grew darker and darker. At 12:00, the sky opened up, and we were caught in a downpour. It’s as if the gods saw us standing there at the memorial and chose to test our mettle and dedication. Once the rain started, I couldn’t help think of something John said to me in Dallas last November at the 50th: It was a rainy and bitterly cold day. We were all miserable. As my freezing fingers were fumbling with my camera, John walked up and told the story about how JFK’s press corps had a joke that wherever JFK went, the weather was always beautiful. The press corps would say, “It’s a Kennedy day”! John looked around at everyone, cold and wet, and said, “this is no Kennedy day”.
That day at American was no Kennedy day, either.
Instead of attempting to give the commemoration myself, I instead played the audio from John’s presentation in 2003. Infinitely better than anything I could have possibly come up with.
I wrapped up our commemoration with the following:
It’s telling that we’re standing here on the campus of an elite university in the nation’s capital, and who’s here? Just us. No students, no politicians, no press, and, most telling, no historians. John addressed this perfectly in footage I use in the opening of my film, The Searchers: “What died on November 22, 1963, was more than just a president. Truth was killed. Hope was killed. And a government that responded to popular movements was killed. But we in the US are what’s left of democracy in the world. We have more potential of any country to make democracy work. We have a strength that the powers in this country are afraid of. But if you want a democracy you have to make it a democracy. And the first step is to take back your history.”