“Friday, November 22, 1963 was just a regular day,” Congressman Lacy Clay says. “Like most mornings, my sisters and I had jumped on the Delmar streetcar which took us to the St. Francis Xavier primary school in midtown.
“I was a second grader who loved school and was just getting excited about the bigger world around me.
“About 1 p.m., our principal, Sister John the Baptist, came on the PA system to tell us the terrible news…the President was dead, struck down by an assassin. School immediately dismissed, and my sisters and I took the streetcar home where my Mom was waiting.
“We were glued to the television and it was as if the whole world had stopped. Later that day, my Dad, former Congressman Bill Clay, came home. Back in 1963, he was an Alderman and he had recently been released from jail after leading the landmark Jefferson Bank protests which struck down segregation in St. Louis.
“At dinner that night, my Dad got up and excused himself from the table. That was the first time that I ever saw him cry.
“Fifty years have passed since that horrible trauma which changed every American who is old enough to remember it. I could not know then, what I know now. My Dad’s tears were not just for the death of one good man, he cried for what we lost as a nation. President Kennedy inspired an entire generation of Americans to believe that public service was honorable and essential. I still carry those values with me every day. His death changed our country, altered the course of the 20th century and changed our world.
“But his sacrifice also planted the seeds that propelled President Lyndon Johnson to pass the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and much more. So while we remember all that we lost on that terrible day in Dallas, let us also give thanks for President Kennedy’s incredible vision, his courage, his unbounded optimism and his belief that freedom and justice are worth fighting for.
They still are.”