November 22, 2016 marks the 53rd anniversary of the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy here in Dallas. The day and the events still haunt me, although I find it no more horrific than the almost weekly shootings of police officers. Reflecting on JFK’s assassination and the seemingly endless, senseless killings, I stop and reflect and I find hope and wisdom in the words of John F. Kennedy. I believe he was the last world leader who truly understood the importance of, and the power of, the individual. He recognized, honored and encouraged each person taking action and ownership of what happens in the world.
You may ask — how does this relate to seemingly senseless killings? It relates because each and every one of us contributes to the consciousness of our communities, to the consciousness of our planet. Yes, we are all connected, and what I do makes a difference, what you do makes a difference, even though I may, at the time, have absolutely no idea of how or why.
In a June 1963 speech on disarmament titled A Strategy Of Peace at American University, JFK said “… every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward — by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace … First: Examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable that mankind is doomed — that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade — therefore, they can be solved by man.”
To me, these words are empowering, inspiring, and hopeful. Can you imagine every person, every day, looking inward and examining her or his own attitude toward the peace? Can you imagine in every interaction, if people got in touch with what was alive for them, how they could bring about a peaceful resolution to any conflict? If we can imagine it (and YES we can!) then we can create it.
JFK continued this idea in a speech to the UN. He said “… peace does not rest in charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people … let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace, in the hearts and minds of all our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings.”
And so the question becomes — What am I willing to do for peace? Am I willing to raise my voice, to speak up for justice? Am I willing to be a model for nonviolence in my community? Not just rail AGAINST violence or injustice or inequity, not just give lip-service that killing one another is deplorable, but to stand FOR a nonviolent community, to stand FOR justice and respect and tolerance and equality, to take action FOR a nonviolent world. Folks, it’s the only way I know — to get off my butt and get involved, do my part (and I hope you will, too!) because I absolutely know — Peace begins with ME!