Arlington National Cemetery

I’m here. I have waited many years for this moment. When I first learned of the opportunity for this trip to DC, this place where I now sit was the reason I instantly decided to come. I have thought often of this place, imagined it, reflected upon it, but never actually experienced it. I am at the eternal flame, the final resting place of President John F. Kennedy.

There are thousands of white, stone grave markers in this place of green hills and curious onlookers. Each one silently proclaims the life of one who gave service, often at the cost of life–all for a nation, an idea. Why then, should one be remembered any more or less than others?

I have no memory of John Kennedy other than those embedded in the collective conciousness of America through pictures, recordings, and history books. Yet since I can remember, I have been drawn to the short, complex life of this solitary man, as have many others. I have read his biographies. Several of them. I have read his own words. I have listened to his speeches, relived his times through film, media, and memorabilia. What they tell me, with the limited ability words and pictures have to capture the essence ofa life, is that he was only a man. Not a perfect one. Sometimes, far from it. And yet for all that, something deep within me cries out that he was more.

In the film “Nixon,” by Oliver Stone, the character of Nixon addresses a picture of the late President Kennedy, and says “People look at you and see who they want to be. People look at me and see who they really are.” Perhaps this comes closest to explaining why I’m here today, flanked by an endless stream of fellow visitors paying tribute to a man 40 years gone.

Kennedy gave us a dream, a vision of ourselves that was bright, young, confident, and compassionate. Then he gave his life. May this flame that stands before me now, and the one that he lit in our hearts, burn long and bright for the world to see.

To John F. Kennedy, my hero and inspiration.

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