CARBONDALE — It has been 53 years since President John F. Kennedy visited Southern Illinois, and as the 50th anniversary of his assassination approaches, Southern Illinois University is putting on a series of events called Remembering JFK.
The first event in the series was Thursday night at the SIU Student Center Auditorium.
The evening was filled with special guest speakers and musical guests including Carbondale Mayor Joel Fritzler, SIU Chancellor Rita Cheng, SIU President Glenn Poshard, and keynote speaker Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon.
Nick Rion, graduate student coordinator of Remembering JFK, started the event by describing what the Remembering JFK series is designed to do.
“This series is designed to inform young students about Kennedy’s legacy and to think critically,” Rion said. “The series is also to remember this piece of Southern Illinois history with Kennedy’s visit.”
Carbondale Mayor Joel Fritzler talked about the impact Kennedy had on his life.
“I have lived through ten presidents in my lifetime starting with Kennedy and he probably had the biggest influence on my life than the nine other following him,” Fritzler said. “He was the first Boy Scout to ever be president of the United States, so that encouraged me as a Boy Scout to reach the rank of eagle.”
SIU chancellor Rita Cheng spoke about how SIU will remember Kennedy and what he did.
“We will hang a photo of former president John F. Kennedy in the student center to memorialize his visit to the campus
53 years ago.” Cheng said. “Among Kennedy’s greatest achievements was the Peace Corps, the idea that we have the responsibility and opportunity to lend a helping hand and in the process inspire great trust and understanding throughout the world.”
SIU President Glenn Poshard idolized former president Kennedy. Poshard, known for an amazing memory, relived most famous speeches.
Poshard, quoting Kennedy in an eerily accurate Kennedy/Boston accent, said:
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility, I welcome it. … Ask not what your country can do for you; rather ask what you can do for your country.”
Lt. Governor, Shelia Simon was the keynote speaker for the event and spoke about learning from the legacy of Kennedy.
“I am recommending we take advantage of the lessons we have learned from President Kennedy,” Simon said. “We should examine what we think is our lack of bias and how we might need to change it.”
SIU is having a series of event remembering J.F.K. running from Oct.3 to Nov. 22.
Kennedy was shot and killed Nov. 22 during a parade in Dallas.
More information is available on the Remembering JFK Facebook page.