Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Marking the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination & reflecting on a Presidential quote November 22, 2013

Dallas, Texas, 12:30 P.M. November 22, 1963: The President has been shot!

American flag edited

TODAY, ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, we’ll be swamped with news coverage and memories recalled. Where were you when you heard the news?

I was inside a classroom at Vesta Elementary School in rural southwestern Minnesota. That’s it. I don’t remember my reaction or that of my teacher or my parents. But I had only recently turned seven, old enough to understand, but young enough that details did not imprint upon my memory.

My husband, though, remembers the phone ringing in the one-room country school he attended in North Dakota and the teacher’s announcement that the President had been shot.

On the day of Kennedy’s funeral, the Helbling family relocated to central Minnesota. I expect that for a 7-year-old, moving hundreds of miles away from extended family and friends was more emotionally gripping than the death of the President.

So, if I don’t have better memories than that to share, why am I writing anything at all today? Well, listening to the radio this morning, I heard this famous Kennedy quote: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

That got me thinking.

And then I read Bob Collins’ online NewsCut column over at Minnesota Public Radio (you really ought to read this daily if you don’t already). Collins also featured that quote in his morning 5×8 list.

That got me thinking even more.

It seems to me that today we expect our country to do too much for us. I don’t want to get into a heated political discussion here. But just consider how government, more and more, is intruding into our lives on so many levels with this law and that law, this government program and that government program. Frankly, it scares me.

Given the erosion of self-sufficiency in our society, it might do all of us some good to reflect today on Kennedy’s words and ask: What can I do for my country (or my community, church, neighbor, a stranger)?

I suppose that seems contrary to self-sufficiency. Allow me to clarify. I’m not anti-government or anti helping others. We need government assistance programs and laws that protect the vulnerable and those in need. We need nonprofits and charities and individuals to assist others.

But there seems to be a pervasive attitude, even expectation, among many Americans that government should solve all of our problems. And that just does not sit right with me.


© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


21 Responses to “Marking the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination & reflecting on a Presidential quote”

  1. Great Post – I love the last 3 sentences – yes there is a need for government, however; we also live in a Country that gives us certain rights and freedoms and the ability to think for ourselves!!!

  2. Allan Says:

    Laws, laws, laws, that is the only word known to the Legislature in State, and Federal houses. I am 63 years old, and can remember when we were not so RESTRICTED as we are now. We do not need anymore laws! Enforce the important ones that protect us from crime. I don’t need a law that will fine me for not having health insurance!!!! This Country has gone from Great, to not so Great in the last 50 years! We do not need a President to TELL us what we NEED, or get fined for not participating in HIS healthcare plan! There, I said it! Wait until the tax returns are filed this year, and one is fined for not having healthcare!!! This is not America! This is dictator directive. Our Great Country was formed on hard work and believing in the American Dream, now that is shattered with, ” You do as I say, or we will fine you”, attitude. Look at our schools, the children are running the asylum!!! Kids have more rights, than the parents, and teachers. That my friends, is what LAWS have done to our Country! A 14 year old kid, kills his teacher with a box cutter knife and rapes her, and has no remorse, LAWS will keep him from any harm, as he will be cared for in the most humane way in prison. Yet the hard working young teacher got her “Reward” for helping this little thug after school with homework. Call me old, call me uninformed, but Damn it, I am right! Too many people are afraid to voice there opinions, as LAWS prevent us from FREE SPEECH! The last 50 years have taken us down a very scary road, and until we speak up and say what we feel, the road will only get scarier. Never vote for a person who wants “Change”, unless we know that person and his intentions! Our great Men and Women in uniform battle in the most inhuman conditions to provide safety for us, and now that is a big question, Why are they risking their lives for a Government that is turning to dictatorship? We need to go back to the basic 10 laws that were written on the MOUNT! Which one of those “Laws” do not have a place in our constitution???? And most of our elected people have broken everyone of them! By the way, those so important original 10 laws are banned from Government property, as it is offensive to a select few! Freedom of speech only means for Government people, and those who hail them! End of soap box for me today.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Allan, I knew I would be hearing from you. You are welcome to bring your soapbox here anyday. Well said, my friend, well said.

  3. Thread crazy Says:

    This morning while listening to the news, I too reflected on where I was at the time the news of President Kennedy’s assassination broke. I was in school in Euless, just northeast of Ft. Worth, in 5th grade. I can remember the day vividly, hearing the principal coming over the loudspeaker and making the announcement. Even at that age our teachers were trying to explain the events that had taken place, while at same time, trying to answer many of their own questions. Yes, times were different back then but those same principals still apply today; we all need to pull together to help our neighbors , communities, and ourselves. Would it make a difference? Never know unless we try.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you for sharing your vivid memories of 50 years ago.

      Your last three sentences in this comment are especially powerful.

  4. hotlyspiced Says:

    JFK was tragically killed before I was born but he was such an incredible individual whose life was cut short probably before he even reached his prime, that he is well known to people who weren’t yet born and who live a long way from the USA. It seems a lot of America died with him as the most recent Presidents in the USA are nothing in comparison with JFK xx

  5. treadlemusic Says:

    I think what’s been forgotten is that the American people ARE the government!!!! Not the lobbyists or special interest groups. The monies that come “from” the gov’t comes from the people!!! I’m afraid all the “creature comforts/’toys'” have taken priority and the term “spoiled children” may be applicable!!!! And at the root? The sinful nature of man!

  6. I’m not inclined to get into political discussions on blogs either, so I’ll just say that I was four when JFK was shot. I remember my father being home from work when he shouldn’t have been, the black and white t.v. coverage of the funeral, and that’s it. My thoughts today tend toward compassion. If everyone practiced thoughtful compassion on a regular basis, we might solve an awful lot of problems.

  7. Jackie Says:

    It was the day before my 3rd birthday…. I remember! In fact, it’s the first memory I have as a child that I can pin-point. I think it was more the adult reactions of what happened that day then me understanding what really happened. It was a sad day for the United States, I know that for sure.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      First of all, a belated Happy Birthday, Jackie! I hope you had a great day.

      Second, this is amazing that JFK’s death would be your first memory.

  8. BradG Says:

    I was in 6th grade in 1963. My Dad was the Superintendent at the Clarissa, MN school. He called an entire school assembly (except the lower grades) and announced the death of JFK. There was a silence that I will never forget. The bus drivers were called early and school was immediately dismissed. We skipped church on Sunday, and saw Oswald getting shot on live TV. Memories that will never be forgotten..like watching Neil Armstrong step onto the Moon.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Wow, Brad, those are some strong personal memories. I can only imagine the silence in the Clarissa school.

  9. Deb Says:

    I also remember the day vividly. Third Grade. Standing in the bathroom, washing my hands at the big stone round sink, smelling the pink soap, taking my time rinsing and playing with the foot pedal and water. The announcement came over the loudspeaker to return to our rooms immediately. Our teacher told us and then we were to go home, straight home, no playing or dilly-dallying. My Mom was crying and Dad came home from work. The TV was on for the next three or four days non-stop, Many neighbors came over, there was alot of “adult” talk and we were hanging around on the steps listening to what we could. Truth be told, I was terrified although could not express why.

    As for government, I am not going into a political discussion either. Government was not set up this way. As a politician, you came from the private sector, served your civic duty and then returned to the private sector to your business to be prosperous in your chosen field. It was not a career, it was your duty.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Deb, I am impressed with your vivid memories of that day and the direction to go straight home with no dilly-dallying. I also love the details on the big stone round sink with the foot pedal and the pink soap. Exactly what we had in my elementary school and I have not thought about that in years.

      I can’t recall tv coverage and I am wondering if my family even had a television then yet. Maybe not.

      I appreciate your perspective on government being a “civic duty” rather than a career. Thank you for sharing that angle.

  10. Yes. I so agree. Although there are times I think I need to say “no” a little more often to volunteer opportunities and focus more on my family. Or is that an excuse?

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Saying “no” is alright, Gretchen. If you stretch yourself thin, then you can’t always give your best.

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