A light, steady rain came down during the ceremony at Dealey Plaza. The crowd was bundled up in the near-freezing weather, many wearing clear ponchos.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said the nation grew up on the day Kennedy died and had to live up to the challenges of the words and vision of a beloved president. Rawlings said Dallas has turned "civic heartbreak" into hard work and it is a much different place today.
He called Kennedy an "idealist without illusions who helped build a more just and equal world."
Author and historian David McCullough said Kennedy's words changed lives and history, and that much of what he said still applies today.
McCullough read excerpts of some of Kennedy's most well-known speeches during Friday's ceremony at Dealey Plaza.
He says Kennedy spoke of things that mattered, including education, service to one's country and the cause of peace on Earth. And he says Kennedy spoke to the point, with confidence and without "stale platitudes."
As the U.S. Naval Academy Men's Glee Club sang America the Beautiful, about four men from the Coalition on Political Assassinations — wearing T-shirts depicting Kennedy's image on the half-dollar coin with a bullet hole and blood— gathered toward the back of the standing crowd and silently pointed toward the "grassy knoll."
The group, which believes Kennedy's death was part of a conspiracy, usually gathers there for a moment of silence at 12:30 p.m.
The bulk of the group was gathering a few blocks away for their own ceremony but its executive director had said about 10 members would attend the official ceremony.
President John F. Kennedy's daughter Caroline Kennedy, who is now the U.S. ambassador to Japan, commemorated the anniversary of her father's death privately, the U.S. Embassy press office said. They didn't offer further details.
In Arlington, Va., the only surviving sibling of JFK, 85-year-old Jean Kennedy Smith, laid a wreath at her brother's grave. She was accompanied by 10 Kennedy family members, who then prayed and left roses on the grave before leaving quietly.
It's been estimated that 41.5 million households in America tuned in to follow Kennedy's funeral procession through Washington to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery during the funeral on Nov. 25, 1963. At the time, only 50.3 million households had televisions.
at ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Shortly after sunrise, Attorney General Eric Holder paid his respects at Kennedy's grave, where a British cavalry officer stood guard, bagpipes played and a flame burned steadily as it has since Kennedy was buried.
Gov. Deval Patrick and Maj. Gen. Scott Rice of the Massachusetts National Guard endured a heavy rain during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Kennedy statue on the front lawn of the Statehouse. The statue, dedicated in 1990, has been largely off-limits to public viewing since security procedures put in place after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But the area was opened to visitors Friday.
Patrick was a 7-year-old on Chicago's South Side when he learned in school that Kennedy had been shot.
Some of his memories are mixed with his later understanding of the events, he says, but one is clear: Watching the funeral at his grandparents' house.
"It was the first time I ever saw my grandfather cry," he said.
Patrick said Kennedy was also an inspiration for all who have faith that government can do good.
"John Kennedy very much believed and spoke about the importance of being involved in our civic lives, not leaving it to others but making it personal and becoming engaged and taking responsibility for it," Patrick said.
A half-dozen Irish soldiers toting guns with brilliantly polished bayonets formed an honor guard outside the U.S. Embassy as the American flag was lowered to half-staff. An Irish army commander at the embassy drew a sword and held it aloft as a lone trumpeter played "The Last Post," the traditional British salute to war dead.
More than a dozen retired Irish army officers who, as teenage cadets, had formed an honor guard at Kennedy's graveside gathered in the front garden of the embassy to remember the first Irish-American to become leader of the free world.
Together with Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore and embassy staff, they observed a moment of silence and laid wreaths from the Irish and American governments in JFK's memory."
OSWALD'S SECOND VICTIM
Hours after shooting Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald was spotted by Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit near the Texas Theatre in the Oak Cliff neighborhood. Tippit pulled up in his patrol car and got out. Oswald shot him four times and fled.
Uniformed Dallas officers and Tippit's widow, Marie, were expected to attend a vigil Friday evening at the spot where he was killed.
Marie Tippit recently told the Associated Press that she remembers receiving a letter from another woman left a widow, Jacqueline Kennedy.
"She said that she had lit a flame for Jack and she was going to consider that it would burn for my husband, too, that it would burn forever," Tippit said.
The Japanese have long held special feelings for President John F. Kennedy, whom they see as a hero standing for the ideals of freedom and forging a trans-Pacific U.S.-Japan friendship.
JFK's daughter Caroline Kennedy recently arrived in the country to an enthusiastic welcome as ambassador to Japan.At an event Friday in a Tokyo shopping mall, a steady trickle of people came to pay their respects to the late president.
"If he had lived longer, things might have been different," said Teruo Nasu, 70, a retired printer, reaching up to point to an excerpt from Kennedy's inaugural speech lining the walls. "I wish I could show that to a Japanese prime minister. His idea of taking up challenges is still needed."
President Barack Obama spoke with Peace Corps volunteers in Tanzania to pay tribute to President John F. Kennedy.
The White House said Obama met with volunteers and leaders via videoconference. Obama opened the meeting with a moment of silence to honor Kennedy's memory.
It was the same time, 12:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22. It was the same place, downtown Dallas. But 50 years later, the thousands of people who filled Dealey Plaza weren't there to cheer but to remember in quiet sadness the young, handsome president with whom Dallas will always be "linked in tragedy." Somber remembrances extended from Dallas to the shores of Cape Cod, with moments of silence, speeches by historians and, above all, simple reverence for a time and a leader long gone. — Associated Press
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