A new tribute to President John F. Kennedy will be unveiled Thursday in Fort Worth.The memorial reconnects the city with Kennedy’s trip there on Nov. 22, 1963.
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“There are no faint hearts in Fort Worth. And I appreciate you being here this morning.”
That’s how the president greeted the crowd gathered outside the Hotel Texas on that cold, damp morning before giving a speech to the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and heading on to Dallas.
The Hotel Texas is now the Fort Worth Hilton, which sits at the corner of Main St. and 9th St., directly across from the city’s new JFK Tribute.
“There are two stories of North Texas. And Dallas does a very admirable job telling a very difficult story,” says Andy Taft, the president of Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives, which spearheaded the project. “The first half of that day was here in Fort Worth, and, understandably, that story was swept away in the aftermath of that tragedy. The story in Fort Worth was one of confidence and enthusiasm and excitement about the future.”
The tribute reflects that spirit. The site includes large photos that capture the president and first lady’s stop in the city. Inspirational personal quotes are etched into the walls. And in the center is an eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Kennedy by Lawrence Ludtke. His right arm is outstretched, leading to his signature clenched fist.
“His posture is pressing forward and Ludtke considered that a very optimistic pose for the president – moving forward, pressing with optimism into the future,” Taft says.
In Kennedy’s brief parking lot speech, he talked about the importance of a strong U.S. economy, space program and military. Those elements, he said, would push the country past the Soviet Union.
“In the final analysis, that strength depends upon the willingness of the citizens of the United States to assume the burdens of leadership,” the president said. “I know one place where they are: Here in this rain, in Fort Worth, in Texas, in the United States – we’re going forward.”
Taft says not much has changed since then.
“The themes of his speeches resonate just as importantly now as they did then. And so the sculpture, I think, reflects that optimism and positive spirit.”
The tribute will be formally unveiled during a ceremony Thursday morning at 9.