Today marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. I was in the third grade at the time and I vividly remember the moment I heard our 35th president had been murdered. One of my classmates lived across the street from the school and he always went home for lunch. He came back to school screaming that the president had been shot and killed. While this was a dark day in American history, I also vividly remember sound bites from President Kennedy’s speech to Congress on May 25, 1961 about putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Throughout grade school and junior high, I watched television coverage of every Gemini and Apollo space flight on a grainy black and white screen in school (the only time television was permitted in the classroom). I was on vacation with my parents in the mountains of central Idaho in July 1969 when Apollo 11 was launched on a mission to complete President Kennedy’s goal. Not wanting to miss this event, I crowded in a small room at the nearby lodge with about 30 other people to watch Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon.
President Kennedy established a lofty goal because, in his words, “That goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and our skills.” Not everyone agreed with President Kennedy’s policies. Partisan politics existed in the 1960’s much the same as today. However, his vision for this country and its ability to work together toward a common goal resulted in an achievement that has not been subsequently duplicated by any other country nearly half a century later. In business, we learn setting goals is paramount to success. So, as we remember the passing of a visionary president, we could learn from his example.