A Campus Mourns with a Nation

Front page of the Florida Flambeau, November 25, 1963
Front page of the Florida Flambeau, November 25, 1963

Shock and disbelief enveloped Florida State University’s campus after President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. Compared to the thousands of words being printed in world newspapers, on FSU’s campus, “a silence [fell] at the first heart-tearing announcement.” Students gathered around TVs and transistor radios in their dorms, on Landis Green, at the Sweet Shop, waiting for the confirmation: “Ladies and Gentleman, the President of the United States is dead.” During station breaks from the news, “heads would bow and tears fell without hesitation.” Classes were canceled, and a memorial convocation was held, featuring musical performances and an address from Dr. Gordon W. Blackwell, University President.

Blackwell acknowledged the difficulty for students being away from home during this time and tried to bring perspective to the event especially to the age group that had connected with President Kennedy in a way they had not connected with a president before: “There can be no question but that the late President caught up the enthusiasm of the young with his warm personality, the brightness of his mind, and his love for sports and the out-of-doors. He carried them forward with the vigor of his thinking which matched his vibrant personality.” Blackwell ended by challenging both students and faculty to carry forward Kennedy’s ideals, “As students and as teachers of new generations, let us move with firm resolve to replace fanaticism with tolerance and prejudice with understanding, so that each of us may retrieve from these tragic days something of personal significance and lasting value that this community, this state, this nation – yes, even this world, will become truly a better place in which to live.” [excerpts from The Selected Addresses of Gordon W. Blackwell, The Florida State University, 1965.]

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