HEBER SPRINGS — Former President Bill Clinton called on politicians Thursday to follow the example of former President John F. Kennedy while speaking at the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s dedication of the Greers Ferry Dam.
Clinton recalled the political debates and fights going on at the time Kennedy dedicated the dam Oct. 3, 1963, specifically the civil rights debate.
“There was a lot of fighting going on,” Clinton said. “Gov. Faubus had to host President Kennedy, both were on polar opposites of the civil rights debate.
“Kennedy was gracious to Faubus by talking about how they both believed in land conservation, and he complemented what Arkansas had done, and how it reinforced what he was trying to do.”
Clinton also pointed out that Faubus, who did not care much for Kennedy, brought along his father, a well-known liberal in Arkansas, who favored the president.
“They were trying to figure out how to make things work,” Clinton said. “They never, with all the fights they had going on, would let the government shutdown or let the country default on its debt.”
Clinton said multiple times during his speech that it was time for politicians to “get the show on the road.”
Clinton said it was normal for the country to have fights and debates like ones occurring now, but what makes it a democracy is people who will not do certain things that might harm the future.
Once again, Clinton pointed to Kennedy’s example who he said “obsessed with trying to honor the future,” and became “the symbol of the eternal future” in death.
Clinton urged the youth in attendance to read Kennedy’s remarks from 50 years ago, and said if he were still alive, “Kennedy would still be talking about the future.”
“(Kennedy) knew the way to avoid having things like that happen in the future was finding both a way to continue vigorous debate, and eventually come together and build a common future,” he said. “The real great test of our time is whether we can build a common future of shared responsibilities and shared prosperity, or we’re going to build a future of constant conflict.”
Gov. Mike Beebe, who introduced Clinton, said so many have benefited from the dam since its dedication in 1963.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on that lake, and how many more times I plan to be on that lake,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many fish I’ve tried to catch, and didn’t, on the Little Red River.”
Beebe spoke of how “prophetic” Kennedy was while talking of his plans to return 10 or 20 years after the dedication of the Greers Ferry Dam to see the growth and impact in the community.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see that,” Beebe said. “But we are all beneficiaries of it.”
Beebe also spoke of the influence Kennedy had on so many from he and Clinton’s generation, recalling the iconic photo of Clinton and Kennedy shaking hands in the Rose Garden in 1963.
Clinton nodded and smiled along while Beebe referred to him as a “starstruck teenager.”
“President Clinton and I were both of an age where if you had to single out one political figure that influenced a lot of decisions on what we did in life, I know I would point to John F. Kennedy, and I bet (Clinton) would too,” Beebe said.
Beebe closed with what he called his favorite lines from the former president, which were delivered in his inaugural address.
“With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”
(Staff writer Lee Hogan can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1246. Follow Lee Hogan on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LCD_LeeHogan. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)