Website asks people to share stories of JFK legacy

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BOSTON -- There's no shortage of places for people to share memories of where they were 50 years ago when they found out John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. But a new website debuting today aims to take the focus from past to future by asking people of all ages -- even those who weren't alive when Kennedy died -- to share their thoughts about how he has inspired them.

The website is part of the JFK Library and Museum's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of JFK's death, which is Friday. The museum also plans a new exhibit of never-before-displayed items from his three-day state funeral, including the flag that draped his casket and notes written by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Visitors to the "An Idea Lives On" site can explore an interactive video that includes Navy Cmdr. Chris Cassidy, a NASA astronaut; former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, comedian Conan O'Brien, Charles Person, a Freedom rider; and others talking about Kennedy's lasting impact.

The Kennedy Library Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money to support the library, is spearheading the project. The foundation hopes visitors will upload their own photos, videos, written messages and tweets to answer the question "How do the ideals of John F. Kennedy live on in your life today?"

"It's ambitious," said Tom McNaught, the foundation's executive director. "You can't stop trying to instill in young people the ideas he instilled in my generation." All submissions will become part of the archives at the JFK Library in Boston. The best stories will be featured on the site. "The stories are meant to be really personal," said Brian Williams, vice president and creative director of The Martin Agency, which produced the site.

"President Kennedy stood for vitality and optimism and hope, so we've made a conscious decision to try to have the experience be uplifting," said Tom Putnam, the library's executive director.

In addition to the website, a new exhibit starts Friday that will include the flag from his casket and the saddle, boots and sword worn by the riderless horse that walked in the funeral procession. Visitors will also see notes written by Jackie Kennedy as she made plans for her husband's funeral and a 15-minute video with footage from the events.

Curator Stacey Bredhoff hopes it will help visitors who were not alive or too young to remember comprehend the enormity of the shock and the mourning that followed.

Also Friday, the library will host a musical tribute featuring Paul Winter, who performed at the White House with his jazz sextet during Kennedy's presidency, along with a U.S. Navy choir and singer James Taylor. Between songs, notable guests including Gov. Deval Patrick will read quotes from Kennedy's speeches. The event is not open to the public, but it will be streamed live on the library's website.


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