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Linda Sailer, Forum News Service, Published July 01 2013

ND scholar researching JFK's speech in Dickinson in 1958

DICKINSON, N.D. - Dickinson native and humanities scholar Clay S. Jenkinson remembers the day in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

Kennedy’s death and funeral filled the headlines. But over the years, Jenkinson has developed a greater appreciation of his legacy.

Jenkinson was recently in Dickinson to research Kennedy’s speech for a Theodore Roosevelt Centennial Symposium in 1958 at Dickinson State University.

“Kennedy was a rising star and war hero,” Jenkinson said. “They had a sense this guy was going places.”

A senator at the time, Kennedy spoke on the topic of “Moral and Spiritual Values as the Basis of Free Government.”

The research is for a JFK symposium that will be presented Nov. 5-7 at Bismarck State College. The symposium, titled “The Kennedy Legacy — 50 Years Later,” is bringing several nationally known speakers to Bismarck. The keynote speaker is Clint J. Hill, who was Jacqueline Kennedy’s Secret Service agent and a witness to the shootings.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy served as the nation’s 35th president for just 1,036 days before he died on Nov. 22, 1963. This November marks the 50th anniversary of that day. The symposium’s purpose is to explore his life, career, politics, vision, character and legacy. .The symposium co-sponsors are The Dakota Institute of the Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, Bismarck State College and the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Jenkinson, who is the Dakota Institute director, will give a presentation on Kennedy’s visits to the Upper Midwest. He is asking the public for help with the research.

Kennedy was in Dickinson to give tribute to Theodore Roosevelt. His keynote speech was said to be the best of the five speakers.

“He localized the boat thieves and Badlands — he nailed it,” Jenkinson said.

Jenkinson has newspaper clippings and correspondence of the event that is preserved at the DSU Theodore Roosevelt Center. Television film footage of the speech was taken, but it has disappeared.

Jenkinson is looking for film, photographs, audio, diaries or anything related to Kennedy’s visit.

“Presumably, lots of pictures were taken April 12, 1958 — this was three years before he was elected president,” Jenkinson said. “We hope people come out of the woodwork and provide information about that visit, especially visuals or diaries,” he said.

Jenkinson said newspapers are a key source of information for the research. Kennedy’s speech was printed in The Dickinson Press.

“Journalists provide the first draft of history,” Jenkinson said.

He also has done online research in the JFK library where additional articles mention the same trip.

He learned that Kennedy spent time in the Upper Midwest with visits to Iowa, Montana and North Dakota.

One of his visits was to the University of North Dakota on Sept. 25, 1963. While at UND, he spoke on the importance of conservation in the United States. It was just weeks before his assassination.

“So I’m trying to knit together some of JFK’s visits,” Jenkinson said.

He also will use the research to write an article for the State Historical Society of North Dakota and for an upcoming book about JFK in North Dakota.

Jenkinson is co-authoring the book with Kim Jondahl, education director for the State Historical Society of North Dakota. It’s due to be released for 125th anniversary of North Dakota’s statehood in 2014.

“It’s been a fascinating project because the Kennedy presidency was a time of great change in the United States,” said Jondahl.

People remember exactly where they were at the time of Kennedy’s assassination, she said.

“He and Jacqueline impacted American culture in so many significant ways from promoting the arts to the Cuban missile crisis — things that impacted everyone in the country, she added.

Jondahl appreciates Jenkinson’s work on the book.

“Clay brings to the table a true and great passion for whatever he’s doing,” she said. “He’s so knowledgeable on a vast array of topics. He can pull from many parts of the humanities to add depth and texture to whatever project is at hand.”

Anyone with information regarding JFK’s visit to Dickinson are invited to contact Jenkinson at the website, clayjenkinson2010@gmail.com.

For more information regarding the JFK symposium, visit the website at www.kennedylegacy.org.