Marylanders had a special affinity for John F. Kennedy, who we memorialize this week on the 50th anniversary of his assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas. That affinity is more than the fact that Kennedy was a Democrat in a state weighted toward Democrats.
Maryland's heritage of progressive public policy (it was the first state to declare religious tolerance) shares much with the Kennedy vision, known generally under the rubric the New Frontier. Maryland has produced its own visionaries, such as Charles Carroll of Carrollton, signer of the Declaration of Independence; Francis Scott Key, composer of our national anthem; and Frederick Douglass, the slave who became a renowned abolitionist.
Kennedy shared with these prominent Maryland men an ability to envision a more enlightened world.
He made numerous appearances in Maryland, including a ribbon-cutting for Interstate 95 on Nov. 14, 1963, just eight days before his death.
In one of those appearances, while campaigning as a young senator, he said, "I think this is a great country, but I think we can make it a greater country, and I think it is a powerful country, and I think we can make it more powerful.
"I speak of the 1960s as a New Frontier, and I don't speak of the 1960s or my own candidacy in the sense of promising that life will be easy if I am elected. The New Frontier of which I speak is the opportunity for all of us to be of service to the great Republic in a difficult and dangerous time."
All Marylanders who are old enough can remember where they were when they heard the news of the Kennedy assassination. Many Americans regarded it as the end of an era.
And while the act of an assassin 50 years ago may have silenced a voice, the message of a New Frontier took root in many places such as Laurel.
Today, the "opportunity" of the New Frontier remains manifest in the way residents of cities such as Laurel live, work and dream.