Thoughts from the 2013 JFK Lancer Conference: November in Dallas

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I cannot remember a time where I met so many amazing people as the trip to Dallas last week.  Kerry McCarthy called it a pilgrimage, and it most certainly was to me. Where else could you find at a single table, a CIA and covert operations military expert, a crime scene investigator, a witness to the most famous murder in history, a Cambridge doctor, and me a hack teacher taking the whole experience in as if I was in some sort of purgatory–a half-way house of intellect and erie circumstance.  The conversations were almost as varied as the characters sitting at the table itself. 

Along with the amazing conversations and connections, I felt an immense sense of safety and community.  I watched as people worked through complex research presentations, inquisitively questioned, shared stories, and remembered an amazing man.  Within that hotel was a place to safely talk about solving the most important crime in our nation’s history.  Pockets of conversations over snacks, coffee, and thoughtful discourse along with the usual formal presentations and author signings.

Usually, I have to censor myself to my audience, or explain critical components before I engage in conversation which leads to eventual diatribe.  This past week was such a relaxed environment to share new ideas, beliefs, and create new thought patterns free from the watchful eye of the disinterested apathetic silent majority. 

As I was sitting at the banquet, a little star struck at the head table to be quite honest I was wondering to myself, “How did I get here?” I had spent the last four days engaging in one of the most intellectually stimulating and exhausting conversations of my life. My teaching teammate Ed and I had agreed after the first day that we felt like we had been there a week already, we had learned so many new things.  

The Greek historian Thucydides wrote, “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”  Jeff Morley challenged us in his keynote address to be the disruptive force. I promise to do so. I promise to continue to engage in conversations to lead my fellow educators to understand not only the unfamiliar realities of the assassination, but to learn how to build great lessons that engage students to become critical thinkers. I promise to lead my students to difficult questions. I promise to engage educators in doing the same. I promise Sherry, I promise.