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   The 50th: Honoring the Memory of President John F. Kennedy
   Public Affairs/The President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Foundation//

Challenge

The city of Dallas, led by Mayor Mike Rawlings, decided over a year ago that they needed to mark the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s passing for the first time in their history. Since the tragic events of Nov. 22, 1963, Dallas has been left with an indelible stain, even once branded as the “city of hate”. The challenge became how to hold a solemn, dignified and understated commemorative event in Dealey Plaza—the very site of the assassination, without the ceremony being perceived as commercialized for any specific gain. In addition, it was determined by the Dallas Police Department that only 5,000 people could safely occupy the space in Dealey Plaza necessary for the event. With thousands expected to express an interest in attending, a fair method of ticket distribution would have to be devised—and defended in the press.

Response

The Mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings, enlisted the direct assistance of city philanthropic leader Ruth Altshuler to direct and form a committee of 25 diverse and knowledgeable city leaders. Their task would be to plan the event as a private-public partnership under the name of the President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Foundation, utilizing no taxpayer money—only private donations--to cover costs associated with the program. The commemorative event was now given the formal name of “The 50th: Honoring the Memory of President John F. Kennedy”. A random allocation computer program was designed to handle ticket requests from those seeking to attend the commemorative event. The Dallas-based IPREX member firm of Laurey Peat + Associates was hired to direct the event management, handle the media outreach on behalf of the foundation, and oversee a global media credential list to administer the influx of interest in covering the Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 event.

Results

On Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, under slate gray skies and freezing temperatures, The 50th: Honoring the Memory of President John F. Kennedy commemorative event was flawlessly executed down to the minute. Over 900 credentialed media members from around the world were in attendance on a two-story press riser, including representation from all major national and international broadcast network outlets. Approximately 14,000 individuals registered for tickets to Dealey Plaza, with 5,000 granted access, half of which hailed from the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. In addition to changing the tone of the dialogue and discussion regarding the historical context of these interrelated Nov. 22nd events in Dallas, the JFK 50th commemorative ceremony became a major news story, which will continue to resonate a positive feel going forward.