The Courage of Life
When whirlwinds arise, will you be swept up?
“The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy. A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.” — John F. Kennedy, 1956
Today marks 60 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, felled by a bullet from Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas.
It was a tragic event for the world, but even more so for the men and women of Parkland Memorial Hospital — the medical facility where Kennedy and Governor John Connolly were taken after the attack.
Can you imagine being part of the trauma team that received the injured president and governor that day?
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That historic moment meant that, just for a moment, they were at the center of the world’s attention. But more importantly for the moment, they made their patients the center of their world.
These stalwart men and women did what they must that day. Despite the pressures and emotions they faced, they did their duty in the final moments of President Kennedy’s life.
Part of that was due to sheer professionalism, but I can’t help but think it was also due to the strong culture at that hospital, likely built as a combination of good leadership and strong communication.
We Were Not Found Wanting
Just five days later on November 27th of 1963, Charles Jack Price, then-Administrator of the hospital, issued a memo to all hospital staff, making it clear why he was so proud to lead them.
DALLAS COUNTY HOSPITAL DISTRICT
November 27, 1963
To: All Employees
At 12:38 p.m., Friday, November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy and Texas’ Governor John Connally were brought to the Emergency Room of Parkland Memorial Hospital after being struck down by the bullets of an assassin.
At 1:07 p.m., Sunday, November 24, 1963, Lee. H. Oswald, accused assassin of the late president, died in an operating room of Parkland Memorial Hospital after being shot by a bystander in the basement of Dallas’ City Hall. In the intervening 48 hours and 31 minutes Parkland Memorial Hospital had:
Become the temporary seat of the government of the United States.
Become the temporary seat of the government of the State of Texas.
Become the site of the death of the 35th President.
Become the site of the ascendency of the 36th President.
Become site of the death of President Kennedy’s accused assassin.
Twice become the center of the attention of the world.
Continued to function at close to normal pace as a large charity hospital.
What is it that enables an institution to take in stride such a series of history jolting events? Spirit? Dedication? Preparedness? Certainly, all of these are important, but the underlying factor is people. People whose education and training is sound. People whose judgement is calm and perceptive. People whose actions are deliberate and definitive. Our pride is not that we were swept up by the whirlwind of tragic history, but that when we were, we were not found wanting.
C. J. Price
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” — John F. Kennedy, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1963
As we mark this solemn occasion today and the American holiday of Thanksgiving tomorrow, perhaps it’s a fitting time to ask ourselves:
Am I communicating what I value and what I cherish?
And do my actions reflect what I say?
Having the courage to live your values every day — especially when faced with ethical challenges — is how you define your morality.
Let’s not find ourselves wanting.
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the Internet.
Because you’re perspicacious and persistent enough to get this far (or maybe your thumb slipped), I’ve got an extra for you from the archives. It’s particularly relevant if you appreciate Edward R. Murrow, Joseph Welch, mental health, and more: