22 Days In November
10:21 am
Thu November 7, 2013

50 Years Later, Dallasites Deliver The Speech That Kennedy Never Made

Throughout November, KERA will mark the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination by taking a closer look at that fateful day, what it meant to the country, how it changed Dallas, and more.

Today, we take a look at a local effort to commemorate the anniversary -- a video project that captures parts of a speech that Kennedy was to deliver in Dallas. The project is being called a "tribute to JFK from the citizens of Dallas." The creators are determined that his words live on through Dallasites.

Fifty years ago this month, John F. Kennedy traveled in his motorcade through the streets of downtown Dallas, heading to the Dallas Trade Mart to deliver a 1 p.m. speech.

Then his limo entered Dealey Plaza – and the president never made it to the Trade Mart. He never delivered the speech.

But two British expats in Dallas are determined that JFK’s planned address – which has come to be known as “the Unspoken Speech” – lives on through Dallasites.

Over the past year, Cliff Simms and Peter Wood have created seven videos featuring Dallas residents who deliver highlights of Kennedy’s speech, word by word. Some hold up signs featuring his words. Others sing.

Since January, KERA's Jerome Weeks has followed Simms and Wood as they create “a tribute to JFK from the citizens of Dallas.” The videos have gained the British men international attention. Newspapers in Europe have interviewed them.

The videos will be shown publicly in Dallas later this month.

Dallas has been going through a kind of citywide spiritual exercise as it, once again, tries to figure out a way to commemorate something awful. This city has rarely done well when it comes to either history or self-reflection. So perhaps it’s not surprising that two British outsiders — with little money and no official sanction — have been contributing some of the more emotionally resonant memorial artworks for the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination.

“How does the city pay tribute to the president in a unique manner?” Simms said.

Read more from KERA’s Jerome Weeks.

This video from KERA offers a behind-the-scenes look at the video project:

Here's the last of seven "Unspoken Speech" videos. This one features the South Dallas Concert Choir singing the final lines that Kennedy was to deliver, from the floor of the Dallas Trade Mart, where he was to make his address.

Here's the first of seven "Unspoken Speech" videos. This one features Dallasites holding signs that feature Kennedy's words.