About Mo Guernon

I am a former newspaper reporter, Rhode Island syndicated columnist, media consultant, and teacher. Currently, I am a freelance writer and communications / educational consultant. Hundreds of my essays and stories have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, and online. I am presently writing a biography of Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul I. I offer a variety of writing services through Quest Writing Solutions as well as educational consulting through ERC. To learn about my writing servies, visit http://www.moguernon.com.

The Way We Were


Senator Robert F. Kennedy shortly before his assassination

In sorting through personal files today, I came across an original program of the Mass for Courage and Reconciliation on the 25th anniversary of Bobby Kennedy’s death on June 6, 1968. It belonged to my wife’s aunt who attended. What I found most notable were the quotes from speeches he delivered that captured his patriotic view and vision for America.

The poignancy of RFK’s remarks is striking because the country we inhabit today is split asunder and growing forces — either ignorant or contemptuous of our Constitution, our fundamental freedoms, and our cherished national ideals — pose an imminent threat to our democracy and our future as a beacon of hope.

Read the following beliefs Kennedy held about America’s destiny to understand the dire straits in which we now find ourselves. As a martyr to democracy, his words were hopeful and prescriptive.

Leadership’s Responsibility to Promote the Common Good

“…the task of leadership…is not to condemn or castigate or deplore — it is to search out the reason for disillusionment and alienation, the rationale of protest and dissent — perhaps, indeed, to learn from it.”

I wonder: Is that what we’re experiencing today from a significant number of elected officials in Congress and in the states?


“…We can end the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment with our society, between blacks and whites, between the poor and affluent…We can work together. We are a great country, an unselfish country, and a compassionate country.”

I wonder: Is that still true? Doesn’t seem more as if we have devolved into the Divided States of America with lack of tolerance for differences of opinion?


“…That which unites us is, must be, stronger than that which divides us. We can concentrate on what unites us, and secure the future for all of our children; or we can concentrate on what divides us, and fail our duty through argument and resentment and waste.”

I wonder: Division, distrust, disrespect characterize our society today. Is this the future we want for our children?

Responsive Government

“Everything that makes a person’s life worthwhile — family, work, education… depends on decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people. Therefore the essential humanity of all people can be protected and preserved only where government must answer — not just to the wealthy; not just to those of a particular religion or a particular race; but to all its people. And even government by the consent of the governed…must be limited in its power to act against its people; so that there may be…no arbitrary imposition of pains and penalties by officials high or low…”

I wonder: Are we willing to settle for a fascist government to settle our differences for us by defying our Constitution and suspending our Bill of Rights?


“…I come to ask you to help in the task of national reconciliation: to place your energies and your time and your strength in the first work of America; the building of a nation…in the enduring faith that we are to be free…that the natural condition of humanity is not degradation but dignity. This is the faith that binds us together as Americans. It is the faith that shaped this nation; it is this faith that shall preserve us. From it we will find the best within ourselves and the best within our fellow citizens; and we shall win, at the end of our labors, a new America.”

I wonder: Have we lost all faith in decency, fairness, and the American Dream that will destroy the very fabric of our society for all time?

The stakes couldn’t be higher. All American patriots, therefore, have a responsibility to ponder these words of Robert Kennedy in light of where we find ourselves today as a country and as a society. Our future as a democracy depends on it.

A Shred of History

Dealey Plaza

“A Shred of History” by Mo Guernon

It took me more than half a century to get there: a destination that beckoned as well as repelled.

Inspired by President Kennedy in my youth and devastated by his untimely death, I had repeatedly and meticulously scrutinized innumerable photos and videos of the site and the dreadful historically-altering act that had transpired there, yet I was stunned when inspecting it in person. Pictures and film profoundly distort its size. The lens alters dimensions that only the eye can capture with precision. Contrary to common perception, therefore, the ignoble Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, is far from an expansive location. It is in fact a compact setting with its collection of all-too-familiar structures and landmarks clustered in astonishingly close proximity. In truth it is startlingly small, just like the man who made it infamous.

This is where the course of American history was derailed for all time in six sickening seconds in the fall of 1963. It is the home of a gruesome event forever etched in the minds and hearts of those old enough to have suffered through it. It was there that a young, charismatic president’s life was brutally extinguished. Consequently, it is where a nation forever lost its innocence and its idealism. Given the endless chain of political and policy calamities that ensued John Kennedy’s slaughter and that continue unabated today, it is not unreasonable to expect that historians might yet pinpoint 12:30 p.m. Central Time on November 22, 1963, as the precise moment when American civilization began its own inexorable death spiral.

Ever since that dreadful episode nearly 55 years ago, countless vehicles have cruised down the triple lane thoroughfare where the carnage took place as if it were nothing more than an ordinary street. The wheels are still rolling. Daily. Hourly. By the minute. It leaves visitors to feel that the ignominious deed committed here is history snubbed or trivialized.

In the center lane crude white X’s designate where the two shots struck their prominent target. The first indicates where a bullet, approximately the diameter of a pencil and traveling at 1,900 feet per second, penetrated pulsating flesh, puncturing the victim’s upper back and throat; the other where a second metal projectile shattered the President’s skull, splattering the pavement and those in close proximity with presidential blood and brain matter and cranial fragments.

The rudimentary X’s are unseemly indicators of the enormity of the deed that happened on that swathe of asphalt. In a sense, these makeshift markers are metaphorical band aids, impossibly attempting to sanitize the gore that stained those spots and seeped into the psyche of millions of Americans who continue to mourn decades after the hideous crime claimed its victim and made victims of us all who lived through it. The sudden explosion of a president’s skull simultaneously shattered the fragile illusion that America had evolved into a highly civilized nation, incapable of such barbaric acts.

The distressing reality is that not only do thousands of tires repeatedly defile the vestiges of the bloodbath each day, but, when traffic momentarily abates, some visitors who perhaps know the tale of anguish only through superficial history lessons, stand on or near the markers to be photographed, some of them grinning. Desecration mars this destination of secular pilgrims many of whose hearts still bear scars from the ghastly tragedy that occurred there on a sunlit November day so long ago but which remains evocatively fresh in the memory of those who endured it.

Dealey Plaza and, in particular, the road that bisects the grassy areas where spectators witnessed the horror are sacred ground, though they are not treated as such. Decency would dictate that since the assassination, Elm Street should forever have been a road not taken. Yet the short segment where hellish violence rocked the world has never been sealed off from traffic.

Today, the lonely unadorned plaque standing as a solitary sentinel of history on the grassy knoll merely relates the dry facts of the assassination without a hint of the magnitude of the human sacrifice and the country’s incalculable loss on that fateful day.

Incredibly, most of the nondescript square brick building from which the horror emanated is still used by the government. One wonders how employees can work in that nauseating structure without being persistently haunted by its vile historic significance. The Texas School Book Depository Building’s name has been changed to the Dallas County Administration Building, perhaps in a token — but utterly futile attempt — to decontaminate it of its ignominious past. Its continued occupation as an annex of county government is simply obscene. Also disgraceful are the shameless hawkers, pretending to be experts on the butchery that happened there. They prowl the structure’s immediate vicinity and assail unwary visitors in their eagerness to profit from the tragedy by peddling glossy magazines that tarnish the truth and tease voyeurs of violence with gruesome pictures of the abominable act.

The window from which the horror originated remains half opened as it was on that fateful Friday. From the across the street, it too looks small. So does the rifle barrel that rested on its sill ready to act out the devil’s will.

The grassy knoll, the abandoned railroad tracks behind it, and the triple underpass that once promised swift safety for the occupants of the presidential limousine are all nestled together, unexceptional now except to the curious who gather there to relive the fatal six seconds, to imagine what it must have been like to be eyewitnesses to the most momentous murder of the Twentieth Century.

Dealey Plaza is where cynicism triumphed over hope. Where the weak and irrational conquered the heroic and wise.

In one sense it was no surprise that the grotesque deed happened here: a city that was home to a bevy of right-wing political extremists. A city in which one of its newspapers published a vulgar full-page ad with John Kennedy’s picture above a bold headline of hateful words, “Wanted for Treason.”

In fairness, there was another side to Dallas, though.

Enormous, enthralled crowds greeted the President and First Lady at Lovefield Airport and all along the motorcade route until the long topless limousine made its slow, cautious turn onto Elm Street, the last leg of the parade, where eager onlookers thinned out. The unexpected outpouring of cheering locals prompted Nellie Connally, the governor’s wife sitting in the limousine’s jump seat, to remark just moments before the lethal shot was fired, “You sure can’t say the people of Dallas don’t love you, Mr. President.” That seemed true even though Kennedy had garnered barely more than a third of the Dallas vote three years before.

On the sixth floor of the book depository building from which the assassin carried out his malevolent scheme, there is now a museum that provides facts intended to counter the relentless spewing of farfetched conspiracy theories while prominently exhibiting jolting assassination artifacts. It’s a disturbing juxtaposition: Lee Harvey Oswald and John Fitzgerald Kennedy – loser and leader — in close, repulsive proximity. Yet the two are necessarily inseparable here – as they are in history itself — if the complete and accurate narrative of events is to be told and understood and remembered.

The reconstructed sniper’s nest in the sixth floor museum is suitably cramped. A perfect lair in which a pathetic coward could hide while shooting his unsuspecting prey in the back. Plexiglas encloses the corner now, textbook boxes carefully re-positioned as they were when they concealed the assassin. Visitors can still peer down onto Elm Street from a nearby window or from the floor above for a view of what the slayer saw as he peered through his scope.

Because of the confined area of the plaza, it seems as if the assassin had a relatively easy shot, especially for a Marine marksman even though Oswald used a crude mail-order rifle. The scope, of course, magnified the head of his target, and the limousine crawled at eleven miles per hour, inching almost to a stop as it made the sharp turn onto Elm Street and then again as the first shot shattered the silence that surprised the Secret Service man driving the car. The presidential vehicle was ever so close; 63 yards for the first hit, only 81 yards for the shot that killed Kennedy.

The interior of the sixth floor is fittingly dingy and depressing, featuring exposed brick walls and roughhewn bare beams and dim, naked hanging light bulbs; window sills riddled with desperate words etched with pocket knives by poorly paid, unskilled laborers, likely bored or depressed while conducting their mindless, repetitive work. The ugly, rickety freight elevator contributes to the gloomy atmosphere that suffocated employees’ dreams of a better life.  This place was a dead end, literally and figuratively.

From here a dishonorably discharged misfit marine slaughtered a decorated naval war hero. In the constricted confines of Dealey Plaza, the ghosts of the vulgar and the distinguished endure side by side in perpetuity.

After the assassination, journalist Mary McGrory lamented, “We’ll never laugh again,” and Kennedy aide Daniel Patrick Moynihan notably replied, “Mary, we will laugh again. It’s just that we will never be young again.”

John Kennedy made Americans feel big, capable of achieving greatness, even of accomplishing the impossible. His soaring eloquence inspired, appealing to the better angels of our nature, as is evident in an excerpt from the speech he was scheduled to deliver at the nearby Dallas Trade Mart: “Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live.”

For those of us who vividly remember the nightmare of Kennedy’s brutal slaying, whatever age we were at the time, we truly would never be young again. We were plunged into enduring cynicism and robbed of our hope for a future unsurpassed in the bleak history of manking.

Oswald, the wretched life-long nobody, blasted his way into the history books. It was a moment when pessimism trumped idealism. This was the assassin’s lasting legacy to our country.

It all happened at Dealey Plaza. A very small place.

 Mo Guernon is a free-lance writer and writing consultant with Quest Writing Solutions of Rhode Island.


JFK’s Prophetic Final Speech (Undelivered)


Pres. John F. Kennedy & bouquet-carrying wife Jackie (fore) arriving at Love Field, on campaign tour w. VP Lyndon & Lady Bird Johnson (C rear) et al in tow, on day of his assassination.


On Friday, November 22, 1963, President John Kennedy was scheduled to deliver remarks to an audience gathered at the Dallas, Texas Trade Mart. Tragically, Kennedy was assassinated minutes before he was to make that speech. As a result, the document has been consigned to the dustbins of history, despite its visionary insights. The text includes startling portents of what is actually transpiring in contemporary American politics.

JFK’s dire warnings require solemn contemplation by all American patriots regardless of party loyalty or ideology, especially now when our country is politically polarized, when much of our electorate is abysmally uninformed about vital national issues and readily susceptible to the alluring but treacherous promises of cynical demagogues.

Time is our paramount adversary, for our fundamental rights – indeed our very survival as a free society — is in imminent jeopardy both from our foreign foes as well as from a host of pernicious domestic enemies.

Ponder the chilling excerpts below from President Kennedy’s undelivered speech that foretold the inevitable demise of a society in which rampant gullibility, apathy, cynicism, intolerance, recklessness, and self-indulgence prevail. We are there. The ultimate question we must resolve before it is too late is, “Whither the future, America?”

           “This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country’s security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.

            “There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternatives, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility.

“… other voices are heard in the land–voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality…doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice…that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. 

“We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will “talk sense to the American people.” But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense.

“… the status of our strength and our security…clearly calls for the most responsible qualities of leadership and the most enlightened products of scholarship. For this Nation’s strength and security are not easily or cheaply obtained, nor are they quickly and simply explained. 

“Above all, words alone are not enough. The United States is a peaceful nation. And where our strength and determination are clear, our words need merely to convey conviction, not belligerence. If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.

“… in today’s world, freedom can be lost without a shot being fired, by ballots as well as bullets. The success of our leadership is dependent upon respect for our mission in the world…on a clearer recognition of the virtues of freedom as well as the evils of tyranny.

“Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live.

“We in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

On the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s Assassination


A Tribute to President John F. Kennedy

JFK White House Portrait

I was eleven years old when JFK was brutally taken from us so unexpectedly that his death shattered us emotionally as individuals and as a nation. For me, the pain has never completely abated; the psychic wound has never completely healed. All these decades later, the tears still swell whenever I view footage of the President, most especially that poignant moment, when about to depart Ireland, he bid farewell to the land of his ancestors by reciting haunting lines from a poem, concluding with the words, “Well, I’m going to come back to see Old Shannon’s face again.” Dreadful destiny, beyond the poor power of man to halt, as we are reminded in the Greek tragedies of old, robbed the President of fulfilling his fond wish.

In the intervening years, JFK’s words and deeds have lived on in my memory and in my soul. As a father, I have repeatedly shared with my children the enduring power of his eloquence and his lofty ideals. From his stirring Inaugural Address to his sobering response to the Cuban Missile Crisis; from his inspiring speech about America’s bold commitment to explore the wonders of space, to his urgent moral call for action on civil rights; and from his  clarion call on behalf of freedom at the Berlin wall to his hopeful speech at American University that reminded humanity of our “most common basic link…that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

As a journalist, I have quoted President Kennedy’s words frequently. As a teacher, I have sought to instill in my students the idealism embodied by the President: the quest for excellence in all endeavors, regardless of the difficulties; the necessity of dedicating ourselves to causes bigger than ourselves; the imperative of sacrificing for the common good of our country. 

John F. Kennedy will forever be a beacon of hope for peoples of all nations who aspire to the amelioration of suffering, the relentless pursuit of world peace, and the noble cultivation of what is the very best of the human spirit.

That, I believe, is JFK’s enduring legacy. As Ted Sorenson so aptly concluded in his book Kennedy, “All of us are better for having lived in the days of Kennedy.”

This was originally posted on November 22, 2013