It's understandable that most Americans who were alive on Nov. 22, 1963, remember where they were and what they were doing when they leaned that John F. Kennedy, the nation's 35th president, had been assassinated. The promise of Camelot and the nightmare of Dealey Plaza were seared into the shared memory of a generation. For them, the JFK era transcends history, and each individual's experience of the event is deeply personal.
Now, as we approach Friday's 50th anniversary of that fateful day in Dallas, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum launches an interactive tribute, designed by The Martin Agency and Tool of North America, that's meant to make JFK come alive in a highly personal way for a new generation of Americans, many of whom were born decades after the man was laid to rest.
An Idea Lives On draws inspiration from a speech in which Kennedy said, "A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on." By assembling stories about JFK from a wide cross-section of people, young and old, in videos, photographs, audio files, text and tweets, the site uses the power of ideas and shared narrative to give Kennedy's legacy renewed vitality. As contributors explain what JFK meant to them and the impact he had on their lives—or, in some cases, simply discuss what they've done or achieved, with the Kennedy connection providing context—we see the connective tissue between the past, present and future begin to form.
Example: Richard Garriott de Cayeux, a video game designer and private astronaut, recounts growing up as the son of a NASA astronaut and poetically describes what it feels like to sit atop a rocket as it's launched into space. His tale is intercut with Kennedy's famous "We choose to go to the moon" speech. JFK seemingly played no direct role in de Cayeux's personal development. Yet the slain president's quest for a U.S. lunar landing inspired decades of space exploration and technological growth. That vision laid the groundwork for both de Cayeux's interest in space travel and his gaming career. And it continues to drive our data-driven lives and sets the stage for innovations yet to come.
Others sharing stories in various formats include comedian Conan O'Brien; former Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis; astronaut Chris Cassidy; actor Martin Sheen; House leader Nancy Pelosi; journalist Luke Russert; and poet Richard Blanco. The JFK Library is soliciting stories via the hashtag #AnIdeaLivesOn. Content is curated in categories such as public service, the space program, arts and humanities, civil rights, fashion, politics, education and religion, and all stories are sharable through social media.
The work is reminiscent of Martin's previous projects for the client, commemorating the Apollo 11 moon mission and the Cuban Missile Crisis (the latter also done with Tool). This time, however, the work cuts a bit deeper by emphasizing personal impressions and striking a potent emotional chord.
It's not so much that history comes alive, but that JFK isn't viewed as "history" in the traditional sense of the word. Rather, An Idea Lives On presents him in an accessible, emotionally resonant fashion that lets those who weren't around during his lifetime understand and appreciate his lasting impact. The site treats JFK's legacy as a vibrant continuum, informing our present age and providing a blueprint for tomorrow.
Project: An Idea Lives on
Created by: Brian Williams, Wade Alger, Joe Alexander & Ben Tricklebank
Client: The JFK Presidential Library & Museum Foundation
Executive Director: Tom McNaught
Director of Marketing and Sales: Lee Statham
Director of Communications: Rachel Flor
Agency: The Martin Agency
Concept & Project Leads: Brian Williams & Wade Alger
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Alexander
Executive Producer: Steve Humble
Producer: Anya Mills
Director of Digital Production: Darren Himebrook
Interactive Producer: Neil Cox
Project Manager/Junior Interactive Producer: Ryan Micklos
Account Supervisor: Carrie Bird
Account Executive: Josh Lybarger
Director of Brand Partnerships: Leslie Griles
Digital Production: Tool
Director: Ben Tricklebank
Live Action Production: Tool & The Martin Agency