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posted: 4/26/2012 5:00 AM

A civics lesson to remember

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When President Kennedy was killed in 1963, I was in my second year at Northern Illinois University and was getting ready to go to my next scheduled class which was "civics."

When I heard the news on my radio (no TV's in our dorm rooms then), I tried to find out if our classes were going to be canceled. Since everyone was in shock and uncertain about policy, I left and walked to my class. When I arrived, class was being held. I was early, but the classroom gradually filled up.

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Our civics class instructor gave one of the most memorable lectures I ever heard at a university. I wish I had a written copy of it now. Our disconsolate teacher was absolutely devastated. He was not devastated or distraught because he was a big fan of President Kennedy. In fact, he disagreed with several Kennedy policies. But his deep sorrow and mental anguish were centered on this gentle professor's attempt to accept the reality that someone had actually killed a sitting president of his country.

His lecture that day was not about political science or our duties of citizenship, or how our government functioned. It was about civility. It was about politeness, respect, grace and thoughtfulness toward others.

I include myself among all of us today who need to work harder on our own attributes of civility and grace.

Jim Peterson

Hoffman Estates

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