The phone rang in early afternoon that awful day. It was my wife giving the handful of us in our small office the news that Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. A short time later we learned that he had died from his wounds. Most of us had never had to deal with tragedy; we were young, ambitious, highly paid, sure of our destinies, and totally unprepared for an assassination, an event we thought happened in other times. Instinctively, we gathered in the office of an older guy, a decorated combat veteran from WWII who we hoped could explain it all. Of course, he couldn’t.
We closed up shop and went home. I was convinced that some right wing conspiracy was at work, that the ‘John Birchers’ had been involved, that an ugly sub-strata of America had risen up to destroy ‘my president.’ I could not bring myself to watch the funeral and spent the day sitting on the dock beside a friend’s icy, trout-filled farm pond.
Looking back I suspect it was during that time that the germ of an idea began to form: maybe I should spend my life doing something more significant than marketing consumer goods? Six years later I was teaching in a high school and about to join the Peace Corps staff in the Philippines. It may not have all been the result of Kennedy’s assassination, but that tragedy played its part.
P. David Searles served three years as the country director for the Peace Corps in the Philippines, and two years at Peace Corps headquarters as a Regional Director for North Africa, Near East, Asia, and Pacific (NANEAP) and as Deputy Director under John Dellenback. His career has included periods during which he worked in international business, government service and education. Following the end of his business career in 1990, Searles earned a Ph. D. from the University of Kentucky (1993), and published two books:A College For Appalachia (1995) and The Peace Corps Experience(1997), both by The University Press of Kentucky. He and his wife live in Owensboro, Kentucky.