President Kennedy Left Lasting Impression in Las Vegas - 8 News NOW

President Kennedy Left Lasting Impression in Las Vegas

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The Las Vegas Convention Center The Las Vegas Convention Center

LAS VEGAS -- On Sept. 28 1963, President John F. Kennedy visited Las Vegas. He was winding up a 50-day trip around the United States. Two months later he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

The president ended his cross-country trip in Las Vegas. It was in the midst of the Cold War and he spoke of the United States having a shield of strength. But he added despite military buildups, alliances with other countries and improved defenses, it was all useless unless the American society itself was prosperous.

The cool fall air, along with excitement and enthusiasm, filled the old Las Vegas Convention Center rotunda.

"It was packed, absolutely packed," said Sarah Denton who brought her three young children to see the president.

Her husband had run the Kennedy campaign in Nevada and less than three years later Kennedy visited the state.

"I think he was emphasizing what his plan was for the rest of his term and of course getting ready to run again," Denton said.

Kennedy had plans for the Silver State. He wanted the Lake Mead Hoover Dam area to be given permanent national park status and water from the lake to be used for the growth of Las Vegas. He said Lake Tahoe needed to be preserved and Nevada's rangeland explored for resources.

President Kennedy's Speech

"I think he and Eleanor Roosevelt were the forerunners on environment, and cleaning up, and making sure we kept our waterways clean and our air clean," Denton said.

The speech centered around two points still critical today -- education and environment. Kennedy remarked "we ought to keep our children in school and we ought to make them work and we ought to have the best teachers." He continued that it was important "to use what nature has given us and, wherever we can, to improve it…"

The president said, in the years after World War II, this generation of Americans had done much but the focus now needed to be on providing a home for future generations. Two months after his Las Vegas visit, President Kennedy was killed.

"It was like a member of our family was gone, everybody was in mourning, it was a sad time for our country," Denton said.

His words still resonate her.

"I just have a new great-grandson, four months old and I look at him, and I hope the world is a good place when he grows up," she said.

Denton became involved in politics a few years later. She ran Senator Howard Cannon's office for 15 years and continued volunteering for Congresswoman Dina Titus, Shelley Berkley, and Senator Harry Reid.

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