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JFK Memorial, Runnymede

The memorial to John F. Kennedy at Runnymede is a very different kind of memorial.

The principal element is a 7 ton, 100 million year old block of Portland Stone that bears a dedication, the dates of the President's life and a quotation from Kennedy's inaugural address delivered on 20th January, 1961. Beside the stone is a Hawthorne symbolising both England and Catholicism, President Kennedy's religion and behind is an American Scarlet Oak.

What I find makes this such a special memorial, however, is that it placed a short walk up through an intentionally unkempt hillside meadow on a path made of steps of varying width and shallowness. The walk is surprisingly steep and I was slightly out of breath at the end, but I think this is the intention. The idea is that you stop to catch your breath and take a moment in front of the stone to contemplate and take in the meditative nature that surrounds you. As you can see from the pictures and the 2 minute video I took, the combination birdsong and spring sunshine through trees were just fantastic. No-one around, super tranquil. The experience continues with a terraced walk to the right of the memorial with some stone seats at the end, where I stopped to have a sandwich.

Interestingly the whole area of around an acre was gifted to the United States federal government, so the memorial is on US soil even if it isn't, if you know what I mean.

Runnymede as a location is very significant. It is a water meadow 20 miles west of London and which is sometimes referred to as the birthplace of modern democracy. King John signed the Magna Carta there back in 1215, establishing the principle that everyone is subject to the law and guarantees the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial, which ties in with Kennedy's dedication to civil rights campaigns.

Its also worth checking out video of the dedication service back in 1965 with Her Majesty, Jackie Kennedy and the two children. Very touching is how Prince Philip takes the hand of John Jr as they walk up the steps. And who doesn't like the those clipped British accented newsreels from the 1960s

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