J. Erik Jonsson took over as Dallas' mayor at a turbulent time for the city. John F. Kennedy had just been assassinated on Elm Street, and residents and leaders were struggling to come to terms with the event and its aftermath.
Jonsson responded by preaching a forward-thinking optimism, urging constituents to have faith in the city's can-do spirit. This was given fullest expression in Goals for Dallas, a community-sourced enumeration of concrete objectives, both short- and long-term, the city needed to achieve in order to realize its potential.
"Dream no small dreams."
That was the charge given to Dallas citizens 50 years ago by the city’s visionary mayor, J. Erik Jonsson, as he launched the inclusive program, Goals for Dallas, to map out the city’s future.
What kind of city did Dallas want to be? It was only two months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, when Dallas had become known as the "city of hate," that Jonsson became mayor. He set about trying to bring change to a parochial, often intolerant and insular community virtually run by business interests.
Mayor Mike Rawlings stood before a crowd of Dallas and SMU leaders, hosted by the Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, Thursday to address his goals for DFW. Fifty years prior—nearly to the day—then-mayor J. Erik Jonsson presented his iconic Goals for Dallas program, conceived shortly after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in what was then called the "City of Hate."
Jonsson’s program was, by Rawlings’ evaluation, successful. Rawlings made clear that a short six years later Dallas won the All-America City award by the National Civic League.
In commemorating the 50th anniversary of former Dallas Mayor J. Erik Jonsson’s famous Goals for Dallas program, the current mayor on Thursday laid out some lofty goals of his own.
Mike Rawlings told a luncheon crowd at Southern Methodist University that he would "be bold enough to suggest four goals for us."
One day when walking into class, Brandon Montgomery noticed a student looking at him. The student did a double-take when his fully bearded classmate sat down.
Finally, he turned around asking Montgomery his age. That is when Montgomery knew he would be considered the old guy in his classes.
Like many student veterans at SMU, Montgomery, 30, is older than the typical college student. The SMU senior served in the United States Marine Corps for almost five years.
Coming to SMU for college is an adjustment for veterans.
Civic leader Gail Griffin Thomas ’58, president and CEO of the Trinity Trust Foundation and an innovative champion of urban transformation, received the 2014 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award from SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility at a March 19 luncheon at the Belo Mansion.
Thomas has been a respected catalyst for inner city quality of life improvements for several decades. After Dallas residents approved the Trinity River Project in 1998 to create a centerpiece for the city and help neighborhoods feel a stronger connection to Dallas, Mayor Ron Kirk tapped Thomas to develop an operation to raise private funds for the plan.
"Today is a truly joyous day. It’s a day to celebrate. We must live in this moment, and we must be self-satisfied if even for a moment. But if you’re like me, you don’t know how to celebrate. And if we’re not celebrating today, we are not living in this moment. And if we can’t live in this moment, we won’t succeed when we are in the depths of self-doubt..."