Wednesday's presentation by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin was much more than the first installment in a speaker series.
It offered a chance for our community to once again put its best foot forward.
Hill and McCubbin were the first speakers in the lecture portion of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Concert and Lecture Series. They delivered a multimedia presentation in the Steubenville High School auditorium based on the best-selling book "Mrs. Kennedy and Me" that Hill wrote with McCubbin. The presentation - and the book - offered an intimate look into the time former Secret Service agent Hill spent on Jacqueline Kennedy's protective detail.
Included were details about the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. It was a moment in American history that Hill knows all too well - he is the agent who is seen running up to and jumping onto the Kennedy limousine in the moments after Lee Harvey Oswald fired his fatal shots from a window in the Texas Schoolbook Depository.
While planning for Wednesday's event began in August, the seeds for the appearance of Hill and McCubbin actually were planted in May 2011, when chamber President Susan Hershey and then-Chairman Alex Marshall, the publisher of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times, formally announced the concert and lecture series. After a concert in July 2011 featuring Little Big Town was followed last July with an event featuring the Clarks, it was decided to open the lecture portion of the series.
That work began in August, with the Herald-Star signing on as the presenting sponsor. It was not too long after Hill and McCubbin had been promoting "Mrs. Kennedy and Me," which had been published in April. While there has been much written about the Kennedy era, there are few books that offer such a close look inside the lives of the then-first family in general, and Jackie Kennedy in particular. That made them an easy choice to open the series.
Eastern Gateway Community College, the Franciscan University of Steubenville and Steubenville City Schools quickly signed on as major sponsors, and preparations began to make the proposed event a reality.
All of that work during the next three months paid off in a big way Wednesday, when more than 900 people from around the Tri-State Area gathered in the recently renovated, state-of-the art auditorium to see their presentation and give them a standing ovation at the end.
Hill and McCubbin were genuinely pleased with the reception they received, not just from those who attended their presentation, but from our community as a whole.
But how could they not have been? From the moment they arrived, they saw the best of what our area has to offer.
They enjoyed lunch at Naples with Suzanne Kresser and Ken Perkins, who were personal assistants to the pair during their 24-hour stay in town. Hill and McCubbin were impressed by the friendliness of the staff and fellow diners at the restaurant and said the food was among the best Italian cuisine they had experienced.
They were impressed with the auditorium at the high school and the technical assistance they received from the students who ran the sound and light equipment, and by the reception they received from those who attended the presentation. And those in the audience were equally impressed when the authors were willing to stay after their discussion and sign every copy of their book or program from the evening they were presented and shake every hand.
Hill, the former secret service agent who traveled the world while protecting presidents and their families, and McCubbin, the journalist who has reported from all parts of the globe, mentioned while greeting those who attended a reception at the Garrett House (the Fourth Street bed-and-breakfast where they also spent Wednesday evening) before the presentation how appreciative they were of the hospitality they had been shown.
Too often area residents dwell on the negative things in our area, some real, some imagined. And while it's easy to get caught up in that talk, it's important to remember the good things we have - fantastic local restaurants, a great education system and people who are respectful of our area's past while looking to a brighter future, to name a few.
Sometimes it takes a different perspective for us to fully appreciate that.
That's a view Hill and McCubbin offered to us in addition to their presentation about the Kennedys, and in so doing allowed our area's pride to show through.
(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)