Over the past half-century, Americans have wondered how different this country might be if President John F. Kennedy had not been cut down by an assassin's bullets.
Friday's 50th anniversary of that horrific event - and the national attention it is generating - should be a basis for much more than remembrance and such reflection.
The anniversary should summon increased national concern over this nation's troubling course and what that might bring in the years ahead.
There were problems and political division at the time of Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963. In fact, Kennedy went to Dallas that day in part to try to build his popularity in a city that had voted against him in the presidential election of 1960.
But unlike now, this nation, despite its differences, projected a determination to move forward, rather than be consumed by the kind of negativity and obstructionism that so much consumes American life and government today.
During the coming week, as people look back on the United States of 50 years ago, they should ponder what this country will be like 50 years hence if the current national attitude doesn't change for the better.
A new Camelot era isn't necessary, only a beefed-up commitment to national harmony.
Differences will continue to exist. Almost always there are at least two sides to every issue.
However, differences can be addressed without the hatreds that now seem hellbent on kidnapping America's national spirit.
That said, it must be acknowledged that the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's death will not change the daily routine of most Americans, especially those who were not alive then or were too young to know what was happening that day.
The Kennedy anniversary will pass much like Dec. 7, 1991, the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; Americans remembered, but the nation didn't come to a halt as the anniversary was observed.
The challenges and the routine activities of that day took precedence - as they will on Friday.
The same will occur on Sept. 11, 2051, when America notes the 50th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
The passage of 50 years hasn't put to rest the conspiracy theories surrounding the killing of Kennedy.
The accuracy of findings in the Warren Commission assassination report always will be the subject of debate.
However, it's difficult to debate the accuracy of the commission in having described the assassination as "a cruel and shocking act of violence directed against a man, a family, a nation, and against all mankind" in a country dedicated to the concepts of reasoned argument and peaceful political change.
But that was then.
This is a time when obstructionism and ill will on both sides of the political aisle and in many other facets of American life have made reasoned argument and peaceful change often appear obsolete, a "dinosaur" of the past.
As Americans remember Kennedy and his death on that horrible day a half-century ago - regardless of how they choose to do so - more importantly they should dedicate themselves to the mission of encouraging a new spirit of national cooperation within the realm of existing differences.
That is how America is supposed to operate. What happened 50 years ago cannot be undone.