|Date||January 20, 1961|
|Location|| United States Capitol,|
|Organized by||Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies|
|Participants|| John F. Kennedy |
35th President of the United States
— Assuming office
Chief Justice of the United States
— Administering oath
Lyndon B. Johnson
37th Vice President of the United States
— Assuming office
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
— Administering oath
35th President of the United States
Assassination and legacy
The inauguration of John F. Kennedy as the 35th president of the United States was held on Friday, January 20, 1961, at the East Portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. It was the 44th inauguration, marking the commencement of Kennedy's only term as President and Lyndon B. Johnson's only term as Vice President. Kennedy was assassinated 2 years, 306 days into this term, and Johnson succeeded to the presidency.
Kennedy had narrowly defeated Richard Nixon, the incumbent vice president, in the presidential election. He was the first Catholic to become President, the youngest person elected to the office, and the first U.S. president born in the 20th century.
His inaugural address encompassed the major themes of his campaign and would define his presidency during a time of economic prosperity, emerging social changes, and diplomatic challenges.This inauguration was the first in which a poet, Robert Frost, participated in the program.
For this inauguration, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies was chaired by Senator John Sparkman, and included Senators Carl Hayden and Styles Bridges, and Representatives Sam Rayburn, John W. McCormack, and Charles A. Halleck.
[Sinatra's ball] may have marked the moment when popular entertainment became an indispensable part of modern politics.
Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford organized and hosted a pre-inaugural ball at the D.C. Armory on the eve of Inauguration day, January 19, 1961, considered one of the biggest parties ever held in the history of Washington, D.C. 14.7 million in today's dollars) for the Democratic Party to eliminate its debt brought on by a hard-fought campaign. Many Hollywood stars gave brief speeches or performed acts, rehearsed by Kay Thompson and directed by Roger Edens, and stayed at the Statler-Hilton Hotel where preparations and rehearsals were photographed by Phil Stern. Performances and speeches included Fredric March, Sidney Poitier, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Bill Dana, Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante, Harry Belafonte, and Sinatra himself.Sinatra recruited many Hollywood stars who performed and attended, and went as far as convincing Broadway theatres to suspend their shows for the night to accommodate some of their actors attending the gala. With tickets ranging from $100 per person to $10,000 per group, Sinatra hoped to raise $1.7 million ($
Sammy Davis, Jr., a long-time friend of Sinatra, supporter of the Democratic Party, and member of the Rat Pack, was asked by John F. Kennedy not to attend the gala at the behest of his father Joseph,fearing that his interracial marriage to Swedish actress May Britt was too controversial for the time and occasion, much to Sammy's and Sinatra's dismay. Davis had already postponed his wedding to Britt until after the election, also at the request of the Kennedy campaign via Sinatra. Davis eventually switched his support to the Republican Party and Richard Nixon in the early 1970s. Harry Belafonte expressed sadness at the controversy, stating "It was the ambassador, [but] we didn't know that until after. Sammy not being there was a loss."
At the end of the ball, Kennedy spoke to thank Sinatra on the festivities and his support of the Democratic Party throughout his life and the 1960 campaign, adding "The happy relationship between the arts and politics which has characterized our long history I think reached culmination tonight."Jacqueline retired to the White House before the ball ended at 1:30 am (ET), and John went to a second pre-inaugural ball hosted by his father Joseph Kennedy, and would finally return to the White House at around 3:30 am.
A major winter storm occurred the day before the inauguration, with temperatures at 20 °F (−7 °C) and snowfall at 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) per hour and a total of 8 inches (20 cm) during the night, causing transportation and logistical problems in Washington and serious concern for the inauguration.
On inauguration day, January 20, 1961, the skies began to clear but the snow created chaos in Washington, almost canceling the inaugural parade.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was put in charge of clearing the streets during the evening and morning before the inauguration, and were assisted by more than 1,000 District of Columbia employees and 1,700 Boy Scouts. This task force employed hundreds of dump trucks, front-end loaders, sanders, plows, rotaries, and flamethrowers to clear the route. Over 1,400 cars which had been stranded due to the conditions and lack of fuel had to be removed from the parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue.
The snowstorm dropped visibility at Washington National Airport to less than half a mile,preventing former president Herbert Hoover from flying into Washington and attending the inauguration.
Before proceeding to the Capitol in company with outgoing president Dwight D. Eisenhower, Kennedy went to a morning Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown.Cardinal Richard Cushing gave the invocation at the inaugural which lasted for 12 minutes. Additional prayers were recited by Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Church and Reverend Dr. John Barclay of the Central Christian Church of Austin, Texas, and a blessing was offered by Rabbi Nelson Glueck. The invocation and prayers lasted a total of 28 minutes. Marian Anderson sang "The Star-Spangled Banner", and a composition by musical Leonard Bernstein titled "Fanfare for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy" was played.
The oath of office for Vice President was administered by the Speaker of the House of Representatives Sam Rayburn to Lyndon Johnson.This marked the first time a Speaker administered the oath, which had been given in previous inaugurations by either the President pro tempore of the Senate, the outgoing Vice President, or a United States Senator.
Robert Frost, then 86 years old,recited his poem "The Gift Outright". Kennedy requested Frost to read a poem at the inauguration, suggesting "The Gift Outright", considered an act of gratitude towards Frost for his help during the campaign. Kennedy would later state that he admired the "courage, the towering skill and daring" of Frost, and adding that "I've never taken the view the world of politics and the world of poetry are so far apart. I think politicians and poets share at least one thing, and that is their greatness depends upon the courage with which they face the challenges of life." American poet William Meredith would say that the request "focused attention on Kennedy as a man of culture, as a man interested in culture."
Frost composed a new poem titled Dedication specifically for the ceremony as a preface to the poem Kennedy suggested,to the surprise of Kennedy's friends. On the morning of the inauguration, Frost asked Stewart Udall, Kennedy's future Secretary of the Interior, to have his handwritten draft type scripted for easier reading, to which Udall obliged.
Once at the presidential podium, however, the glare of the sun and snow prevented him from reading his papers.When Frost started reading, he stumbled on the first three lines, squinting at his papers in view of the crowd and cameras. Vice President Johnson tried to assist by using his top hat as a shade, however Frost waved the offer aside, took the hat and jokingly said "I'll help you with that", sparking laughter and applause from the crowd and President Kennedy. Understanding the immediacy of the situation, Frost stated to the microphones that "this [the poem] was to have been a preface to a poem which I do not have to read", and began to recite "The Gift Outright" from memory. This marks the first time a poem was read at a presidential inauguration, a feature repeated by future presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden at their respective ceremonies.
Frost gave the type scripted version of the undelivered "Dedication" poem to Udall after the ceremony, who eventually donated the document to the Library of Congress where it is stored today.The original manuscript version, personally dedicated by Frost, was provided to the president and currently held by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Kennedy's wife Jacqueline framed this manuscript version, writing on the back of the frame: For Jack. First thing I had framed to be put in your office. First thing to be hung there. Frost officially presented the poem, retitled to For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration and expanded from 42 to 77 lines, to Kennedy in March 1962. The unread poem (published in 1962 as part of Frost's In the Clearing poetry collection) was finally recited at the U.S. Capitol by Chaplain Daniel P. Coughlin during the 50th anniversary celebrations of Kennedy's inauguration.
The oath of office of the president was administered to Kennedy by Chief Justice Earl Warren using a closed family Bible at 12:51 (ET) although he officially became president at the stroke of noon. 22 °F (−6 °C) with windchill at 7 °F (−14 °C) at noon.Kennedy did not wear an overcoat when taking the oath of office and delivering the inaugural address, despite the cold conditions of
Immediately after reciting the oath of office, President Kennedy turned to address the crowd gathered at the Capitol. His 1366-wordinaugural address, the first delivered to a televised audience in color, is considered one of the best presidential inaugural speeches in American history.
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
The speech was crafted by Kennedy and his speech writer Ted Sorensen. Kennedy had Sorensen study President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as well as other inaugural speeches.Kennedy began collecting thoughts and ideas for his inauguration speech in late November 1960. He took suggestions from various friends, aides and counselors, including suggestions from clergymen for biblical quotations. Kennedy then made several drafts using his own thoughts and some of those suggestions. Kennedy included in his speech several suggestions made by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith and by the former Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson II. Kennedy's line "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate." is nearly identical to Galbraith's suggestion "We shall never negotiate out of fear. But we shall never fear to negotiate." Stevenson's suggestion "if the free way of life doesn't help the many poor of this world it will never save the few rich." was the basis for Kennedy's line "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."
As a president coming into power at the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy's duty of maintaining peaceful international relations with representing the United States as a force to be reckoned was daunting, at the very least. It is this overarching goal of his presidential term that dominates his inaugural address. Kennedy highlights the newly discovered dangers of nuclear power coupled with the accelerating arms race, and essentially makes the main point that this focus on pure firepower should be replaced with a focus on maintenance of international relations and helping the impoverished in the world.Kennedy's speech writer Ted Sorensen revealed in 2007 that John F. Kennedy had five objectives in mind with his speech, all of which Kennedy, according to Sorensen, achieved. Sorensen called Kennedy's speech "wise and courageous" and concluded: "Kennedy's inaugural address was world-changing, heralding the commencement of a new American administration and foreign policy determined upon a peaceful victory in the west's long cold war struggle with the Soviet Union over the world's future direction. [...] It was a statement of core values - his and the nation's at that time - that he very much believed needed to be conveyed."
The main focus of the speech can crudely be boiled down to one theme—the relationship between duty and power.This is emphasized by Kennedy's strong use of juxtaposition in the first part of the speech. For example, he states in the second passage, "... Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life," a clear calling-out of not only America, but also other nations of power for skewed Cold War priorities. He again employs the strategy in the fifth passage when he says, "United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do," again appealing to the idea of refocusing of international values. Again, after exhorting "both sides" to action, he calls on all of "us" "to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle ... against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself," though the phrase "long twilight struggle" came to be associated with the cold war struggle against communism.
One of the main components of classical rhetoric; kairos—which means to say or do whatever is fitting in a given situation, and is the style with which the orator clothes the proof, as well as to prepon (the appropriate)—which means what is said must conform to both audience and occasion, are also extremely prevalent in this address.Recognizing the fear and anxiety prevalent in the American people since the start of the Cold War, Kennedy geared his speech to have an optimistic and even idealistic tone as a means of providing comfort. He does this by quickly moving the time of the speech into the future, and invokes repetition of the phrase "Let both sides ..." to allude to how he plans to deal with strained relations while also appealing to the end goal of international unity. He also phrases negative ideas in a manner so as to present them as opportunities—a challenge, appealing to innately American ideals. A great line to emphasize this is in the fourth from last passage, where he states, "In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger," a simple twist of words that challenges the American public rather than frightening them.
It was also in his inaugural address that John F. Kennedy spoke his famous words, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." This use of antimetabole can be seen even as a thesis statement of his speech—a call to action for the public to do what is right for the greater good. (This appears to be an elegant rephrasing of Franklin D. Roosevelt's acceptance speech at the 1936 Democratic National Convention: "To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.")
Along with official presidential guests and honorees, including former presidents, vice presidents, cabinet members, and other Washington officials, the Kennedys invited famous men and women of the arts, including Carl Sandburg, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Brendan Behan, Mark Rothko, and fashion icon and future Vogue editor Diana Vreeland.
Congressman Tip O'Neill sat next to wealthy Boston businessman George Kara:
O'Neill recalled that Kara had nudged him and said, "Years from now, historians will wonder what was on the young man's mind as he strode to take his oath of office. I bet he's asking himself how George Kara got such a good seat." That night, O'Neill and his wife danced over to the president's box at the ball in the Mayflower Hotel to congratulate him, and sure enough, Kennedy asked, "Was that George Kara sitting beside you?" O'Neill told Kennedy what Kara had said, and J.F.K replied, "Tip, you'll never believe it. I had my left hand on the Bible and my right hand in the air, and I was about to take the oath of office, and I said to myself, 'How the hell did Kara get that seat?'"
Five first ladies, Edith Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower and Jackie Kennedy attended the event, as did future first ladies Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, and Betty Ford.
Former president Harry S Truman joined presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy on the platform, as did future presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford, making this, retroactively, the largest conclave of the "presidential fraternity" prior to the opening of the Reagan Library in the 1990s.
A vast parade along Pennsylvania Avenue followed the inauguration ceremony, bearing the new president from Capitol Plaza to the White House. Upon his arrival, Kennedy mounted a reviewing stand shared with honored guests such as former president Harry Truman and former first ladies Edith Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt. Throngs of onlookers and millions of television viewers also watched the procession; it took three hours to pass by. Sixteen thousand members of the US armed forces marched with displays of modern weaponry like the Minuteman missile and the supersonic B-70 bomber. A further sixteen thousand marchers were civilians ranging from federal and state officials to high school bands and Boy Scouts, accompanied by forty floats.
Kennedy's inauguration marked many firsts for the United States. Kennedy was the first Catholic inaugurated as commander-in-chief.At the inauguration, Kennedy, then 43, was the youngest elected president and was replacing the oldest president in American history at that time, Eisenhower. The age difference and visual impact of the turnover from Eisenhower's presence to Kennedy's was noticeable at the inauguration. In addition, Kennedy was the first person born in the 20th century to have been inaugurated as President.
The claim that Kennedy did not wear a hat to his inauguration, and so single-handedly killed the men's hat industry,is false. Kennedy wore a top hat to the inauguration and to the balls in the evening, removing it only to be sworn in and give his address. He in fact restored the tradition, after Eisenhower broke with it by wearing a homburg instead of a top hat to both of his inaugurations. Johnson, at his inauguration in 1965, was the first president to go completely hatless.
The oath of office of the president of the United States is the oath or affirmation that the president of the United States takes upon assuming office. The wording of the oath is specified in Article II, Section One, Clause 8, of the United States Constitution, and a new president must take it before exercising or carrying out any official powers or duties.
Theodore Chaikin Sorensen was an American lawyer, writer, and presidential adviser. He was a speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy, as well as one of his closest advisers. President Kennedy once called him his "intellectual blood bank". Most notably, he was generally regarded as the author of Profiles in Courage, a claim he addresses in his 2008 memoir. The book won Kennedy the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957. Sorensen helped draft the Kennedy's inaugural address and was also the primary author of Kennedy's 1962 "We choose to go to the Moon" speech.
The inauguration of the president of the United States is a ceremony to mark the commencement of a new four-year term of the president of the United States. During this ceremony, some 72 to 78 days after the presidential election, the president takes the presidential oath of office. The inauguration takes place for each new presidential term, even if the president is continuing in office for a second term.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, often referred to by his initials JFK, was an American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States from 1961 until his assassination near the end of his third year in office. Kennedy served at the height of the Cold War, and the majority of his work as president concerned relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba. A Democrat, Kennedy represented Massachusetts in both houses of the U.S. Congress prior to his presidency.
The first inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States took place on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, at the West Front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. The 56th inauguration, which set a record attendance for any event held in the city, marked the commencement of the first term of Barack Obama as president and Joe Biden as vice president. Based on combined attendance numbers, television viewership, and Internet traffic, it was one of the most-observed events ever by the global audience.
The first inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson as the 36th president of the United States was held on Friday, November 22, 1963, aboard Air Force One at Love Field, Dallas, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy earlier that day. The inauguration – the eighth non-scheduled, extraordinary inauguration to ever take place – marked the commencement of the first term of Lyndon B. Johnson as President.
The inauguration of William Henry Harrison as the ninth president of the United States was held on Thursday, March 4, 1841, at the East Portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. This was the 14th inauguration and marked the commencement of the only four-year term of both William Henry Harrison as president and John Tyler as vice president. The presidential oath of office was administered to Harrison by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney. Harrison died 31 days into his term, the first U.S. president to die in office and has the shortest presidential term in American history. Tyler then succeeded to the presidency, creating precedence which would be followed seven more times before it was officially regulated through the Twenty-fifth Amendment in 1967.
The first inauguration of Bill Clinton as the 42nd president of the United States was held on Wednesday, January 20, 1993, at the West Front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. This was the 52nd inauguration and marked the commencement of the first term of Bill Clinton as President and Al Gore as Vice President. At 46 years, 154 days of age at the time of his first inauguration, Clinton was the third-youngest person to become president, and the first from the Baby Boomer generation.
The second inauguration of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States was held in a televised ceremony on January 20, 1985, at the White House, and was repeated the following day, January 21, 1985, at the Capitol's rotunda. This was the 50th presidential inauguration and marked the commencement of the second and final four-year term of both Ronald Reagan as President and of George H. W. Bush as Vice President. At 73 years, 349 days of age on Inauguration Day, Reagan was the oldest U.S. president to be inaugurated, until Joe Biden's inauguration as President on January 20, 2021, at the age of 78 years, 62 days.
The second inauguration of Harry S. Truman as President of the United States was held on Thursday, January 20, 1949, at the East Portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. This was the 41st inauguration and marked the commencement of the second and only full term of Harry S. Truman as President as well as the only term of Alben W. Barkley as Vice President. Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson administered the presidential oath of office while Justice Stanley Forman Reed administered the vice-presidential oath of office.
"Praise Song for the Day" is an occasional poem written by the American poet Elizabeth Alexander and delivered at the 2009 presidential inauguration of President Barack Obama. The poem is the fourth to be delivered at a United States presidential inauguration, following in the tradition of recitals by Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and Miller Williams.
"On the Pulse of Morning" is a poem by writer and poet Maya Angelou that she read at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton on January 20, 1993. With her public recitation, Angelou became the second poet in history to read a poem at a presidential inauguration, and the first African American and woman. Angelou's audio recording of the poem won the 1993 Grammy Award in the "Best Spoken Word" category, resulting in more fame and recognition for her previous works, and broadening her appeal.
The American University speech, titled "A Strategy of Peace", was a commencement address delivered by United States President John F. Kennedy at the American University in Washington, D.C., on Monday, June 10, 1963. Delivered at the height of his rhetorical powers and widely considered one of his most powerful speeches, Kennedy not only outlined a plan to curb nuclear arms, but also "laid out a hopeful, yet realistic route for world peace at a time when the U.S. and Soviet Union faced the potential for an escalating nuclear arms race." In the speech, Kennedy announced his agreement to negotiations "toward early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty" and also announced, for the purpose of showing "good faith and solemn convictions", his decision to unilaterally suspend all U.S. atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons as long as all other nations would do the same. Noteworthy are his comments that the United States was seeking a goal of "complete disarmament" of nuclear weapons and his vow that America "will never start a war". The speech was unusual in its peaceful outreach to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and is remembered as one of Kennedy's finest and most important speeches.
"The Gift Outright" is a poem written by Robert Frost. Frost first recited it at the College of William & Mary on December 5, 1941, but its most famous recitation occurred on January 20, 1961 at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy.
The second inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States was the 57th inauguration and marked the commencement of the second and final term of Barack Obama as president and Joe Biden as vice president. A private swearing-in ceremony took place on Sunday, January 20, 2013, in the Blue Room of the White House. A public inauguration ceremony took place on Monday, January 21, 2013, at the West Front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
"We choose to go to the Moon", officially titled the Address at Rice University on the Nation's Space Effort, is a September 12, 1962, speech by United States President John F. Kennedy to further inform the public about his plan to land a man on the Moon before 1970. Kennedy gave the speech, largely written by presidential advisor and speechwriter Ted Sorensen, to a large crowd at Rice University Stadium in Houston, Texas.
In the Clearing is a 1962 poetry collection by Robert Frost. It contains the poem "For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration", much of which Frost had composed to be read at President Kennedy's inauguration but could not. The book is also known for "Kitty Hawk", the book's longest poem, which muses on the Wright Brothers' accomplishment in manned flight.
The following is a timeline of the presidency of John F. Kennedy from his inauguration as the 35th president of the United States on January 20, 1961, to December 31, 1961.
Let Us Continue was a speech that President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered to a joint session of the Congress on November 27, 1963, five days after the assassination of his predecessor John F. Kennedy. The almost 25-minute speech is considered one of the most important in his political career.
"For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration" was a poem written by American poet Robert Frost for the presidential inauguration of John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961.
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