Remembering JFK 50 years later

by Howard Lestrud
ECM Online Managing Editor
When those of us who remember President John F. Kennedy reflect back 50 years, the common remembrance is how he started his administration — a most memorable inaugural address, one we haven’t quite heard since. Other events early in his administration will also come to mind. Let’s remember JFK.
One of the best ways to remember our 35th president of the United States is to go to the John F. Kennedy Library website at
The JFK Library has very creatively put together a JFK Library 50th Anniversary website at
On the home page you will find these categories framing the early presidency of JFK:
• Public service
• Science & innovation
• Civil rights
• Domestic affairs
• The arts
• Foreign policy and diplomacy
• The environment
Click on these categories and up pops quotations from President Kennedy which relate to the topic matter. Click again on the quotation and you will hear the actual Kennedy dialogue. For example, click on civil rights and find these quotes from President Kennedy:
• “We are working to right the wrongs of our own country.”
• “This nation for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.”
• “Today I may be the victim — but tomorrow it may be you.”
• “Those rights will expand until the standard first forged by the Nation’s founders has been reached.”
Main categories on the JFK 50 website include: Home; History Now (click and focus on the current date and how it relates to a JFK timeline); Legacy Gallery and Downloads and Resources. Go to the Legacy Gallery and filter by the category following category titles: public service; science & innovation; civil rights; domestic affairs; the arts; foreign policy and diplomacy and the environment.
Go to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum homepage and find these features:
• Digital archive: This ground-breaking initiative invites the public to explore the documents, images and artifacts of JFK’s Presidency.
• President’s Desk: Sit at President Kennedy’s Oval Office Desk and discover what it means to hold the highest office in the land.
• JFK Step back into the 1960s and explore the legacy of John F. Kennedy
• Historic speeches: Video, audio and transcripts of the inaugural address and some of John F. Kennedy’s greatest speeches.
A trip online to the JFK Library and Museum can be a very valuable experience as can an actual visit to the JFK Library in Boston, MA. I have had the good fortune to have visited the Library on two occasions, in 1987 and in 1993. I actually signed the library guestbook on JFK’s 70th birthday on May 29, 1987.
My visits were part of a Kennedy Political Items Collectors (KPIC) event held at the library. During the 1987 tour of the library, one of the most memorable highlights was meeting one of Kennedy’s top advisors, the late David Powers. Powers was a curator of the library at this time. Powers took our group around his office and gave a lecture featuring lots of Kennedy memories.
The library exhibits change regularly, thus I can say that I am ready for a return to the JFK Library.
Since there are many websites that will provide the video, audio and text of President Kennedy’s inaugural address, I think it is most educational to learn some of the facts surrounding the building of the speech. Go to
Let’s read:
“Kennedy began his speech at 12:51 (ET) Friday, 20 January 1961, immediately after taking the presidential oath of office.
“The address is 1364 words and took 13 minutes and 59 seconds to deliver, from the first word to the last word, not including applause at the end, making it the fourth-shortest inaugural address ever delivered. It is widely considered to be among the best presidential inauguration speeches in American history.
“Kennedy began collecting thoughts and ideas for his inauguration speech in late November 1960. He sought suggestions from various friends, aides and counselors, including suggestions from clergymen for biblical quotations. Kennedy then made several drafts using his thoughts and those suggestions.
“The speech was crafted by Kennedy and his speech writer Ted Sorenson. Kennedy had Sorenson study President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as well as other inaugural speeches.”
Some of the more notable passages include:
“…the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”
“Let the word go forth…..that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”
“Let every nation know… that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
“The world is very  different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.”
“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”

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