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1960 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony of John F. Kennedy

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

On this day 59 years ago, January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States. Kennedy ran a presidential campaign that addressed the hard issues of the day, including the Communist threat, a nuclear arms race, racial unrest, and economic distress, while at the same time appealing to young idealistic generation that was ready for change. His campaign marked a fresh new approach to American politics, that was evident even in the clever, catchy campaign spots that resonated with younger voters:

The inauguration, which marked the commencement of Kennedy's only term as President, was held at the eastern portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Nearly one million people gathered in the freezing temperatures. He was the first Catholic to become President, and became the youngest person elected to the office.

Kennedy's inaugural address incorporated the major themes of his campaign and would define his presidency during a time of economic prosperity, emerging social changes, and diplomatic challenges. The Kennedy's made art and culture a part of their life at the White House. The inauguration was the first in which a poet, Robert Frost, participated in the program.

In the 1960 campaign, John F. Kennedy pledged "to get this country moving again," and offered voters a new generation of leadership.  He challenged his fellow citizens to join him in the struggle for freedom in the perilous years of the Cold War.

Assuming office in the midst of the Cold War, JFK understood that his inaugural address would have to instill confidence at home and respect abroad. He believed that democracy thrives only when citizens contribute their talents to the common good, and that it is up to leaders to inspire citizens to acts of sacrifice. And when he encouraged fellow Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you," he appealed to the noblest instincts, voicing a message that Americans were eager to hear:

Kennedy’s inaugural address reflected his core beliefs and life experience. He was a war veteran and a combat hero. He lifted the spirits of his listeners, even as he confronted the grim reality of the nuclear age. The speech was a an overwhelming success that continues to inspire Americans today.

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