Inauguration of John F. Kennedy
|Date||January 20, 1961|
|Participants||President of the United States, John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
The inauguration of John F. Kennedy as the 35th President of the United States was held on January 20, 1961. The inauguration marked the commencement of the term of John F. Kennedy as President (which lasted until his assassination two years, ten months, and two days later on November 22, 1963) and Lyndon B. Johnson as Vice President. Kennedy was sworn in by Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren, and Johnson was sworn in by Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
In his campaign, Kennedy promised to “get the country moving again,” a new ideal that comforted many Americans because they found a sense of hope and optimism[neutrality is disputed]. In 1960, Kennedy gained the Democratic Party’s nomination for President and millions watched his televised debates with Richard M. Nixon, the Republican candidate. Kennedy won by a narrow margin in the popular vote and became the youngest man elected President and the first Roman Catholic President. His inaugural address encompassed the major themes of his campaign and his short presidency, which was ended on November 22, 1963 by an assassin’s bullet.
There were some thoughts of omitting the inauguration ceremony due to heavy amounts of snow from the January 1961 nor'easter that fell the day before the inauguration and the temperatures which hovered at 10 degrees below freezing. Frank Sinatra organized and hosted the pre-inaugural party that night. Many Hollywood stars were involved, including Bette Davis, Fredric March, Laurence Olivier, Sidney Poitier, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Bill Dana, Milton Berle, and Ethel Merman, who were rehearsed by Kay Thompson and directed by Roger Edens.
The next day, 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. To show his youth and vigor[peacock term] compared to his predecessor who wore a huge coat and scarf, Kennedy wore no overcoat whatsoever.
On John F. Kennedy’s inauguration day, January 20, 1961, a snowstorm created chaos in Washington, almost canceling the inaugural parade. The U.S. Army was put in charge of clearing the streets and former President Herbert Hoover missed the swearing-in ceremony because he couldn't fly into Washington. When the ceremony eventually started, a lectern caught fire during the invocation, and Vice President Lyndon Johnson fumbled his words during his swearing-in. The oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Earl Warren and Robert Frost recited his poem The Gift Outright at the ceremony. Kennedy’s uplifting inaugural address, remembered by most historians as one of the best in the history of the United States, challenged Americans to serve their country at a time when the Cold War was stirring overseas and the civil rights struggle, in addition to other kinds of social reform, was growing at home[neutrality is disputed].
The inaugural address was extremely well received[neutrality is disputed]. The visual experience and impact of the turnover from Eisenhower to Kennedy was very striking. Kennedy's election marked many firsts for the United States. At 43, Kennedy was the youngest president to be elected. Kennedy was also the first, and to this date, the only Catholic elected as commander-in-chief and he brought a sense of excitement among American Catholics. By a strange twist of fate, in replacing Eisenhower, then 70, the youngest elected president replaced the oldest president to serve at that time (Ronald Reagan surpassed Eisenhower as the oldest president to serve in 1981.).
In addition, Kennedy was the first person born in the 20th century to have served as American president. Kennedy ascended the White House at a time of great economic prosperity, but his presidency wasn't without its challenges. He had to deal with the Cuban Missile Crisis and growing racial tensions that would eventually turn very violent.
Although he disliked wearing hats, for the inauguration Kennedy required silk top hats for the men. Cardinal Richard Cushing gave the invocation at the inaugural, and Marian Anderson sang "The Star-Spangled Banner". 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?'"
Inaugural Address: Famous Quotations
“So let us begin anew--remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.”
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.”
- "President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961". Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- "American Rhetoric: John F. Kennedy -- Inaugural Address.". Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- Purdum, Todd (February 2011). "From That Day Forth". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
- "Kennedy's Words, Obama's Challenge". The New York Times. January 19, 2009.
- Tuten, Nancy Lewis; Zubizarreta, John (2001). The Robert Frost Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 9780313294648
- "John F. Kennedy". Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- Reuters (May 17, 1981). "Reagan Now Oldest President". The New York Times. p. 28.
- Lawrence, W.H. (January 21, 1961). "Kennedy Sworn in, Asks 'Global Alliance' Against Tyranny, Want, Disease, and War; Republicans and Diplomats Hail Address". The New York Times. p. 1.
- Bragdon, Henry W. (1998). History of a Free Nation. New York City, NY: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill.
- President Kennedy 1961 Inaugural Address on YouTube
- Complete (15:29 minute) high quality Video of JFK's Inaugural Address-plays on any browser