I’m probably the only one in the Dallas Voice office who remembers the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, which happened 50 years ago today. I remember being inspired then and was moved watching it again.
Several weeks before the election, my father came home from work one day and told how he had met Kennedy. He was stuck in traffic on the East Side Highway in Manhattan. A limousine pulled up next to him just as they came to a complete standstill.
Kennedy was sitting in the back seat with his window open. My father unrolled his window, leaned out of the car and shook the future president’s hand, wishing him good luck.
Traffic began to move and the limo moved ahead.
Kennedy, he said, was gracious and charming. And something like that couldn’t possibly happen today.
Kennedy’s 13-minute speech (see video below) was one of the most powerful inaugural addresses ever delivered. His most famous quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,” was a line from that speech that, reportedly, was added at the last minute.
He called for “a world of law where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.”
He concluded his short address calling for all Americans to work together to make this country better with the words, “God’s work must truly be our own.”
I remember the excitement among my parents and teachers that “the torch has been passed to a new generation,” as the country’s oldest president up until that time, Eisenhower, was replaced by the country’s youngest.
Sargent Shriver (1915-2011)
On the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Kennedy administration, we mark the passing of a hero of that era, Kennedy’s brother-in-law Sargent Shriver.
Shriver was the first director of the Peace Corps, founded early in the Kennedy administration. He helped create other programs in the early 60s such as Head Start, the youth job-training program Jobs Corps, Volunteers in Service to America also known as VISTA and, with his wife Eunice, the Special Olympics.
Shriver ran for vice president in 1972 with George McGovern. I never worked harder or put in more hours for any other candidates in my life. And although we lost — by a bigger electoral margin than any other candidate in history — I did help deliver a victory in Albany, N.Y., the third-largest state’s sixth-largest city.
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