On This Day in History June 11, 1963…. 50th Anniversary: President John F. Kennedy Gives Televised Speech on Civil Rights to the Nation

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program.

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John F. Kennedy delivering the Civil Rights Address (Wikimedia Commons)

On This Day in History June 11, 1963…. President John F. Kennedy gave a televised speech on civil rights to the nation from the White House oval office paving the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It was a busy day for the civil rights movement; Alabama Governor and strong segregationist George Wallace in his “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” physically prevented two African American students; Vivian Malone and James Hood, from registering at the University of Alabama despite a court order the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. President Kennedy was forced to send the US National Guard to end the conflict, and ensure the students could enter the university building and register.

Hours later, in the early morning of June 12th, African American civil rights activist and leader Medgar Evers was killed in Mississippi. He was shot in the back while entering into his home after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. Evers was shot by Byron De La Beckwith, who belonged to the White Citizens’ Council, a segregationist group. Although first arrested on June 21, 1963 for Evers’ murder, it took until 1994 for De La Beckwith to be convicted of the crime. Also in the north, Boston city school officials began a ten year battle with the NAACP over segregation the same evening as President Kennedy’s speech.

It was against this turmoil in the nation over civil rights that President Kennedy called and booked time on all three major networks for him to speak to the nation at 8 PM EDT on civil rights and the situation in Alabama.

In a hastily drafted speech by Ted Sorensen and revised by Kennedy. The President told Americans that segregation is a “moral issue” that is wrong. Kennedy stated; “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.” President Kennedy accomplished two points in his speech, the introduction of civil rights legislation, and the beginning of significant comprehensive school desegregation.

Kennedy pleaded to the American people that civil rights is the responsibility of all citizens; “It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all… Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.”

Kennedy specifically emphasized the lack of action since the Supreme Court’s decision in 1954 in the landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education which ended the legality of the separate but equal system. Kennedy lamented; “Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court’s decision 9 years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job. The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to those who may not have the economic resources to carry the legal action or who may be subject to harassment.”

In his speech, President Kennedy began an active pursuit of Congressional legislation that would end segregation, stating; “Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law…. I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public–hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.”

Kennedy also introduced the pursuit of the vote for all African Americans stating; “Other features will be also requested, including greater protection for the right to vote. But legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.” With his speech that night, Kennedy was pushing in motion not only the Civil Rights Act, but the subsequent Voting Rights Act passed two years later in 1965 which guaranteed the vote to all Americans.

Kennedy concluded his speech with a request of support from the American public for his sweeping and necessary proposals based on Constitutional rights for all Americans; “Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents…. This is what we are talking about and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.”

Kennedy submitted a civil rights bill to Congress the next week on June 19, which historian Robert Dallek in his biography of President Kennedy, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 described as “the most far-reaching civil rights bill in the country’s history.” The law would guarantee the right to vote for all with the minimum of a sixth grade education, and end discrimination in all public and commercial facilities establishments and accommodations. Kennedy also requested that the attorney general be granted expanded powers to implement school desegregation, asked to end job discrimination and create job training opportunities and a “community relations service.” Kennedy used the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments of the Constitution to justify the contents of his proposed bill. President Kennedy continued pushing Congress to pass civil rights legislation with bipartisan support until his assassination five months later in November 1963.

The leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. approved of President Kennedy’s speech and described it as ‘the most sweeping and forthright ever presented by an American president’.” King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” on August 28th, over two months later during the March on Washington would eclipse Kennedy’s speech as the most relevant to advancing civil rights.

However civil rights would become central to Kennedy’s legacy, and without the President taking initial action with this speech and laying out his bold vision and plan to make a civil rights a reality for all Americans, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would never would have passed and signed into law on July 2, 1964.

IN THE NEWS

The Day President Kennedy Embraced Civil Rights—and the Story Behind It

Source: The Atlantic, 6-11-13

50 years ago today, the president gave his now-famous Civil Rights Address. But it was Martin Luther King Jr. and the Birmingham protesters who deserved the credit.

“Can you believe that white man not only stepped up to the plate, he hit it over the fence!” That was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s private verdict on President John F. Kennedy’s famous Civil Rights Address, delivered fifty years ago on June 11, 1963….READ MORE

John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Speech Remembered On 50th Anniversary

Source: Huffington Post, 6-11-13

On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy gave his Civil Rights Address, calling for the legislation that later became the Civil Rights Act Of 1964….READ MORE

Watch: JFK’s civil rights speech, 50 years ago

Source: MSNBC, 6-11-13

Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy spoke to the nation after a day of racial turmoil in the state of Alabama….READ MORE

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Peniel E. Joseph: Kennedy’s Finest Moment

Source: NYT, 6-12-13

JUNE 11, 1963, may not be a widely recognized date these days, but it might have been the single most important day in civil rights history….

But the most important event was one that almost didn’t happen: a hastily arranged speech that evening by President John F. Kennedy….READ MORE

Tufts Professor Recalls Momentous, Overlooked JFK Speech From 50 Years Ago

Download

Source: NPR Boston WBUR, 6-11-13

When Americans are sent to Vietnam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops. It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodations.

Fifty years ago Tuesday, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation in a televised speech sometimes called one of the best of his presidency. But that speech would be overshadowed by other events of June 11, 1963, and of the early hours of the next day.

WBUR’s All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer spoke with Peniel Joseph, a history professor and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, about this date 50 years ago, which he calls the most significant date in civil rights history….READ MORE

QUOTES

Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights

June 11, 1963

Source: Presidency, UCSB

audio

Good evening, my fellow citizens:This afternoon, following a series of threats and defiant statements, the presence of Alabama National Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro.

That they were admitted peacefully on the campus is due in good measure to the conduct of the students of the University of Alabama, who met their responsibilities in a constructive way.

I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was rounded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Viet-Nam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops.

It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.

It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.

The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the Nation in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing a high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one-third as much chance of completing college, one-third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy which is 7 years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much.

This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety. Nor is this a partisan issue. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone. It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right.

We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?

One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.

We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is a land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or cast system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?

Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.

The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives.

It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.

Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.

Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law. The Federal judiciary has upheld that proposition in a series of forthright cases. The executive branch has adopted that proposition in the conduct of its affairs, including the employment of Federal personnel, the use of Federal facilities, and the sale of federally financed housing.

But there are other necessary measures which only the Congress can provide, and they must be provided at this session. The old code of equity law under which we live commands for every wrong a remedy, but in too many communities, in too many parts of the country, wrongs are inflicted on Negro citizens and there are no remedies at law. Unless the Congress acts, their only remedy is in the street.

I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public–hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.

This seems to me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure, but many do.

I have recently met with scores of business leaders urging them to take voluntary action to end this discrimination and I have been encouraged by their response, and in the last 2 weeks over 75 cities have seen progress made in desegregating these kinds of facilities. But many are unwilling to act alone, and for this reason, nationwide legislation is needed if we are to move this problem from the streets to the courts.

I am also asking Congress to authorize the Federal Government to participate more fully in lawsuits designed to end segregation in public education. We have succeeded in persuading many districts to de-segregate voluntarily. Dozens have admitted Negroes without violence. Today a Negro is attending a State-supported institution in every one of our 50 States, but the pace is very slow.

Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court’s decision 9 years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job.

The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to those who may not have the economic resources to carry the legal action or who may be subject to harassment.

Other features will be also requested, including greater protection for the right to vote. But legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.

In this respect, I want to pay tribute to those citizens North and South who have been working in their communities to make life better for all. They are acting not out of a sense of legal duty but out of a sense of human decency.

Like our soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world they are meeting freedom’s challenge on the firing line, and I salute them for their honor and their courage.

My fellow Americans, this is a problem which faces us all–in every city of the North as well as the South. Today there are Negroes unemployed, two or three times as many compared to whites, inadequate in education, moving into the large cities, unable to find work, young people particularly out of work without hope, denied equal rights, denied the opportunity to eat at a restaurant or lunch counter or go to a movie theater, denied the right to a decent education, denied almost today the right to attend a State university even though qualified. It seems to me that these are matters which concern us all, not merely Presidents or Congressmen or Governors, but every citizen of the United States.

This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents.

We cannot say to 10 percent of the population that you can’t have that right; that your children can’t have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go into the streets and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that.

Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents.

As I have said before, not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or an equal motivation, but they should have the equal right to develop their talent and their ability and their motivation, to make something of themselves.

We have a right to expect that the Negro community will be responsible, will uphold the law, but they have a right to expect that the law will be fair, that the Constitution will be color blind, as Justice Harlan said at the turn of the century.

This is what we are talking about and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.
Thank you very much.

Delivered from the President’s office at 8 p.m.

Citation: John F. Kennedy: “Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights,” June 11, 1963. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9271.

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On This Day in History May 25, 1961… 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Moon Speech to Congress

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS: 50TH ANNIVERSARY JOHN F. KENNEDY’S MOON SPEECH TO CONGRESS

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ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY….

On this day in history… May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced in an address to a joint session of Congress his goal of sending and putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Stating “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

HEADLINES

  • President Kennedy’s Speech and America’s Next Moonshot Moment: President Kennedy speaks to Congress on May 25, 1961. President Kennedy speaks to Congress on May 25, 1961. Photo Credit: NASA
    This journey into the future has its foundations 50 years in the past, when President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge that transformed the tentative early steps of human spaceflight into a giant leap for mankind.
    In just a short six weeks in the spring of 1961, a trio of dramatic events set the stage for our first journey to another world: Soviet Yuri Gagarin’s first human spaceflight on April 12, was followed on May 5 by Alan Shepard’s first American flight. Then, on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy went to Congress for an address on “Urgent National Needs.”
    Kennedy told Congress and the nation that “space is open to us now,” and said that space exploration “may hold the key to our future here on Earth.” Then he issued an audacious challenge to NASA that seemed unthinkable after just a single U.S. spaceflight… – Nasa.gov, 5-25-11
  • Race to Space, Through the Lens of Time: On the 12th, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth — one more space triumph for the Soviet Union. Though the flight was not unexpected, it was nonetheless deflating; it would be more than a month before Alan Shepard became the first American in space, and that was on a 15-minute suborbital flight. On the 17th, a force of anti-Castro exiles, trained by the C.I.A., invaded communist Cuba at the Bay of Pigs — a fiasco within 36 hours. Mr. Kennedy’s close aide Theodore Sorensen described him on the 19th as “anguished and fatigued” and “in the most emotional, self-critical state I had ever seen him.”
    At one meeting, his brother Robert F. Kennedy, the attorney general, “turned on everybody,” it was reported, saying: “All you bright fellows. You got the president into this. We’ve got to do something to show the Russians we are not paper tigers.” At another, the president pleaded: “If somebody can, just tell me how to catch up. Let’s find somebody — anybody. I don’t care if it’s the janitor over there.” Heading back to the Oval Office, he told Mr. Sorensen, “There’s nothing more important.”
    So, 50 years ago, on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress and a national television audience, declaring: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
    There it was, the challenge flung before an adversary and to a nation on edge in an unconventional war, the beginning of Project Apollo.
    Echoes of this time lift off the pages of “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon” (Palgrave Macmillan), a new book by John M. Logsdon, a political scientist and longtime space policy specialist at George Washington University. He has drawn on new research in archives, oral histories and memoirs available in recent years to shed new light on the moon race.
    The famous speech came after five weeks of hand wringing, back-channel memos and closed-door conferences, often overseen by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. In those meetings NASA and Pentagon officials, scientists and engineers, budget analysts and others decided that sending astronauts to the Moon by the end of the sixties was the country’s best shot at overcoming the Soviet post-Sputnik command of the orbital front in the cold war…. – NYT, 5-24-11
  • The Moon and Man at 50: Why JFK’s Space Exploration Speech Still Resonates: Fifty years ago today (May 25), President John F. Kennedy presented NASA and the nation with a historic challenge: To put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the 1960s.
    Kennedy’s dramatic 1961 speech jump-started NASA’s Apollo program, a full-bore race to the moon that succeeded when Neil Armstrong’s boot clomped down into the lunar dirt on July 20, 1969. The moon landing was a tremendous achievement for humanity and a huge boost to American technological pride, which had been seriously wounded by several recent space race defeats to the Soviet Union.
    The impact of Kennedy’s words lingers still, long after Apollo came to an end in 1972. The speech fundamentally changed NASA, ramping up the space agency’s public profile and creating a huge infrastructure that continues to exist today. [Photos: John F. Kennedy’s NASA Legacy]
    “This is the most significant decision made by our national political leaders in relation to space activities,” said Roger Launius, space history curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. In addition to starting up humanity’s first journey to another world, he added, “it transformed NASA into a big space-spectacular agency, which it wasn’t before.”
    Kennedy made his speech before a special joint session of Congress just four months after being sworn in as president. Filled with proposed policy initiatives (the moon challenge being the last and most dramatic of these), the address was an attempt to get his presidency on track after a very bumpy start…. – Space.com, 5-25-11
  • The 1961 JFK Speech That Sparked ‘Apollo’ and Led Space Exploration to New Heights: NASA’s exploration solidified scientific understanding of moon’s formation and planetary science.
    Fifty years ago, on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy told a joint session of Congress that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
    His vision became NASA’s Apollo program, which conducted six successful manned lunar landings during 1969-72 and brought the crews and the moon rocks that they collected safely home. As Kennedy intended, the Apollo program established the nation’s preeminence in spaceflight, but it also produced a revolution in scientific understanding of the moon, sparking a debate that continues today about the relative merits of manned and robotic exploration.
    Kennedy’s call to action was viewed as a largely geopolitical maneuver, intended to achieve U.S. supremacy in rocketry and space travel at a time when the Soviet Union had gained a huge head start by launching Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, and Yuri Gagarin — the first man to orbit Earth. There were defense implications: rockets that launch manned capsules into orbit could also propel nuclear weapons across intercontinental distances.
    Whether Apollo had a strong scientific purpose at first or not, the president’s speech “was tremendously influential,” said retired astronomer William E. Howard, who served in military, academic, and intelligence organizations. “[It] inspired a lot of people to go into science.”… – Fox News, 5-25-11
  • JFK’s Man-on-Moon Dream Shown on Tapes to Be Offset by Worry Over Stunt: Then U.S. President John F. Kennedy gives a speech on the nation’s space effort before a special session of Congress in Washington, on May 25, 1961. Source: AFP/Getty Images
    John F. Kennedy’s call to send a man to the moon symbolized the soaring ambition associated with his presidency. In private, he was more a cold-eyed realist, concerned that the mission would be dismissed as a costly “stunt” and might be better recast as a military venture.
    A presidential recording to be released today by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum reveals a Kennedy conversation in the Oval Office with then-NASA administrator James Webb in which the president expresses doubts that belie his public promotion of manned space travel.
    “This looks like a hell of a lot of dough to go to the moon,” Kennedy told Webb at the September 1963 meeting.
    The release marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s speech to Congress on May 25, 1961, in which he said the U.S. should commit within the decade to “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
    “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish,” Kennedy said.
    Two years after that address, the president was confronting budget issues as he was contemplating his 1964 re-election campaign, acknowledging that the moon mission probably wouldn’t be accomplished during his time in office.
    His conversation with Webb took place on Sept. 18, 1963, two months before the president was assassinated in Dallas…. – Bloomberg, 5-25-11
  • JFK had doubts about moon landing Questioned costs, voters’ reactions: “I predict you are not going to be sorry,’’ NASA Administrator James Webb said to JFK. “I predict you are not going to be sorry,’’ NASA Administrator James Webb said to JFK. (Abbie Rowe/ JFK Library And Museum/ File 1961)
    Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy stood before Congress and audaciously declared that before the end of the decade, the United States should land a man on the moon.
    “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space,’’ he said, delivering a confident rejoinder to the Soviet Union’s successes in the space race.
    But two years later, the president struggled with doubts about the expensive program as he prepared for his reelection campaign and worried that public and congressional support was waning, according to a newly declassified tape being released today by the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.
    The recording of a frank, 46-minute White House meeting with NASA Administrator James Webb in September 1963 provides a window into Kennedy’s thinking, revealing political calculations as well as more personal reactions. At one point during the conversation, Kennedy asks, “If I get reelected, I’m not — we’re not — go[ing] to the moon in my — in our period are we?’’
    Webb tells him no, and Kennedy’s voice drops with disappointment: “We’re not going . . . yeah.’’
    “What I love is that you get every part of him as a person — him doubting the American public is interested in it; then he asks are we going to land in my presidency,’’ said Maura Porter, an archivist at the Kennedy Library. “This is just two months before his death and he thinks space has lost its glamour with the American public — he doesn’t see space being a political positive as he goes into the ‘64 campaign.”… – Boston Globe, 5-25-11

QUOTES

  • Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs, May 25, 1961
    President John F. Kennedy Delivered in person before a joint session of Congress May 25, 1961:

    IX. SPACE
    Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take. Since early in my term, our efforts in space have been under review. With the advice of the Vice President, who is Chairman of the National Space Council, we have examined where we are strong and where we are not, where we may succeed and where we may not. Now it is time to take longer strides–time for a great new American enterprise–time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.
    I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshalled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.
    Recognizing the head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines, which gives them many months of leadtime, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by the feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.
    I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:
    First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations–explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.
    Secondly, an additional 23 million dollars, together with 7 million dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover nuclear rocket. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious exploration of space, perhaps beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself.
    Third, an additional 50 million dollars will make the most of our present leadership, by accelerating the use of space satellites for world-wide communications.
    Fourth, an additional 75 million dollars–of which 53 million dollars is for the Weather Bureau–will help give us at the earliest possible time a satellite system for world-wide weather observation.
    Let it be clear–and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make–let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal ’62–an estimated seven to nine billion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.
    Now this is a choice which this country must make, and I am confident that under the leadership of the Space Committees of the Congress, and the Appropriating Committees, that you will consider the matter carefully.
    It is a most important decision that we make as a nation. But all of you have lived through the last four years and have seen the significance of space and the adventures in space, and no one can predict with certainty what the ultimate meaning will be of mastery of space.
    I believe we should go to the moon. But I think every citizen of this country as well as the Members of the Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year.
    This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel.
    New objectives and new money cannot solve these problems. They could in fact, aggravate them further–unless every scientist, every engineer, every serviceman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.
    JFK Library

HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION

  • JFK’s Moon Shot: Q & A With Space Policy Expert John Logsdon: On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered one of the most memorable speeches of the 20th century. He challenged Congress and the American people to put a man on the moon, and return him safely to Earth, by the end of the decade.
    The rest, of course, is history. NASA’s Apollo program roared to life, and just eight years later Neil Armstrong’s boot crunched down into the lunar dirt. [Photos: JFK and NASA]
    Kennedy’s announcement came close on the heels of two embarrassing American Cold War defeats. The Soviet Union had put the first human being, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, in space on April 12, 1961. Less than a week later came the Bay of Pigs fiasco, a failed CIA-backed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s communist government in Cuba.
    As the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s momentous speech approaches, SPACE.com caught up with historian and space policy expert John Logsdon, author of “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon” (Palgrave Macmillian, 2010). [50 Years of Presidential Visions for Spaceflight]
    Logsdon chatted about what drove Kennedy to make the speech, and what it means today:
    SPACE.com: What did Kennedy hope to achieve with this speech? Was he just interested in beating the Soviets, or did he also want to jump-start a space program that was still in its infancy?
    John Logsdon: In the immediate aftermath of Gagarin, on April the 20th, he had asked his advisers to find him a “space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win.” So that was the guidance he set out: something in space, dramatic, win.
    There were no real alternatives, either in space or, as he told his science adviser, in any other area that would have the impact of a space achievement. The Soviet Union kind of had defined the playing field as space success, and Kennedy came to the conclusion that he had no choice but to accept that game rather than try to shift the stakes into something else. [Biggest Revelations of the Space Age]
    SPACE.com: Why did Kennedy choose the moon? Were there other options that could also have shown American technological superiority and restored our pride?
    Logsdon: Well, the technical basis for choosing the moon was, it was the first thing that [famed rocket designer] Wernher von Braun and others in NASA said the Soviet Union could not do with its existing rocket. They would have to build a new, larger rocket to send people to the surface of the moon. And so the moon became the first thing where the United States had, as von Braun said, a sporting chance to be first. [Giant Leaps: Top Milestones of Human Spaceflight]
    SPACE.com: JFK’s announcement charted the course of NASA for a decade. What were its longer-lasting effects?
    Logsdon: I think it’s charted the course of NASA for most of the 50 years since, in the sense that it created a large organization built around large engineering projects centered on human spaceflight, with an institutional base of civil servants and contractors and facilities that exists today, and still has the expectation that the country will provide support.
    I kind of look at the budget curve for Apollo as a rollercoaster. Kennedy’s commitment took the space program up the front end of that rollercoaster and over the top, and the momentum has lasted a long, long time. I think it’s just about gone now…. – Space.com, 5-25-11

1961 – JFK – Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs

On This Day in History… January 20, 1961 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS: 5OTH ANNIVERSARY OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY’S INAUGURATION

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ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY….

On this day in history… January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated the 35th president of the United States.

  • 50 years later, JFK’s words resonate: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country . . .”
    It’s been 50 years since the phrase from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address first resonated from Capitol Hill and challenged Americans to take pride and be willing to sacrifice in making the world a better place. The fourth-shortest inaugural address delivered by a U.S. president, Kennedy’s 14-minute speech promoted public service and was a catalyst to programs such as the Peace Corps and NASA’s push to send astronauts to the moon… – Boston Herald, 1-20-11

QUOTES

  • 50 Years Later, JFK’s Inaugural Address Continues to Resonate: On the 50th anniversary of his inauguration, watch an excerpt of John F. Kennedy’s famous speech on the steps of the Capitol that began his presidency on Jan. 20, 1961.:
    U.S. PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: 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.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, 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.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: To those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge, but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace. 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.
    (APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let both sides explore what problems unite us, instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.
    (APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.
    Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
    Now the trumpet summons us again, not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need, not as a call to battle, though embattled we are, but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
    And, so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what, together, we can do for the freedom of man.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you.
    With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that, here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)….
    Mp3 Download
  • President Barack Obama: “Because of his vision, more people prospered; more people served; our union was made more perfect. Because of that vision, I can stand here tonight as President of the United States.”
President Obama delivered remarks on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

HEADLINES

  • Kennedy’s Inauguration Still Captivates, 50 Years Later PBS Newshour, 1-20-11
  • Why Is JFK’s Legacy So Enduring? PBS Newshour, 1-20-11
  • 50 Years Later, Why Is America Still In Love With JFK?: On a frigid day, exactly 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy took office with the words, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” The world had high hopes for this dashing fellow from Boston — at just 43, the youngest president elected to office, and the only Catholic. While other presidents’ anniversaries come and go without fanfare, Kennedy will be honored this week with celebrations worthy of a king…. – MSNBC, 1-19-11
  • Robert Frost and J.F.K., Fifty Years Later: It was a bright and blustery day in Washington fifty years ago today for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. An old newsreel reporting the day’s events notes that the city was recovering from a blizzard and that “battalions of snow fighters kept Pennsylvania Avenue clear for the swearing-in ceremony.” That earnest footage also communicates the enthusiasm that accompanied the event for many in the country. It was “the smoothest transition of power in history” from Eisenhower to Kennedy, the newsreader informs us. Nixon, recently defeated, even manages to smile brightly. Yet it was a new day, a new age: Kennedy was, at forty-three, then the youngest President and the first born in the twentieth century. (The past, though, had not been completely thrown off, judging by the top hats that Eisenhower and Kennedy wore to some of the festivities.)
    The anniversary marks Kennedy’s brief but era-defining inauguration address, but it also marks another coming together of custom and modernity, of the past and the future: the eighty-six-year-old Robert Frost reciting “The Gift Outright,” which ends with the lines: 

    Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
    (The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
    To the land vaguely realizing westward,
    But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
    Such as she was, such as she would become.

    New Yorker, 1-20-11

  • JFK: Great man, great liberal, great American, great goals, great nation: Today America celebrates the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy assuming the presidency with Kennedy remaining the most popular president of the last 50 years. Let’s end the mythology that America is moving to the right. In a Gallup poll released in December, Americans gave John F. Kennedy an approval rating of 85 percent, the highest of any of the nine presidents who have served in the last 50 years…. – The Hill, 1-20-11
  • 50 Years After the New Frontier Dawned, a Toast to Kennedy: On Thursday in the nation’s capital, the guest of honor was in effect President John F. Kennedy, who had been inaugurated 50 years earlier. And 15 members of Kennedy’s White House staff gathered for lunch at a restaurant with a view of the Capitol where he gave his famous speech, to celebrate the anniversary and reminisce…. – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Biden, others celebrate 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration: Vice President Biden led the celebration on Capitol Hill today for the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961. The celebration included remarks from Caroline Kennedy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Rep. John Lewis, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, former secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and House Speaker John Boehner…. – USA Today, 1-20-11
Caroline Kennedy on Jan. 13, 2011, in Washington.
  • Congress pays tribute to 50th anniversary of JFK’s inaugural address: Congressional leaders today paused to pay tribute to President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address that motivated a nation 50 years ago. In the rotunda of the US Capitol, congressional officials, aides, and Kennedy family members listened in silence to the 14-minute, 1,355-word speech that Kennedy delivered on a blustery day in 1961. Top congressional leaders – including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – attended the event.
    “Sadly, this is the first congress to convene without a Kennedy since the Truman administration,” Boehner said, before looking over at the president’s daughter. “Caroline, there’s still time.”
    Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, both delivered remarks. “It took President Kennedy just 1,355 words to summon a new generation and set in motion generations of service and sacrifice – to reignite the fires of idealism and patriotism in millions of Americans,” Kerry said…. – Boston Globe, 1-20-11
  • Obama celebrates JFK’s ‘unfinished life’: President Barack Obama on Thursday paid tribute to the “unfinished life” of John F. Kennedy and said his inauguration 50 years ago and his accompanying call for Americans to serve their country still “inspires us and lights our way.” “We are the heirs of this president, who showed us what is possible,” Obama said. “Because of his vision, more people prospered, more people served, our union was made more perfect. Because of that vision I can stand here tonight as president of the United States”.
    Obama confessed that “I don’t have my own memories of that day.” But, Obama said, “even now, one half-century later, there is something about that day, Jan. 20, 1961, that feels immediate, feels new and urgent and exciting, despite the graininess of the 16-millimeter news reels that recorded it for posterity.” He said Kennedy could have a chosen a different life, one of luxury, but that he opted instead for one of leadership and idealism, “soaring but sober that inspired the country and the world” five decades ago….
    “I can only imagine how he must have felt entering the Oval Office in turbulent times,” Obama said, as the audience applauded and laughed. He said Kennedy led a “volatile America, in this tinderbox of a world,” with a steady hand, “defusing the most perilous crisis since the Cold War without firing a single shot.” “He knew that we, as a people, can do big things. We can reach great heights. We can rise to any challenge, so long as we’re willing to ask what we can do for our country,” Obama said, recreating one of the more memorable lines from Kennedy’s inaugural address. – AP, 1-20-11
  • At the Kennedy Center, Gratitude to a President Fond of the Arts: President Obama and performing arts luminaries gathered at the Kennedy Center Thursday night to pay tribute to President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his inauguration, with many paying homage to the inspiration they drew from the slain president. In his brief remarks, Mr. Obama characterized Mr. Kennedy as a visionary leader who made ardent strides in nuclear disarmament, civil rights, and space exploration in a “tinderbox of a land.”
    “Because of his vision, more people prospered; more people served; our union was made more perfect,” Mr. Obama said “Because of that vision, I can stand here tonight as President of the United States.”… – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Sen. Harry Reid: Honoring JFK’s legacy: The whole world watched with excitement and expectation in 1961 when Senator John and Jacqueline Kennedy moved into the White House with their young family. No one noticed when I first came to Washington the same year. I was a law student, a new father and to make ends meet, a Capitol Police Officer.
    At the end of those long days, I would often pass the White House on my way home. I can still vividly remember seeing Caroline’s pony, Macaroni, on the South Lawn.
    Fifty years later, it is a great privilege to be with Caroline – as well as the Vice President, Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi, Secretary Chao, and all of you – to remember the history and the hope of Caroline’s father’s presidency.
    We also remember and honor President Kennedy’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, who led an exemplary life of public service, and who did so much for so many who had so little. We extend our condolences to his loved ones…. – The Hill, 1-20-11

HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION

  • Thurston Clarke: Passing the Torch to a New Generation 50 Years Ago a Young John F. Kennedy Took the Oath of Office, Changing the Presidency – and a Nation – Forever: “Not just the youngest elected but also the first Catholic,” notes historian Thurston Clarke. “And also elected by the slimmest vote, majority in the popular vote. And so that’s another reason that he had to give a speech for the ages. A speech that would unite the country.”…
    “You had all of the celebrities in Washington,” said Clarke. “You had a feeling that this was a gathering of the best and the brightest in the country.”…
    “I think you would find that John Kennedy contributed most of the passages and the famous words that we remember: ‘The torch has been passed to a new generation.’ The “Ask not’ line. ‘Bear any burden.’ All of those were Kennedy. He had a Sorenson draft in front of him. On January 10th he flew to Palm Beach, he looked at the draft, and he dictated his changes and his additions to the draft.”…
    “People remember this as a kind of Cold War speech because of ‘We’ll pay any price, bear any burden,'” said Clarke. “But most of the rest of the speech was about peace and about negotiations and about the threat of nuclear war.”…
    “When Kennedy said, ‘Ask not,’ people knew that this was a man who’d been decorated in World War II,” said Clarke. “Who’d almost lost his life trying to save the surviving crew members of PT-109. So it wasn’t Where does he get off saying ‘Ask not’? He had the credentials to make this claim on people.”…
    “I think what we do – what John Kennedy did – is we compartmentalize things,” said Clarke. “There was so much that was accomplished, that was on its way to being accomplished. We put this in one compartment. And then we have the other compartment, is this terribly reckless sexual life.”…
    “I think it’s what we thought could have happened,” said Clarke, “because in the last 100 days of his life he was suddenly beginning to have the courage to do the things that were going to make him a great president. And one was the civil rights bill and the other was the test ban treaty.
    “But the beginning of his presidency – and what turned out to be the end of his presidency – were both times when the American people hoped that … this president was going to solve their problems, and was going to become what he hoped to be, which was a great president.”… – CBS News, 1-16-11
  • E.J. DIONNE JR.: JFK’s words: The torch still burns: It’s remembered as a day chilled by “a Siberian wind knifing down Pennsylvania Avenue” and illuminated by “the dazzling combination of bright sunshine and deep snow.” On Jan. 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy began his presidency with a speech at once soaring and solemn. Fifty years on, we have not heard an inaugural address like it. Tethered to its time and place, it still challenges with its ambition to harness realism to idealism, patriotism to service, national interest to universal aspiration…. – WaPo, 1-20-11
  • John F. Kennedy inaugural address: How good was it?: The John F. Kennedy inaugural address was 50 years ago to the day – on Jan. 20, 1961. It remains an iconic American speech and is the subject of Google’s Thursday home-page doodle. Google’s logo is drawn using words that Mr. Kennedy used on that historic day.
    How good was Kennedy’s inaugural address? Very. Historians generally rank it as one of the four best US presidential inaugural speeches of all time. William Safire, former New York Times columnist and Nixon speechwriter, included it in a volume he compiled of the greatest speeches delivered in history, writing that it “set the standard by which presidential inaugurals have been judged in the modern era.”… – CS Monitor, 1-20-11
  • JFK and Obama: Their Similarities and Differences: History shows that despite their differences in ideology, most U.S. presidents have qualities in common with their predecessors. On this fiftieth anniversary of the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy, President Obama is marking the midpoint of his four-year term in office. The comparisons are inevitable as Mr. Obama begins the third year of his presidency, a year in office that Kennedy left unfinished… – CBS News, 1-20-11

Remembering R. Sargent Shriver: Peace Corps Founder Dies at 95

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

REMEBERING SARGENT SHRIVER: PEACE CORPS FOUNDER, DIES AT 95

JOB WELL DONE! Robert Sargent Shriver...

  • R. Sargent Shriver has died: Robert Sargent Shriver, the former Peace Corps director and vice-presidential nominee, has passed away.
  • Sargent Shriver, former Peace Corps director, Dies — NYT Slideshow
  • R. Sargent Shriver, Peace Corps Leader, Dies at 95: R. Sargent Shriver, the Kennedy in-law who became the founding director of the Peace Corps, the architect of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty, a United States ambassador to France and the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1972, died on Tuesday in Bethesda, Md. He was 95. Mr. Shriver was found to have Alzheimer’s disease in 2003 and on Sunday was admitted to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, where he died. He had been in hospice care in recent months after his estate in Potomac, Md., was sold last year.
    White-haired and elegantly attired, he attended the inauguration of his son-in-law, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the Republican governor of California in the fall of 2003. Mr. Schwarzenegger is married to Maria Shriver, a former NBC News correspondent. But in recent years, as his condition deteriorated, Mr. Shriver was seldom seen in public. He emerged in one instance to attend the funeral of his wife of 56 years, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a sister of John F. Kennedy; she died in 2009 in Hyannis, Mass., at the age of 88…. – NYT, 1-18-11
  • ‘Sarge’ Shriver, founder of Peace Corps, dead at 95: Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., founder of the Peace Corps and husband of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, died yesterday after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
    The 95-year-old former vice-presidential candidate, known fondly as “Sarge,” “went to heaven to join the love of his life,” the family said in a statement.
    Shriver died at a Maryland hospital surrounded by his five children — Bobby, Maria, Tim, Mark and Anthony — their spouses and 19 grandchildren. His death came less than two years after his wife died in August 2009 at age 88.
    “He was a man of giant love, energy, enthusiasm and commitment. He lived to make the world a more joyful, faithful and compassionate place,” the family statement read. “We will miss him forever.” – Boston Herald, 1-18-11
  • Sargent Shriver, founding director of Peace Corps, dies at 95: Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., husband of the late Eunice Kennedy and father of five children, spent more than seven decades in public service.
    R. Sargent Shriver, who was tapped to create the Peace Corps by his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy and crafted 1960s-era programs that remain cornerstones in the federal government’s efforts to combat poverty, died Jan. 18 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, a family spokesman said. He was 95 and had Alzheimer’s disease.
    A Yale-educated lawyer from a prominent Maryland family, Mr. Shriver was a businessman and aspiring political leader when he married Eunice Kennedy in the early 1950s. He served in three presidential administrations, including a stint as U.S. ambassador to France, and ran for president and vice president. His ambitions were as much propelled as they were frustrated by his connection to his in-laws, the powerful political dynasty from Massachusetts.
    When the family received word in 1964 that President Lyndon B. Johnson was considering Mr. Shriver as a running mate, Eunice balked. “No,” she reportedly said, and then invoked her brother Robert’s name. “It’s Bob’s turn.” Kennedy aide Ken O’Donnell was more straightforward, telling Mr. Shriver that if any of the inner circle were to run, it would be Bobby – not “half a Kennedy.”
    Still, it was Mr. Shriver’s status as an almost-Kennedy that landed him the role for which he is perhaps best known, as the leader of the Peace Corps during its infancy…. – WaPo, 1-18-11
  • Shriver family gave voice to ‘silent epidemic’ Public figure’s battle with Alzheimer’s helped normalize disease: Battling Alzheimer’s disease is often a private struggle, with few champions who speak on behalf of patients and their loved ones. But the family of R. Sargent Shriver, who died Tuesday, helped shed light on the disease and spur support and research for its causes.
    Since his diagnosis in 2003, the family of the influential public servant and founder of the Peace Corps had sought to change the public perception of people with Alzheimer’s so they would not be viewed as victims, said geriatrician William Thomas, professor at UMBC’s Erickson School of Aging.
    “Instead, he was a person living with Alzheimer’s, and that’s an absolutely crucial distinction,” Thomas said. “What the Shrivers were about were sort of normalizing this disease. It is important for people of stature, like the Shrivers, to step into the light and to be seen and to tell their story, because so many other people feel like they can’t do that.”… – LAT, 1-18-11
  • Statement by the President on the Passing of Sargent Shriver: I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Sargent Shriver, one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation. Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Sarge came to embody the idea of public service. Of his many enduring contributions, he will perhaps best be remembered as the founding director of the Peace Corps, helping make it possible for generations of Americans to serve as ambassadors of goodwill abroad. His loss will be felt in all of the communities around the world that have been touched by Peace Corps volunteers over the past half century and all of the lives that have been made better by his efforts to address inequality and injustice here at home. My thoughts and prayers are with Robert, Maria, Tim, Mark, and Anthony, and the entire Shriver family during this sad time. – WH, 1-18-11

On This Day in History…. November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was Assassinated in Dallas, Texas

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. She blogs at History Musings

IN FOCUS: 47TH ANNIVERSARY OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY’S ASSASINATION

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On this day in history… November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States (1961-63), was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. by Lee Harvey Oswald, while in a Presidential motorcade in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas heading towards the Texas School Book Depository. Kennedy was in a open limousine waving at the cheering crowd with First Lady Jackie Kennedy, and Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nelly when three shots in succession erupted, which hit the President, and the Governor. The motorcade rushed to Parkland Hospital, where President Kennedy was pronounced dead at 46 years, 30 minutes after the shooting. As news of the assassination was first announced on CBS by anchor Walter Chronkite, there was an immediate outpouring of grief by the nation that mourned the lost of an idealized young President. In a new book “The Kennedy Detail” Secret Service agent Clint Hill has said; “It has taken me decades to learn to cope with the guilt and sense of responsibility for the president’s death, and I have made it a practice to keep my memories to myself. I don’t talk to anybody about that day.”

At 2:38 p.m. Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as the 36th US president, aboard Air Force One with Jackie Kennedy standing by his side, still wearing the clothes stained with the President’s blood. Police arrested Oswald two hours later. Oswald, a Soviet sympathesizer with ties to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee had shot Kennedy from the school book repository building. Two days later, Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner fatally shot Oswald, as he was being transferred from Dallas Police Headquarters to the Dallas County Jail; Ruby claimed he wanted to spare Jackie Kennedy any further grief.

Three days later on November 25, 1963 a state funeral was held for the slain President. It was a preceded by a repose of Kennedy’s body in the East Room of the White House for 24 hours on the 23rd. On Sunday, the 24th, the President’s coffin was carried by the same horse drawn carriage as President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt and the Unknown Soldier before him, to the Capitol building where his body laid in state for 18 hours, with 250,000 people visiting his casket.

File:Kennedy salute.gifOn Monday, one million gathered on the route of the processional from the Capitol to St. Matthew’s Cathedral, where the funeral was held. Foreign dignitaries from 90 countries, including 19 heads of state came to pay their respects, and millions of Americans watched the funeral on TV, which was covered by then three big networks; ABC, CBS, and NBC. After the Requiem Mass, as the President’s body was carried from the cathedral, three year old John Jr. saluted his father’s casket giving the mourning nation an iconic image to remember. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, after the service Jackie Kennedy lit an eternal flame that remains burning over the President’s grave site.


This past March historian Ellen Fitzpatrick published her book “Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation,” speaking to PBS’s Newshour about the purpose of the book and looking back at the memory of President Kennedy, she claimed; “And what I was trying to get at was how Americans in the moment viewed John F. Kennedy. It seemed to me that, in the decades since his death, there’s been so much historical revisionism, much of it appropriate, that dismantled the hagiography that grew up around him in the immediate aftermath of his assassination. But it had become increasingly difficult for students, for younger people, even people of my own generation, to recover that moment, the kind of idealism and faith that people had and the way that President Kennedy was viewed in his time…. So, I was thinking, how can I recapture this? And I went into the archives. I asked the archivist. I remembered the condolence letters. I remembered Mrs. Kennedy thanking the public.”

  • 47th anniversary of JFK’s assassination in PhotosMSNBC, 11-22-10
  • Kennedy assassination: Where were you? (Photos): Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and JFK’s assassination. Today is one of those thankfully few dates in American history that rocked the nation with a tragedy so big it stopped the clocks in people’s memories. Forty-seven years ago, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas…. – WaPo, 11-22-10
  • Nov. 22, 1963: The Death of a President Remembering the Fateful Day in Dallas When President John F. Kennedy Was Assassinated: It seems so long ago, and so recent. Those of a certain age will remember where they were 47 years ago today when they heard about the shots ringing out in Dallas. Subsequent assassinations of public figures did not quell the pain felt by the nation when President John F. Kennedy was killed, less than three years after entering office, at the age of 46. Shortly after noon on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was waving to the cheering crowd as his motorcade passed the Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street when gunfire was heard. The president slumped into the back seat of his open limousine with gaping wounds in his head and neck. He lost consciousness immediately…. – CBS News, 11-22-10

Walter Cronkite announces death of JFK on CBS

  • John F. Kennedy, in memoriam: It’s Nov. 22, and that may never be a normal date for political America. A full 47 years after the assassination of President John Kennedy, his murder continues to attract attention from historians, politicians, popular culture, and, of course, conspiracy theorists — just as it has since that fateful day in Dallas. The USA TODAY website has an interesting retrospective on JFK’s America, including a photo gallery… – USA Today, 11-22-10
  • John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas 47 years ago today: Forty-seven years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed while riding in a motorcade through Dallas with his wife, Jacqueline, and Texas officials. Kennedy’s birthplace on Beals Street in Brookline reopened on Sunday for a small ceremony marking his death. The National Park Service, which runs the site, officially closed for the season in October. At the JFK Library in Dorchester, a memorial wreath has been installed in the lobby of the presidential library. The library recently upgraded its internet presence to focus on the date 50 years ago when JFK was elected president. The National Archives has collected hundreds of thousands of documents relating to Kennedy’s assassination and the multiple investigations into the shooting of the president. Lee Harvey Oswald, who was himself murdered on Nov. 24, was charged with shooting Kennedy from the sixth floor of what was then known as Texas School Book Depository in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza. The building is now a major museum. Boston Globe, 11-22-10
JFK Assination

Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson takes the presidential oath of office aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas just two hours after Kennedy was shot. (Cecil Stoughton)

  • Front pages largely ignore today’s anniversary of JFK assassinationUSA Today, 11-22-10
  • JFK Assassination Anniversary: Eternal Flame Flickers but Still Burns: Forty-seven years later, it all seems part of another world defined by black-and-white television, the black-and-white certainties of the Cold War and black-and-white racial relations. Even if he had served two full terms as president, JFK (born in 1917 and afflicted with Addison’s disease) almost certainly would be long dead by now. Few remain who were close to John Kennedy (aside from his daughter, Caroline) following the deaths of Ted Kennedy last year and “ask not” speechwriter Ted Sorensen three weeks ago.
    Today’s Americans – no matter what age – have become hardened by the shock of wrenching events from the 9/11 attacks to the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and the shooting of Ronald Reagan. But for teenagers born after World War II, this was not how it was supposed to be in 1963. Assassination meant John Wilkes Booth and Mrs. Lincoln’s evening at the theater…. – Politics Daily, 11-22-10
  • John F. Kennedy Assassination Still Intrigues, 47 Years Later New JFK Documentary and Motion Picture Will Probe Grim Day in Dallas: 47 years have passed since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but the man who served less than a full term in office still casts a long shadow over the American politics and culture even as his relatives have slowly retreated from it. A new movie, as well as a documentary featuring Secret Service agents on duty in Dallas when JFK was shot, ensure that the Kennedy assassination will not fade from our minds any time soon.
    In January, when JFK’s nephew Patrick leaves Congress, it will be the first time since 1944 that no member of the Kennedy clan is on Capitol Hill. The retiring Rep. Kennedy was not even born when his uncle was killed, but the events of that day in Dallas still capture the interest of Americans. The documentary about the Secret Service is set to air Monday night on Discovery…. – ABC News, 11-22-10

Discovery JFK Assassination

  • The John F. Kennedy assassination: Four unanswered questions: The Kennedy assassination, a pivotal moment in American life, has fascinated historians, conspiracy theorists, and filmmakers, among others. Some questions might never be answered….
    Forty-seven years ago today President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. It was an event of only a few seconds, but it was a hinge of history, something of such political and cultural importance that at dusk on Nov. 22, 1963, America was a different country than it had been at sunrise. Sheer shock was part of it. Almost everyone past preschool age at the time can say where they were when they heard the news, as today a new generation will always remember what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001. Given its importance, the Kennedy assassination over the generations has been a subject of unending fascination to historians, filmmakers, novelists, conspiracy theorists, and ordinary citizens alike. Notable works range from director Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” a dense, purposely chaotic take that depicts the assassination as the work of a conspiracy, to attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s 2007 book “Reclaiming History,” a massive book of over 2,000 pages that attempts not just to refute conspiracy theorists, but to mock them, so that no one will take them seriously again…. – CS Monitor, 11-22-10
  • Young, old visit Dealey Plaza to mark anniversary of JFK assassinationDallas Morning News, 11-22-10
  • 47 years after JFK assassination, Sixth Floor Museum serves visitors who remember and those not yet born: Today, exactly 47 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the museum that has chronicled that fateful day finds itself in a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza wants to keep jogging the emotions of those old enough to recall the tragedy. On the other, it needs to find ways to explain the killing – using updated technology – to those who were yet to be born. “We’re at a pivotal moment right now,” said Nicola Longford, the museum’s executive director. “We’re changing from memory to history.”… – Dallas Morning News, 11-22-10
  • JFK’s Secret Service agents reflect on loss of a president: We couldn’t help, but we felt like we failed. It was a terrible feeling. –Jerry Blaine, former Secret Service agent
    After mostly avoiding the spotlight for decades, many of the former U.S. Secret Service agents who were assigned to protect President John F. Kennedy are now offering their accounts of the day he was assassinated, 47 years ago Monday. After the first shot hit the president, former agent Clint Hill says, “I saw him grab at his throat and lean to his left. So I jumped and ran.” Hill is the man seen running toward the limousine in the famous film of the shooting, captured by a bystander named Abraham Zapruder. Hill jumped onto the back of the presidential car, in a desperate attempt to protect the president. “Just before I got to the car, the third shot hit him in the head.” Hill says.”It was too late.”
    First lady Jackie Kennedy had climbed onto the back hood of the car, but Hill moved her back into her seat, and attempted to shield the two of them from any further bullets, as the car sped to the hospital. As the president’s head lay in her lap, Hill heard Mrs. Kennedy say, “Oh, Jack, what have they done to you?”
    A newly detailed account of the assassination is laid out in the new book “The Kennedy Detail,” by former agent Jerry Blaine, written with journalist Lisa McCubbin, based on interviews with many of the agents who covered Kennedy. Former agent Hill, who has rarely granted interviews about the shooting, wrote a foreword…. – CNN, 11-21-10
  • Kennedy bodyguard nearly shot successor: A member of John F. Kennedy’s elite security detail wrote in a new book that he nearly shot the president’s successor Lyndon Johnson, just hours after the late leader was felled by an assassin’s bullet. Gerald Blaine, a member of the US Secret Service, recounted, in his just-published book “The Kennedy Detail,” that on the night of the assassination, he was assigned to protect the newly-sworn President Lyndon Johnson. In an interview with CNN Monday, 47 years after Kennedy’s November 22, 1963 assassination, Blaine discussed how he almost mistakenly shot Johnson.
    “It was about 2:15 in the morning at The Elms, which was Johnson’s residence before he became president. I heard, all of a sudden, a person approaching,” Blaine said. The now-retired secret service agent said that, fearing an attempt against the life of the new president, he raised his gun and put his finger on the trigger, only to see Johnson rounding the corner of the residence. “He turned white, he turned around and walked in — and that was the last that was ever said of it,” Blaine recalled…. – AFP, 11-22-10
  • JFK’s Assassination: ‘Changing From Memory To History’: Most any American who was over the age of five or so on Nov. 22, 1963, has answered this question more than once: Where were you when you heard President Kennedy had been killed? Many of us were at school or at work. Many recall the moment when CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite told the nation that “President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time — two o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.” Even the usually unflappable Cronkite had to pause for a moment, take off his glasses, and collect himself before going on.
    Today’s Dallas Morning News has a story headlined “47 Years After JFK Assassination, Sixth Floor Museum Adapts To New Era.” It underscores how things are changing as more and more Americans can’t relate to what happened in Dallas because they weren’t even born then. After all, the Census Bureau says nearly 70% of the population is under the age of 50. So, as the Morning News says:
    “On the one hand, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza wants to keep jogging the emotions of those old enough to recall the tragedy. On the other, it needs to find ways to explain the killing — using updated technology — to those who were yet to be born. “‘We’re at a pivotal moment right now,’ said Nicola Longford, the museum’s executive director. ‘We’re changing from memory to history.’ ”
    According to the Morning News, those who are too young to recall what happened on that day want much more than “artifacts in glass cases” and a plaza that has been “preserved to look like it did the day the president was shot.” They want interactive displays and lots of context. Adapting the museum to a changing population obviously makes sense…. – NPR, 11-22-10
  • First Poster: Katie Holmes as Jackie in ‘The Kennedys’: The eight-part miniseries premieres on The History Channel in 2011. The first promotional poster of Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy Onassis has hit the web. Monday is the 47th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. “We have these wonderful seamstresses who are creating beautiful dresses that are obviously replicas of real things [Kennedy] wore,” Holmes has said. “Her great style was both appropriate for every event that she went to and also classic, and also things that were wearable. I feel really lucky to be playing her.” The poster also shows Greg Kinnear as JFK, Barry Pepper as Bobby and Tom Wilkinson as their father, Joseph. The eight-part miniseries premieres in early 2011. It was also recently announced that Leonardo DiCaprio will star and produce a movie about the JFK’s assassination…. – Hollywood Reporter, 11-22-10
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