In Memory of John F. Kennedy: First Inaugural Speech, Poems and more

The Sacramento Bee front page from Friday, Nov. 23, 1963.  Read more here:
The Sacramento Bee front page from Friday, Nov. 23, 1963.
Read more here:

November 22, 1963
from The New York Times – Video PRO 1 day ago
Will we ever know the truth about the Kennedy assassination? In a film by Errol Morris, Josiah “Tink” Thompson returns to what has haunted him for…

President Kennedy 1961 Inaugural Address

Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice president Nixon, President Truman, Reverend Clergy, fellow citizens:

We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end as well as a beginning–signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe-the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. 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.

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.

This much we pledge–and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do–for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom-and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those peoples in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge–to convert our good words into good deeds–in a new alliance for progress–to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support–to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective–to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak–and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

Finally, 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, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course–both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.

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.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms–and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah–to “undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free.”

And if a beach-head 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.

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. 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.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.

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.

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.


Note: The President spoke at 12:52 p.m. from a platform erected at the east front of the Capitol. Immediately before the address the oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Warren.
B) The President’s opening words “Reverend Clergy” referred to His Eminence Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston; His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, head of the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America; the Reverend Dr. John Barclay, pastor of the Central Christian Church, Austin, Tex.; and Rabbi Dr. Nelson Glueck, President of the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio.

The speech was reprinted from:

In my opinion, JFK’s inaugural speech is one of the best speeches, ever. His charisma, authenticity and most importantly, his ability to see and understand those across the isle along and his sense of humor indelibly endeared him and his family to Americans. Saddened yet inspired by this great President and his family, they endured unimagineable tragedies with dignity and grace.

pink-chanel-suit-of-jackie kennedy

The following are reportedly two of JFK’s favorite poems.

ULYSSES by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king, 
 By this still hearth, among these barren crags, 
 Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole 
 Unequal laws unto a savage race, 
 That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me. 
 I cannot rest from travel; I will drink 
 life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed 
 Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those 
 that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when 
 Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades 
 Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name; 
 For always roaming with a hungry heart 
 Much have I seen and known---cities of men 
 And manners, climates, councils, governments, 
 Myself not least, but honored of them all--- 
 And drunk delight of battle with my peers, 
 Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. 
 I am part of all that I have met; 
 Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough 
 Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades 
 Forever and forever when I move. 
 How dull it is to pause, to make an end. 
 To rust unburnished, not to shine in use! 
 As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life 
 Were all too little, and of one to me 
 Little remains; but every hour is saved 
 From that eternal silence, something more, 
 A bringer of new things; and vile it were 
 For some three suns to store and hoard myself, 
 And this gray spirit yearning in desire 
 To follow knowledge like a sinking star, 
 Beyond the utmost bound of human thought. 
This is my son, my own Telemachus, 
 To whom I leave the scepter and the isle--- 
 Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill 
 This labor, by slow prudence to make mild 
 A rugged people, and through soft degrees 
 Subdue them to the useful and the good. 
 Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere 
 Of common duties, decent not to fail 
 In offices of tenderness, and pay 
 Meet adoration to my household gods, 
 When I am gone. He works his work, I mine. 

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail; 
 There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners, 
 Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me--- 
 That ever with a frolic welcome took 
 The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed 
 Free hearts, free foreheads---you and I are old; 
 Old age hath yet his honor and his toil. 
 Death closes all; but something ere the end, 
 Some work of noble note, may yet be done, 
 Not unbecoming men that strove with gods. 
 The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks; 
 The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep 
 Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends. 
 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world. 
 Push off, and sitting well in order smite 
 the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds 
 To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths 
 Of all the western stars, until I die. 
 It may be that the gulfs will wash us down; 
 It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles, 
 And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. 
 Though much is taken, much abides; and though 
 We are not now that strength which in old days 
 Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are--- 
 One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
 Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
 To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.




FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 file photo, Jacqueline Kennedy, with bloodstains on her clothes, holds hands with her brother-in-law, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, as the coffin carrying the body of President John F. Kennedy is placed in an ambulance after arriving at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. near Washington. President Kennedy was assassinated earlier that afternoon in Dallas.    Read more here:
FILE – In this Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 file photo, Jacqueline Kennedy, with bloodstains on her clothes, holds hands with her brother-in-law, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, as the coffin carrying the body of President John F. Kennedy is placed in an ambulance after arriving at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. near Washington. President Kennedy was assassinated earlier that afternoon in Dallas.
Read more here:


“I Have a Rendezvous with Death” by Alan Seeger

I HAVE a rendezvous with Death   
At some disputed barricade,   
When Spring comes back with rustling shade   
And apple-blossoms fill the air—   
I have a rendezvous with Death          
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.   

It may be he shall take my hand   
And lead me into his dark land   
And close my eyes and quench my breath—   
It may be I shall pass him still.   
I have a rendezvous with Death   
On some scarred slope of battered hill,   
When Spring comes round again this year   
And the first meadow-flowers appear.   

God knows 'twere better to be deep   
Pillowed in silk and scented down,   
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,   
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,   
Where hushed awakenings are dear...   
But I've a rendezvous with Death   
At midnight in some flaming town,   
When Spring trips north again this year,   
And I to my pledged word am true,   
I shall not fail that rendezvous.


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Jackie Kennedy and Coretta Scott King
Jackie Kennedy and
Coretta Scott King

Related Articles and References

  1. John F. Kennedy: “Inaugural Address,” January 20, 1961. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

6 thoughts on “In Memory of John F. Kennedy: First Inaugural Speech, Poems and more

  1. The Best President of United State after 2nd-WW.
    the present leadership of the U.S. government has been a disappointment.
    Obama’s great disappointment, a liar with an empty speech and double standards.
    Asia without firing a missile, they have gained leadership.

    1. Bruno, I agree JFK was a good President.

      I think President Obama is one of the BEST PRESIDENT’s EVER! Considering what he inherited, he did a great job in steering us out of troubled waters. Still there are those conspiring to ensure this great President, the first Black president of the US, is not known for his accomplishments but for the FAILURES OF THE TEA PARTY and their racists acts against the vulnerable and people of color.

      On another related topic, there are forces that do not want the ACA because a Black Man did what NO OTHER COULD ACCOMPLISH! I chuckle: Jealously is a bitch…that’s why tanning is so popular…LOL

  2. Funny, we still don’t know what happened but we know the truth has not been told. Again, another powerful US group got away with MURDER. In those days, that was acceptable, the trend and the sacrifice for the greater good.

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