Thursday, January 20, 2011

President Kennedy's Legendary 1961 Inaugural Address - 50 Years Ago Today

Fifty years ago today, 43 year old   John F. Kennedy,  gave one of the most inspiring speeches of modern times when he was inaugurated President of the United States at 12:51 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.  This speech helped inspire an entire generation of Americans to do things such as volunteer for the Peace Corp, work for civil rights for African Americans in the South (who were still legally separated as second-class citizens at the time), and work on scientific projects such as the first Moon landing at a time when the Soviet Union and the Communist model seemed to be exceeding in the scientific and technology spheres.

President Kennedy, of course, was assassinated on November 22, 1963. However, this speech is remembered as one of the greatest inaugural addresses of any American President.  Only President Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address, delivered in March 1865, one month before his assassination, have had as much of a lasting impact on the American people. Sadly, the United States has not yet learned that unrestricted gun availability kills people.

The entire text of the address can be found here:  Here is one famous passage.

"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."

The speech is very moving, and Kennedy's oratory excellent. 

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