December 2013

America Remembers the Legacy of John F. Kennedy

Ceremony at Dealey PlazaCeremony at Dealey Plaza

Ceremony at Dealey Plaza
The city of Dallas, Texas, hosted a memorial ceremony for John F. Kennedy at Dealey Plaza, the location where President Kennedy was assassinated.

Fifty years ago, on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy were waving from an open car to cheering crowds along the streets of Dallas, Texas. Suddenly, gunshots rang out. President Kennedy was assassinated. News of his death shocked the world.

This year, on the 50th anniversary of this national tragedy, many Americans took time out to mourn the loss of President Kennedy. They also honored his legacy and celebrated his lasting impact on the United States. Commemorative ceremonies were held in towns and cities across the nation. Dallas hosted a ceremony for the first time since the assassination.

John F. Kennedy is remembered for the many accomplishments he made during the less than three years he was President. He developed a program called the New Frontier that helped make life better in the United States. The program raised the minimum wage and helped rebuild poor areas in America’s older cities. Kennedy also called on the American people to work for the good of their country. At his inauguration in January 1961, he uttered these now famous words, “And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

President Kennedy started the Peace Corps to encourage young Americans to assist the international community. Today, the Peace Corps still sends volunteers to developing countries to help improve their living conditions. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, Kennedy helped prevent a war between the United States and the Soviet Union. This war could have had catastrophic results for the entire world.

During Kennedy’s presidency, the Civil Rights movement grew in strength. Kennedy introduced a bill to protect the rights of African Americans and other minority groups. The bill, which was passed by Congress after Kennedy’s death, became known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law made segregation in public places illegal. It also said that employers could not refuse to hire people because of their race, religion, national origin, or gender.

Among President Kennedy’s best-known accomplishments was expanding America’s space program. In May 1961, Kennedy set a bold new goal for the United States. He wanted NASA scientists to put an astronaut on the moon by the end of the 1960s. The goal was reached on July 20, 1969, when the Apollo 11 mission successfully reached the moon. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon. Unfortunately, Kennedy did not live to see it.

On November 22, 2013, members of the Kennedy family honored the memory of John F. Kennedy in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Jean Kennedy Smith, President Kennedy’s last surviving sibling, laid a wreath on her brother’s grave. Smith is the former U.S. ambassador to Ireland. The other family members then joined her in prayer near the Eternal Flame, John F. Kennedy’s presidential memorial.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama paid their respects at President Kennedy’s gravesite with former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. President Obama said of President Kennedy: “I don’t know of anyone who has had that same impact on a generation and inspired so many people as JFK has.”

Image credit: ©Mike Stone/Reuters

Question 1
How many years ago was President John F. Kennedy assassinated?

Question 2
What was the New Frontier?

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