Kennedy’s Inaugural Address was Fifty Years Ago Today

Fifty years ago today John F. Kennedy gave the greatest speech of my lifetime.

There were televisions in each classroom at El Rodeo Elementary School and we all watched the inauguration, the first one we had ever seen.  Many people who I have met say the same thing happened at their schools. I have often wondered what caused school administrators to set this up as it had never happened before.

JFK was young even to me, and I was 12.   As I heard Peggy Noonan say on the radio yesterday, we did not know that a president could be our parents’ age rather than our grandparents’ age or that he did not have to have grey hair.

The day seemed historic even at the time, from Robert Frost’s inability in the glare to see the text of the poem he had written for the occasion to the soaring rhetoric and almost comical dress clothes.   The speech apparently was largely written by Theodore Sorenson, who died just last October.   I memorized it for our 8th grade speech contest and I can still do a pretty good job today, somewhat to the annoyance of my family.

There are many critiques of Kennedy’s short period in office, but that day created a spirit of hope and aspiration that those of us who saw it will never forget.
It is worth watching. Only 14 minutes long.

~ by skaus on January 20, 2011.

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