It was 100 years ago this day, May 29, 1917, that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy in Brookline, Massachusetts. In a year marked by centennials (some recalled here), it is equally-fitting that we pause to remember the 36th President of the United States.
Beset by health problems and overshadowed by his gregarious older brother, JFK became the star of the Kennedy clan only after Joe Jr. died. Kennedy’s political ascent, fueled by his father, was remarkable; after a quiet congressional career JFK won the 1960 presidential election by just 110,000 popular votes (Richard Nixon carried more states.)
Yet we remember John F. Kennedy today for the message he espoused and symbol he embodied. In an age enveloped by the Cold War, Kennedy offered a vision of hope:
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.
We remember John F. Kennedy today for the promise he represented. After a decade under the dowdy Eisenhower, the youthful new President and his family signaled a fresh start for America. Groundbreaking legislation in Civil and Voting Rights (passed in Kennedy’s memory), along with programs like the Peace Corps, helped inspire a generation.
We also, of course, remember John F. Kennedy today because of the horrific way in which his presidency ended. That same generation whose hearts and minds were awakened had to endure the unimaginable as their hopes and dreams slipped away.
We mark the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth because of those things we still remember, those ideals that still make us tingle. Hope. Energy. Faith. Devotion. Promise. Those words run through this article and they run through our minds whenever we think of John F. Kennedy. May we always be inspired to our best by his legacy.
After all, as he reminded us,
All this will not be finished…in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.
The block quotes in this article are taken from John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, delivered on January 20, 1961.