One of President Kennedy’s famous sayings, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,” came in his inaugural address.
John F Kennedy took office in January 1961 as the youngest elected US president and its first (so far only) Catholic Commander-in-Chief, embodying high post-war hopes.
He was team leader in the space race with the Soviet Union, a major offshoot of the Cold War. Propaganda and technology were both in the competition; and yet the world escaped nuclear Armageddon.
Russian atomic weapons were set up in Cuba, on America’s doorstep, then spotted by Washington’s spy planes. Kennedy imposed a naval blockade of the Caribbean Communist island, and issued an ultimatum that Moscow remove the missiles – or face the consequences.
They blinked. But not in divided Berlin, where they’d built the infamous Wall, separating East from West. Kennedy went in person, to show solidarity.
“Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’.” [I am a Berliner.]
Back in the US, the land of the free and the home of the brave, as the anthem goes, the president was confronted with racial segregation. The black civil rights movement was marching for change. Kennedy received Martin Luther King Jr and other leaders at the White House.
The Kennedy legend was still blooming when the handsome, youthful couple of John and his wife Jackie came to Dallas for a business lunch. They rode downtown in an open car.
He was fatally shot by a sniper on November 22, 1963. A horrified nation watched.
Live television carried the funeral of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, on his son John-John’s third birthday.