Wednesday, January 20, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 1834


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) A historic snowstorm is in the forecast for the Nation's Capital this coming Friday. Fifty-five years ago today, January 20, 1961, Washington was blanketed by snow as John Fitzgerald Kennedy was inaugurated 35th President of the United States on the East Front of the United States Capitol.

Todd Purdum of Vanity Fair describes the scene...

"Washington had never seen anything like it:  the tidal wave of glamour, promise, and high spirits that descended on the capital for the 1961 inauguration of the youngest president ever elected, John F. Kennedy--a movable, star-studded bash that couldn't be stopped even by a massive snowstorm."

Marian Anderson sang the National Anthem after which Mr. Kennedy's priest, Richard Cardinal Cushing, delivered the opening prayer.

Geoffrey Perret describes a tense moment during the prayer when..."blue smoke begins curling from under the rostrum into the 10-degree air."
A heater under the rostrum had an electrical short.  JFK's television adviser, J. Leonard Reinsch, quickly reached under the rostrum and pulled "out a plug."  

Robert Frost attempted unsuccessfully to read a poem that he wrote specifically for the historic event.  The bright sun reflecting off the Capitol dome along with the snow covered roofs of surrounding buildings made it impossible for the poet to see.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Frost recited one of his poems that he knew 'by heart,' "The Gift Outright"...then Chief Justice Earl Warren administered the oath of office as the youngest elected president in history was sworn on the Fitzgerald family Bible.

JFK Takes Oath of Office
Photo by Chief Signal Officer

President Kennedy's Inaugural Address, considered one of the best of the 20th century, included the following words...

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days; nor in the life of this Administration; nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin."

"From Kennedy's opening words to his last, the speech was one for the books, ranking, by broad consensus, with FDR's first inaugural as the most stirring of the 20th century.... And unlike some speeches whose greatness was appreciated only much later, Kennedy's was widely seen as great from the moment he delivered it."  

Tom Purdum

Geoffrey Perret writes..."Standing in the sunshine, hatless and coatless, he gives a performance not even he could have forseen,"  Later in the Rotunda, Jacqueline Kennedy gently touched her husband on the cheek and said...

"Oh, Jack, you were wonderful. What a day!"


"From That Day Forth,"  by Todd S. Purdum, Vanity Fair, February 2011.

"Jack:  A Life Like No Other," by Geoffrey Perret, Random House, New York, 2001.