Fifty years ago today John Fitzgerald Kennedy took the oath of office at exactly 12:00 p.m. Eastern time in Washington, DC.
Kennedy’s inauguration signaled a new generation ascending to power. His predecessor, President Eisenhower was of a previous generation and had served 8 years, since 1954-1961.
Kennedy, or JFK as he was affectionally known, was the youngest man ever elected president at age 43. Teddy Roosevelt was younger when he became president, but he became president after McKinley’s assassination.
Kennedy was also the first person of the Roman Catholic faith to be elected to the office.
The other fascination for people was his young family and his war service. He exuded personality and vigor. New ideas and renewed energy brought hope to young people.
When he was elected it was the height of the Cold War. The United States and the USSR had enough nuclear tipped missiles targeted at each other to destroy the world several times over. This wasn’t just an American or a Soviet issue, but a world living in the shadow of destruction. In fact the official policy of both nations was Mutually Assured Destruction or M.A.D. for short. Simply put if one country attacked the other it was assured both would be destroyed. Sounds crazy, but it was a fact that all of us lived with during that period. No wonder people were looking for new ideas and fresh hope.
Although his presidency was short-lived Kennedy began the dialogue with the Soviet Union on disarmament signing the Test Ban Treaty. This was a first step towards reducing nuclear arsenals.
I remember President Kennedy today for those steps he initiated towards reduction of nuclear tensions.