Kennedy Sworn in as President – 50 yrs Ago Today

January 20, 2011

President Kennedy - official White House photo

 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.


Inauguration 2009 – Commentary

January 21, 2009
1789_washington_use
1789, Washington Inauguration

As a Canadian watching the inaugural celebrations held in Washington and throughout the United States yesterday, one thing struck me.

Peaceful transistion of power. How many other countries in the world see the incumbant head-of-state quietly and voluntarily leave the highest post in the country, to be succeeded immediately by the next head-of-state.

I believe the Founding Fathers of the United States wanted the inauguration to be a public demonstration of the effectiveness of the Constitution. A clear message to the American people and the rest of the world that democracy is alive and well.

1981, Reagan

1981, 1st Reagan Inauguration

To the American people, you have succeeded. To the outgoing president, your service to your country is appreciated. To the incoming president, may you succeed in addressing the problems facing you.

This Canadian appreciates the demonstration of democracy by my neighbor and best friend, America.


“So help me God”

January 20, 2009

This clause that is almost always added at the end of the presidential oath taking seems to get some upset.

This is an optional phrase. It is not part of the constitutionally mandated oath of office. It is in effect a sort of prayer by the president taking the oath, a personal thing.

Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States reads as follows:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Since the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, all presidents have added the phrase “so help me God” after taking the oath.

The first president to use”affirm” rather than swear in the oath was Franklin Pierce in 1853. Herbert Hoover is the only other to use “affirm” in 1929. Neither gave a particular reason that I could find in my research. It is almost certain Barack Obama will use “so help me God” after his oath.


High Hopes

January 19, 2009

The inauguration of Barack Obama tomorrow brings back my memories of another young man with high hopes. These high hopes were held by the president-elect and also people in general.

Inaugural Invitation, 1961

Inaugural Invitation, 1961

It was January 20, 1961. John F. Kennedy was being sworn in as the 35th President of the United States. He was the youngest person to be elected and the first Roman Catholic to hold the office.

Change was felt by all. Ideals were held high. Realistically those hopes were likely too high, but we didn’t care. The prospect of new ideas and new talent blew like a fresh breeze through our minds. Being only 11 at the time I suppose I was truly naive and overly optimistic. Now tempered by the last 48 years, I am realistic and struggling to be hopeful.

I wish nothing but the best to President Barack Obama in his presidency, but we need to temper our hopes with some realism. The world is a much more complex place in 2009, then it was in 1961.


%d bloggers like this: