By Pauline Murphy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th president of the USA on 20th January, 1961. Despite freezing temperatures and snowfall almost one million people attended Washington, DC in the hope of seeing the newly elected president. The inauguration was the first to be broadcast in colour on television.
JFK’s great-grandfather was from Dunganstown, Co. Wexford, and he was the first Catholic president of the US. At forty-three years old Kennedy became the youngest elected president.
Kennedy’s inauguration ceremony took place in the United States Capitol building. The proceedings began with religious invocation and prayers from Cardinal Richard Cushing before opera singer Marian Anderson sang the US anthem ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.
Poet Robert Frost recited his poem entitled ‘The Gift Outright’ making him the first poet to read at a US presidential inauguration. Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as vice-president prior to the oath of office being administered to Kennedy by Chief Justice Earl Warren.
The incumbent President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon and former President Truman were in attendance. In addition, four past, present and future first ladies were seated side by side at the inauguration – Pat Nixon, Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson and Jacqueline Kennedy.
Kennedy took up office in the midst of the Cold War. Other issues of the day included the threat of communism, racial unrest, a nuclear arms race and economic problems. His inaugural speech included the now famous line ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’.