John F. Kennedy, thirty-fifth U.S. president
Delivers inaugural address
"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." (Washington, D.C., January 20, 1961)
On January 20, 1961, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the thirty-fifth president of the United States. Two months before, in one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history, Kennedy, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, won 49.7 percent of the popular vote, surpassing by a fraction the 49.6 percent received by Vice President Richard M. Nixon, a Republican.
During his famous inauguration address, Kennedy, the youngest candidate ever elected to the presidency, and also the country's first Catholic president, declared that "the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans."
The energetic Kennedy and his glamorous wife Jackie proved fitting representatives of the positive and youthful spirit of America during the early 1960s, and the Kennedy White House was idealized by admirers as a modern-day Camelot.
In foreign policy, Kennedy displayed firmness and restraint, exercising an unyielding opposition to the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba, but also demonstrating a level-headedness during negotiations for their removal. On the domestic front, he introduced his "New Frontier" social legislation, calling for a rigorous federal desegregation policy and a radical new civil rights bill. On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, while riding in an open-car motorcadewith his wife.