Accessibility links

Breaking News

U.S. Marks 100th Birthday Of Slain President John F. Kennedy


U.S. President John F. Kennedy delivers his famous speech in West Berlin on June 26, 1963.

The life and legacy of the late President John F. Kennedy was being celebrated in the United States on May 29, the day he would have turned 100 if he were still alive.

For many, Kennedy embodied the promise of possibility in the postwar United States, presiding over an era of hope and ambition known as Camelot before an assassin's bullet killed him in November 1963.

The youngest man ever elected president of the United States, at age 43, Kennedy famously told Americans in his inauguration speech, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

He served barely 1,000 days in office, at the height of the Cold War, but the man known by his initials JFK remains a political icon in the United States and abroad more than half a century after he was fatally shot in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald. Kennedy's brother Robert was assassinated on the presidential campaign trail in 1968.

Much of Kennedy's presidency focused on managing relations with the Soviet Union. In 1962, Kennedy resolved the Cuban Missile Crisis -- a 13-day confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union triggered by U.S. ballistic missiles deployed in Italy and Turkey and the subsequent deployment of Soviet ballistic missiles in Cuba. Many historians consider the crisis to be the closest the Cold War came to escalating into a full-blown nuclear conflict.

In 1963, less than two years after Soviet satellite East Germany erected the Berlin Wall to prevent mass migration to the western part of the city, Kennedy delivered a stern message of support for the Germans and other nations trapped under communist rule in Eastern Europe.

Speaking from West Berlin, Kennedy addressed Germans on both sides of the wall, uttering his famous phrase "Ich bin ein Berliner" -- I am a Berliner -- in a sign of solidarity with those beyond the Iron Curtain and a warning to an increasingly aggressive Soviet Union.

A Mass was planned on May 29 at St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis, Massachusetts, where the Kennedy family -- Roman Catholics by religion -- had its residence. A memorial service will also be held at the JFK Memorial.

The U.S. Postal Service planned to commemorate Kennedy's centennial with a dedication of a new JFK postage stamp in Brookline, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb where the late president was born on May 29, 1917.

In Boston, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum was holding a celebration.

A wreath-laying ceremony was being held at his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and dpa
  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.