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20 January 2012

On this day in history: John F. Kennedy inaugurated as President, 1961

During the night before the inauguration of the thirty-fifth President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, heavy snow fell on Washington D.C. Nevertheless, on the morning of 20th January 1961, snow ploughs and gangs of workers cleared the processional route so that the ceremony could go ahead. Meanwhile, Kennedy attended Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown before joining President Eisenhower to travel in procession to the Capitol.

Hundreds of thousands of people watched as Cardinal Cushing of Boston delivered the Invocation prayer, the first time a Roman Catholic had done so. The eighty-six year old poet Robert Frost intended to read a poem he had written for especially for the occasion called Dedication, but the glare of the sun prevented him from doing so. Instead he recited another of his poems, The Gift Outright, from memory.

Following the swearing in of Vice President Johnson by Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, Chief Justice Earl Warren administered the presidential oath of office to Kennedy. The youngest ever President of the United States then delivered his inaugural address. After giving his address, Kennedy processed to the White House where he witnessed a parade, which had peace as its central motif.

Newsreel footage of Kennedy's inauguration

The full text of John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address is available on Wikisource.

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