Kennedy today is arguably more legend than reality. He served roughly a thousand days as President (which is also the measure of a full-time stint in law school). As this forum has noted, he was a Cold Warrior par excellence. His Vice-President, Lyndon B. Johnson, reaped both the fruits (the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts) and the thistles (Vietnam) of the Kennedy administration. Americans old enough to remember Kennedy invariably remember where they were when they learned this news:Having been born in 1966, I have no recollection of Kennedy. I do prefer to think of him as he was nearly three years before November 22, 1963, when he and the country he governed were full of life and promise. Kennedy's inaugural address, delivered on January 20, 1961, is perhaps best known for the exhortation, "ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country." But the preceding paragraph, I believe, has enduring power and carries special relevance at this very moment for the United States and the global community to which it belongs:
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.