11/22/63: A Beloved President is Taken too Soon

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Shannon Sabo

The anniversary of John F. Kennedy's death is a time to remember the idealism and values of the United States' 35th President. In his inaugural address, Kennedy made this famous statement: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." 

Kennedy took office during a recession, but made efforts to lower taxes, offer protections to the unemployed, increase the minimum wage, and stimulate the economy by focusing on business and housing sectors. His administration pumped money into domestic and military spending, and the recession faded.

Kennedy also pushed for new social programs, such as:

  • Federal aid for education
  • Medical care for the elderly
  • Urban mass transit
  • The Department of Urban Affairs

Kennedy also supported the growing civil rights movement, speaking in favor of school desegregation and appointing unprecedented numbers of African Americans to high-level positions in his administration. He strengthened the Civil Rights Commission and appointed Lyndon B. Johnson to be in charge of the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. Under his watch, Attorney General Robert Kennedy fought for voting rights for minorities.

John F. Kennedy did not push hard for new civil rights legislation, however, for fear of losing too much southern support. This may have contributed to unrest within the African American population, as they continued to experience discrimination and suffer the ill effects of segregation. Several times, the Kennedy administration mobilized federal troops to enforce desegregation.

On June 11, 1963, Kennedy gave the famous Civil Rights Announcement:

“Today, we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. … It ought to to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color.”

Toward the end of 1963, Kennedy submitted a civil rights bill, which became a law after his death. Use HeinOnline to check out his remarks upon signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964available in the U.S. Statutes at Large. A compiled legislative history of this Act is available in the U.S. Federal Legislative History library. Access the Public Papers of the Presidents for John F. Kennedy in the U.S. Presidential Library.

Run a search for "John F. Kennedy" AND "Civil Rights" in the Law Journal Library and sort search results by number of times cited by articles to view the most frequently cited legal scholarship on these subjects:


In addition to his civil rights work, Kennedy established the Peace Corps and supported the Space Program, which sent the first human to outer space during his presidency. He also orchestrated the ill-fated Bay of Pigs Invasion, dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis, and advocated internationally for representative democracy.

John F. Kennedy was shot and killed on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.

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