Remembering John F Kennedy’s Legacy on His 56th Death Anniversary

On his 56th death anniversary, let us highlight late US President John F Kennedy’s relations with India.

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Remembering John F Kennedy’s Legacy on His 56th Death Anniversary
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(This story was first published on 22 November 2017. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark John F Kennedy’s death anniversary.)

National park rangers will lay a wreath outside Kennedy's childhood home in Brookline, Massachusetts, and a 21-gun salute by an honour guard will follow at Wednesday’s commemoration event for John F Kennedy.

Wednesday's solemn commemorations fall on the anniversary of Kennedy's assassination in Dallas on 22 November 1963.

The observances are being held at what is now known as the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site administered by the National Park Service.

The nation's 35th president was born in the leafy Boston suburb on 29 May 1917. Over the past year, numerous conferences and other events have been held worldwide to examine JFK's legacy and imagine his impact had he survived.

On his 55th death anniversary, let us highlight Kennedy’s legacy in six areas: Public service, civil rights, peace and diplomacy, arts and culture, science and innovation and, most important of all, relations with India.

35th President of the United States of America, John F Kennedy.
(Photo Courtesy: Flickr)

Public Service

In 1961, Kennedy established the Peace Corps to encourage mutual understanding between America and people of other nations and cultures. The Peace Corps thrives today. Since its inception, some 2,00,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in over 139 countries.


Civil Rights

Kennedy advocated full legal equality for African Americans. A comprehensive Civil Rights Bill was drafted in the fall of 1963. It was passed after Kennedy's death as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The civil rights movement moved forward from there, breaking barriers and tearing down walls.


Peace and Diplomacy

In October 1963, Kennedy signed a Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty among the US, Russia and Great Britain. Thirty-three years later, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by 71 nations. President Clinton signed it but the Senate rejected it by a vote of 51 to 48.


Arts and Culture

JFK's effect as a leader for arts and culture in the US is unparalleled and unmatched. During his presidency, he took the lead in raising funds for a National Cultural Museum. After his assassination, Congress designated the National Cultural Museum as a "living memorial" to Kennedy. In 2017, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is one of the foremost venues of its type in the world.

Art nourishes the roots of our culture.
John F Kennedy
Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru makes a speech during arrival ceremonies, accompanied by John F Kennedy.
(Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/Abbie Rowe) 

Science and Innovation

As part of the space race against Russia, in 1961 Kennedy called upon the nation to commit to the ambitious goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. On 5 May 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to travel in space. In February of 1962, astronaut and future Senator John Glenn orbited the earth. On 20 July 1969, the Apollo 11 crew set foot on the moon and came back safely. America's record in exploring the galaxy has grown exponentially since then.


Relations With India

In addition to his accomplishments and legacy in these areas, President Kennedy also had a substantial and positive influence on relations between the US and India and on religious tolerance and ecumenism.

During his presidency, he sent two of the US' top thought leaders, John Kenneth Galbraith and Chester Bowles, to India as ambassadors.

His wife Jacqueline visited India and Pakistan in March 1962.
Jacqueline being greeted by Jawaharlal Nehru at the airport while on her visit to India.
(Photo Courtesy: Flickr)

Most importantly, in terms of economic development, he ensured a commitment of nearly $1 billion annually in aid to India – the largest amount for any nation at that time. Important US projects in India, in addition to food aid, included IIT Kanpur fashioned after MIT, Nagarjuna Sagar Dam in Andhra Pradesh; and the Premier automobile factory in Mumbai.


Finally, even though he was a practising Catholic, Kennedy held all religions in high regard. In speaking before the Protestant Council of New York City in November 1963, he said, "The family of man is not limited to a single race or religion, to a single city, or country... the family of man is nearly three billion strong. Most of its members are not white and most of them are not Christian."

The members of this family should be at peace with one another.
John F Kennedy

Remembering those words of President Kennedy as we approach his death anniversary. I also remember the words from Camelot, the Broadway musical of his era:

Don’t let it be forgot, That once there was a spot, For one brief shining moment that was known As Camelot.

President Kennedy brought America its Camelot.


(Published in an arrangement with IANS.)

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