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The fleeting presidency of John F. Kennedy began with a pep rally for the New Frontier. America’s handsome new President had to deliver a big show for the viewing audience, many watching for the first time on colour television. Before chilled spectators at the Capitol building, the ceremony included a reading by poet laureate Robert Frost before Kennedy launched into the address he co-penned with speechwriter Ted Sorenson. Running nearly 14 minutes, Kennedy’s speech focused on balancing duty and power during the Cold War era and included the directive, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Although the call for public service cemented Kennedy’s legend, it was later suggested he appropriated the quote from a former college headmaster – who in turn borrowed it from the Roman philosopher Cicero.
President John F. Kennedy & wife Jacqueline Kennedy leave the White House as they walk to the inauguration. (Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Vice-President Lyndon Johnson and Kennedy's defeated presidential opponent Richard Nixon share a moment during the inaugural ceremony on Capital Hill. (Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Kennedy and wife Jacqueline exchange glances as they sit at the Capitol during the inaugural ceremony. With them are former President Dwight Eisenhower and Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson, wife of new Vice-President, Lyndon Johnson. Chief Justice Earl Warren sits behind Kennedy. (AP Photo)
President Kennedy gives his inaugural address after taking the oath of office. Listening in the front row, from left, are, incoming Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, outgoing Vice-President and Kennedy's defeated presidential opponent Richard Nixon, Sen John Sparkman, D- Ala., and former President Harry Truman. (AP Photo)
President John F. Kennedy delivers his inaugural address after taking the oath of office. (AP Photo)
Jacqueline Kennedy has a chuck under the chin for her husband moments after he became president. This exclusive picture by AP photographer Henry Burroughs was taken in the rotunda of the Capitol just after Kennedy left the inaugural stand. (AP Photo/Henry Burroughs)
Kennedy and wife Jacqueline on Inauguration Day. (Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos)
Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon Johnson at an inaugural ceremony. (Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)