Survey: Americans still view Kennedy’s inauguration speech as important

President John F. Kennedy delivers his inaugural address
President John F. Kennedy delivers his inaugural address


Americans believe that key themes from President Kennedy’s inauguration speech are still important more than 50 years later, a new survey says.

Kennedy, the first Catholic U.S. president, was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal charitable organization which in 2010 funded restoration work on the assassinated president’s tomb. The tomb at Arlington National Cemetery bears inscriptions from his January 20, 1961 presidential inaugural speech.

A Knights of Columbus-Marist poll focused on several memorable passages about freedom, service to the country, and the role of God in national life. These included Kennedy’s statement “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the
survival and the success of liberty,” as well as his famous call to service: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Ninety-five percent or more of respondents said these quotes are either very or somewhat important for the United Sates.

Two other quotations dealt with the role of God in national life. Those quotes were: “Here on earth God’s work must truly be our own” and “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

About 86 percent of respondents said the first quotation was either very or somewhat important for the U.S., while about 85 percent said the same of the second quotation. However, about 20 percent of Millennials, those between 18 and 29, thought both quotes were not very important or not important at all.

Two-thirds of respondents overall and 82 percent of Millennials think President Kennedy was “one of the best presidents in history.”

“Fifty years after President John F. Kennedy stirred a nation with these important words, Americans continue to recognize the importance of what he said, of his definition of what it means to be an American,” commented Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight of Columbus.

“President Kennedy reminded us then that we must be at the service of God and country and that message – as Americans clearly understand – is still very important to our nation today.”

The survey of 1,018 adults was conducted Jan. 6 to Jan. 10 and claims a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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