Ask What You Can Do For Your Country
It is bitterly cold in Washington, D.C., and on January 19, 1961 an unusually thick and heavy snow is falling. That evening the army and navy are called to help clean the streets. Three thousand servicemen, using 700 snow plows and trucks, work through the night. The next day the temperature stays below freezing, and snow is piled high, but the streets are clear. At noon, some 20,000 guests fill the wooden bleachers that have been set up in front of the Capitol . The winter sun shines on the banks of new snow, the wind nips at people's cheeks. It is Inauguration Day. America's favorite poet, Robert Frost , has written a special poem for the occasion:
"Summoning artists to participate
In the august occasions of the state
Seems something for us all to celebrate ."
Most of the presidential party wear scarves and mittens with their top hats and formal clothes. But the President-elect seems to be unfazed by the cold. He takes off his overcoat before he speaks. Then John Fitzgerald Kennedy puts his hand on the Bible and swears to uphold his responsibilities . At forty-three, he is the youngest president since Theodore Roosevelt .
In his inaugural address Kennedy speaks of the passing of the torch. "Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed.... And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country ."