On January 20th, 1961, John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president of the United States. On that day, he gave his only inaugural address; he was assassinated November 22nd, 1963. During his speech, Kennedy addressed several things – what it meant to be American, the problems facing the world (namely, the power to destroy civilization several times over), and the long road that Humanity, as a species, faced.
Kennedy wrote his inaugural address with the help of Ted Sorensen, his special counsel, adviser, and primary speechwriter. According to Sorensen, the most famous line in the speech – “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” – was written by Kennedy (although he later claimed that he didn’t remember who had come up with it).
As Kennedy came into power during the height of the Cold War, he had to strike a balance with his speech. He had to present the United States as a power that wouldn’t back down in the face of adversity or tense relations, but also as one that wouldn’t do anything to provoke another country. He stressed the importance of peaceful relations between America and other countries, and lending a helping hand to the parts of the world that were overrun with poverty.
The speech spoke to the importance of striking a balance. War couldn’t be used to solve every problem and with the advent of nuclear weapons, it was all the more imperative to ensure that rival nations (such as the United States and the U.S.S.R) not act in such a way to devolve relations. Ideally, they would come together in some way to bring the devastating power under control and use the power at their fingers to do what was right & just. Kennedy wanted separate sides to be able to reach across the table and meet the other on decisions that would be not only mutually beneficial, but beneficial to the world.