President John F. Kennedy: Election, Inauguration, and Vetoes

About President of the United States John F. Kennedy, his election, inauguration speech and bills he vetoed.

November 8, 1960....

On Election Day, Kennedy won with one of the shakiest mandates in American history. He polled 34,227,096 votes to Nixon's 34,108,546-a margin of only 49.9% to 49.6%.. Most of the States had actually voted against Kennedy, as had majorities of whites, college graduates, high-income people, women, Protestants, farmers, senior citizens, and business and professional people. In the Electoral College, with the help of Lyndon Johnson's strong appeal to the Solid South and some disputed votes from Mayor Daley's Chicago, Kennedy won by the more comfortable margin of 303 to 219.

January 20, 1961....

On Inauguration Day, Washington was blanketed by an unexpected snowstorm as temperatures plunged to 20 deg above zero. The city was plagued by traffic jams, and the spectators who gathered to watch the inaugural ceremonies stamped their feet, slapped their arms, and blew into cupped hands to keep warm.

At Kennedy's request, the aged poet Robert Frost made a special appearance on the inaugural platform. He read a poem which he had written in honor of the occasion:

Summoning artists to participate

In the august occasions of the state

Seems something artists ought to celebrate....

A golden age of poetry and power

Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.

In the blinding winter sunlight, the old man had difficulty reading his text; he eventually gave up his effort, and recited instead a poem he knew by heart.

As Kennedy stood up to take the oath of office from Chief Justice Earl Warren, he stunned the freezing crowd by stripping off his overcoat. His address, considered one of the most eloquent inaugurals in American history, contained more than a dozen ringing phrases which have since become shopworn political cliches. His most famous line had originally read: "Ask not what your country will do for you, but what you will do for your country." At the last moment, he had scratched out the words "will" on his text and replaced them by "can."

At the inaugural ball, Jack and Jackie dazzled the crowds. According to one of the new President's close friends, JFK "saw the whole thing and adored it....you knew this was one of his great moments, you could tell. Here was the reigning prince, and he was loving it."

Vetoes: In his brief term, JFK vetoed only 21 bills-a smaller number than any President since Harding. None of his vetoes were overridden by Congress.

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