Harvard Community Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Kennedy's Assassination

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his assassination, Harvard will host a series of events to honor the legacy of President John F. Kennedy ’40 on Friday.

The Harvard Kennedy School and the Institute of Politics will broadcast a live webcast of an event at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum to pay tribute to the late Kennedy, who was also a former Crimson business editor.


The ceremony will include performances from singer-songwriter James Taylor and the United States Naval Academy’s Women’s Glee Club, as well as readings of Kennedy’s most notable speeches, one of which will presented by Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick '78.

“It’ll be short, solemn, with very little speaking, which I think is the appropriate thing to do,” C. M. Trey Grayson ’94, director of the IOP, said.


The broadcast, which will be shown in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, will begin at 1:30 p.m., pausing for a moment of silence around 2 p.m. when Kennedy’s death was publicly announced half a century ago.

“We thought it made the most sense to show support for a sister institution,” Grayson said.

After the webcast, Kennedy School faculty will recount their experiences of Kennedy’s assassination during an event sponsored by the Center for Public Leadership and co-coordinated by professors Richard D. Parker, Marshall L. Ganz '64, David R. Gergen, and Patricia S. Bellinger '83. The gathering will take place in the Malkin Penthouse of the Littauer House.

On Friday, the museum at the Kennedy Presidential Library will also open an exhibit presenting artifacts from the President’s state funeral, many of which will be on public display for the first time.

These events will conclude JFK 50, the celebration by the IOP, the Kennedy School, and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation that began nearly three years ago with the 50th anniversary of the President’s inauguration.

Beyond the JFK 50 celebration, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study will host a screening of the film, “Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy,” a documentary film directed by Oscar-winner Bill Couturie. Ellen Fitzpatrick, a former fellow at the Radcliffe Institute and author of “Letters to Jackie,” will be in attendance at the screening.

Owen W. Andrews, research manager at the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School, said that these commemorative events are important to recognize the profound impact of Kennedy’s presidency.

“I was only six at the time of his death, but I know from uncles, aunts, people in my life that he was an inspiration to a lot of people,” Andrews said. “People joined the Peace Corps because of him. People chose careers they otherwise might not have chosen because of his calls to action. His presidency was a breath of fresh air.”

Grayson said that Harvard students should commemorate Kennedy because of the relevance of this legacy today.

“Part of Harvard’s mission is to train good citizens,” Grayson said. “President Kennedy is right that there’s an obligation for people like us to participate.”

—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.


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