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My OTHER Presidential Inaugural Medal, the JFK piece

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Here is the second medal in my presidential inauguration medal “collection.” It is the 1961 John F. Kennedy piece.


I own this one for two reasons. First, it is the first presidential inauguration that I can remember, and I remember that day because I saw it on television OUTSIDE of school. Second, this medal turned out to be the design prototype for the Kennedy half dollar. Following the Kennedy assassination, Congress quickly authorized the JFK half dollar, and the coin had be rushed into production. There was not much time to agonize over the design.


I was in the 6th grade when JFK took office. My teacher, who was a strong practitioner of “progressive education,” wanted the class to see the inauguration as a civics lesson, but there were no TVs in my school at that time. Finally he made arrangements for the class to walk to the home of one of our classmates to view the event there. It was very cold day and snow was on the ground as we walked from the school to the house that was about two blocks from the school. The father of girl whose house we invaded was a well know local stockcar racer, and I remember seeing his case full of trophies.


It was very cold in Washington, DC. too. Everyone’s breath made them look like steam engines. I remember seeing Robert Frost, then an old man, dressed in a heavy overcoat reading a poem he had written for the occasion. This was the first of any number of links that JFK would make with artists and other cultural figures during his administration.


I remember Lyndon Johnson taking the vice presidential Oath of Office, and then it was JFK’s turn. Unlike the other speakers JFK wore a business suit and no topcoat or hat as he gave his address. That would start a fashion trend for men to the chagrin of topcoat manufacturers. I wish I could say that I remember when JFK said, “Ask not what you country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” but I can’t. I do remember his comments about the torch being passed to a new generation as President Eisenhower sat there, clearly a symbol of the outgoing generation.


After it was over we walked back to school to finish the day. Yet it was the most memorable day of my 6th grade education, and this piece seems like a fitting souvenir of that time.


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Not only was I not around for that, my mother wasn't around yet either. As much as I dislike FDR, I like his medal better, the one you showed in another thread. Good story though. It's funny how those special things stick with us long after we've forgotten everything else.

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Ahhh yes, I remember it well back in 1961. I remember watching the news coverage that eveing, it was in black & white, probably because we did not own a color TV set yet, it was really, really cold, but his speech was uplifting to all Americans. There was actually 2 famous lines, back to back, but the reference to American citizens stuck rather quickly, while the "world citizens" reference faded.


[font:System]And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.[/font]


[font:System] My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.[/font]


Super nice medals Bill, I like them both, thanks for the history lessons. You are a credit to this forum.



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