50 Years Ago…

On Tuesday, January 17, 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to the American people, where he warned of the growing power of the “military-industrial complex.”

On Friday, January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address to the American people, where he charged, “…ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

It was a big week for Presidential speeches.

Many Americans were inspired by these speeches. During their Presidencies, I wrote letters to President Eisenhower and President Kennedy. My letter to President Eisenhower was inspired by a class project where I had to write a report about his trip to India – my first experience with reading The New York Times! My letter to President Kennedy was inspired by his “proposed Peace Corps.” Even as Archivist of the United States, I never imagined that I would be able to see these letters again. I have learned that you should never underestimate what an archivist can find! On my visits to Presidential Libraries, I have seen both of my letters.

The records at Presidential Libraries help tell the story behind these two speeches. I hope you take a few minutes to watch the following videos that help explain the evolution of the speeches through the drafts and notes found within the records at the National Archives.



For More Information:

  • Learn more about new records available on President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address and view these records.
  • JFK 50 Years: Celebrate the past to awaken the future.  A website by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
  • Pass the Torch – the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy, special exhibit at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.