(Washington, D.C.)- A wreath-laying ceremony will be held Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination at Kennedy’s gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery. The Obama family as well as Bill and Hilary Clinton will attend the ceremony and other events during the week to honor Kennedy. On Friday, President Obama will privately meet with leaders from the Peace Corps, a program Kennedy also initiated.
According to an Associated Press article on Businessweek’s website, one of Kennedy’s final initiatives, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, will be remembered, and the 2013 recipients of the award will be honored Wednesday, including Oprah Winfrey, country singer Loretta Lynn, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, Bill Clinton, and others. Former medal winners like Aretha Franklin, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other former winners are said to be attending, too.
Kennedy died two weeks before the first-ever ceremony for this initiative. On the same day that Jacqueline Kennedy and children moved out of the White House, newly-appointed President Lyndon B. Johnson directed the ceremony and honored the late Kennedy with a medal. His brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, accepted it on this brother’s behalf.
“In the shattering sequence of events that began 14 days ago, we encountered in its full horror man’s capacity for hatred and destruction,” Johnson said at the ceremony. “There is little we do not know of evil, but it is time to turn once more to the pursuits of honor and excellence and of achievement that have always marked the true direction of the American people.”
President Kennedy instituted today’s Presidential Medal of Freedom as “the highest honor given to civilians” in February 1963. It was originally “a presidential privilege” and it “expanded its scope to honor contributions to world peace, culture and other public interests”.
The medal ceremony and dinner will take place at the Smithsonian American History Museum, where Kennedy’s grandson Jack Schlossberg will introduce President Obama. Obama plans on speaking about Kennedy’s “legacy of service”, as Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Robert Kennedy’s daughter, and JFK’s surviving sibling and medal winner Jean Kennedy Smith will also be in attendance.
Story by: Caitlin Nearhood