Posted by: SJS | January 19, 2021

Inauguration Day 1960

PT 109 float in Inaugural Parade for JFK on January 20, 1960

As an eight year-old boy, I was fascinated to watch the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in January of 1960. In the parade that followed the swearing in of the new president, I was thrilled beyond words to see the float that held a replica of PT 109. I stood up, put on my sailor’s cap, and saluted as I watched that part of the parade. I was so proud, I thought I would burst. My father had spent his time in the navy serving on boats that looked just like that boat gliding down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Part of the ceremony on that memorable day featured the poet, Robert Frost. He delivered his poem, “The Gift Outright.” Standing at the podium on that bitterly cold day in the glaring sunlight, the 85 year-old Frost brought poetry into living rooms all across America. His snow white hair was whipped by the wind but his voice was strong. With the exception of the inaugural address by President Kennedy, the voice of Robert Frost is the only voice on the stage that I remember from that day.

Robert Frost delivers his poem, “The Gift Outright,” as President Kennedy looks on

My lifelong love of poetry began on that day. By the time I was in the fifth grade, the practice of committing poems to memory was a discipline that I came to cherish.

As a third grader, I could not grasp the meaning or significance of Frost’s words but his presence on the inaugural stage that day spoke volumes about the importance of literature and the arts. Watching President Kennedy paying such close attention to the poet who shared the spotlight with him sent a powerful message. It was a message that was not lost on me.

Outgoing president Eisenhower and new president Kennedy with Robert Frost

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