President Barack Obama joined with Bill and Hillary Clinton on Wednesday to recognize the legacy of John F. Kennedy, the president who inspired a generation until he was felled by an assassin's bullets 50 years ago this week.
Obama, former President Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid a wreath and bowed their heads before Kennedy's grave at Arlington National Cemetery. As a bugler played “Taps,” an eternal flame at the gravesite fluttered in a chilly autumn breeze and Kennedy family members stood nearby.
It was a remarkable meeting of Democratic heavyweights to mark the anniversary of Kennedy's death on November 22, 1963, an event that has spawned countless books and conspiracy theories on whether assassin Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
The day was steeped in powerful political imagery as Obama awarded the highest U.S. civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom
, to Bill Clinton and 15 other Americans who have made significant contributions to U.S. culture, politics, sports and science.
The White House event was intended as a testament to the memory of Kennedy, who signed an executive order shortly before his death creating the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Kennedy also established the Peace Corps and set the country on a path to landing humans on the moon.
Kennedy was shot to death as he and his wife, Jacqueline, rode in a motorcade in Dallas. America has been awash in televised remembrances of the death of the handsome, vigorous 46-year-old president and subsequent killing of Oswald by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.
White House officials decided to mark the occasion with the Medal of Freedom ceremony to remember Kennedy's life rather than the macabre circumstances of his death.
Those who had the Medal of Freedom medal draped around their necks by Obama included a wide range of American success stories, from TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey to former Chicago Cubs baseball star Ernie Banks, country singer Loretta Lynn and former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.