Obama, Clinton pay tribute to John F. Kennedy legacy
WASHINGTON - The Associated Press
Obama (2nd L), Bill Clinton (3rd L) and Hillary Clinton participate in a wreath laying in honor of Kennedy. REUTERS photoPresident Barack Obama paid tribute Nov. 21 to former President John F. Kennedy’s legacy, joining former President Bill Clinton to lay a wreath at Kennedy’s grave and presenting a freedom medal that Kennedy conceived before his assassination 50 years ago this week.
Obama also recognized a group of distinguished Americans - including Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey - with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an award created by JFK. The U.S. president was joined at Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 20 by Clinton, and each president held hands with Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy, as they climbed a flight of stairs to the burial site on a steep hillside overlooking the nation’s capital.
First lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helped their husbands place a large wreath of white flowers in front of the roped-off gravesite of America’s 35th president, which is marked by an ever-burning flame.
The day of tributes began at the White House, where Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 living and deceased Americans for their contributions in fields ranging from sports and entertainment to science and public service.
“These are the men and women who in their extraordinary lives remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans, the potential that lives inside of all of us,” Obama said.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, daughter Chelsea Clinton and film director Steven Spielberg were among scores of people seated in the White House East Room for the ceremony, which Obama said is “one of my favorite events every year.”
Kennedy established the modern version of the medal but was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, weeks before he was to honor the inaugural group of recipients. Hundreds of notable figures since have received the honor.
Obama continued to lionize the slain president at a dinner honoring the medal’s recipients.
“He reminded us that everyone has the capacity to explore, to imagine and to give back to our great nation no matter the path we choose,” the younger Kennedy said of his grandfather.
On the assassination anniversary today, Obama plans to meet privately at the White House with leaders and volunteers from the Peace Corps program, also established by Kennedy.