Remembering President Kennedy’s Contribution to the Arts and Humanities

The President and First Lady

The President and First Lady

John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, recognized that the presidency can and should promote cultural and intellectual excellence. Great lovers of literature, poetry, music, and visual art, the Kennedys  often hosted scholars and artists during their time in the White House. The President invited Robert Frost to read a poem at his 1960 Inauguration and also invited more than fifty other writers, painters, poets, and musicians to White House ceremonies. At an April 1962 White House dinner for Nobel Prize winners, President Kennedy declared his distinguished guests to be “the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the
White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Though his life and love for the arts and humanities was suddenly cut short, it lived on through policy signed into law by his successor President Lyndon Johnson.  On September 29, 1965 the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act became law, creating the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts as separate, independent agencies, an occasion the Washington Post called “a momentous step.”

For more on President Kennedy’s lasting contribution to the arts and humanities:
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Senator Elizabeth Warren’s remarks
Huffington Post remarks
The National Endowment for the Arts
National Public Radio (NPR) on the Kennedy Legacy

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