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Americas

Obamas, Clintons honour JFK's legacy at Arlington

© afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-21

US President Barack Obama was flanked by Bill and Hillary Clinton at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday as they honoured the memory of slain president John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in Dallas 50 years ago on Friday.

US President Barack Obama was flanked by Bill and Hillary Clinton on Wednesday as they honoured the memory of slain president John F. Kennedy, who was shot and killed in Dallas 50 years ago this week.

Obama, former president Clinton and former secretary of state and onetime presidential contender Hillary Clinton laid a wreath before the eternal flame at Kennedy’s gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery as members of the Kennedy family looked on.
 
Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, was an event that has spawned countless books and conspiracy theories as to whether his suspected killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, acted alone.
 
Kennedy was shot to death at the age of 46 as he and his wife, Jacqueline, rode in a motorcade down Elm Street in Dallas.
 
Oswald was subsequently killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby in an incident that was broadcast live on television.
 
Kennedy's Medal of Freedom
 
At the White House later in the day, Obama awarded the highest US civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to Bill Clinton and 15 other Americans who have made significant contributions to US culture, politics, sports and science.
 
The event was intended as a testament to the memory of Kennedy, who signed an executive order shortly before his death creating the Medal of Freedom. Kennedy also established the US Peace Corps and set the country on a path to landing humans on the moon.
 
White House officials decided to mark the occasion with the award ceremony to remember the accomplishments of Kennedy’s life rather than the circumstances of his death, images of which are ingrained in the minds of many Americans.
 
At a black-tie dinner for the Medal of Freedom award recipients at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Obama was introduced by Kennedy’s grandson, Jack Schlossberg, the 20-year-old son of Caroline Kennedy.
 
Obama said that in Kennedy’s “sober, square-jawed idealism we are reminded that the power to change this country is ours”.
 
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.
 
The event allowed Obama and Clinton to warm a relationship that has seen its share of strains and came as speculation mounts that Hillary Clinton might seek to succeed Obama as president in 2016.
 
Bill Clinton jumped into the political fight over Obama’s healthcare law last week by saying in a TV interview that Obama should “honour the commitment” he made to allow Americans to keep their insurance plans under the new healthcare reform law known as Obamacare.
 
Millions have seen their insurance plans cancelled despite Obama’s pledge, and the resulting loss of trust in his leadership has contributed to a downward spiral in his job approval ratings, which have fallen to 37 percent in a new CBS News poll.
 
In their new book “Double Down”, journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann said that Obama has in the past found Clinton to be exhausting. Obama was quoted as telling an aide, “I like him ... in doses.”
 
Perhaps mindful of these and similar reports, Obama went out of his way to honour Clinton, who served two terms as president from 1993 to 2001 and who now heads the Clinton Global Initiative, a global charity organisation.
 
“I’m grateful, Bill, as well for the advice and counsel you have offered me on and off the golf course, and most importantly for your lifesaving work around the world, which represents what’s very best in America,” Obama told the assembly.
 
Clinton’s lifelong interest in public service dates back in part to a 1963 visit he made to the White House when he shook Kennedy’s hand, just four months before the assassination.

Commemorations across the US

Ceremonies will take place in Kennedy's birthplace of Massachusetts as well as Washington, D.C. and Dallas on the anniversary of his death on Friday.

A moment of silence will fill Dealey Plaza and its infamous grassy knoll as Dallas marks the moment the shots rang out at 12:30pm (1830 GMT) before celebrating Kennedy's legacy with music, prayer and speeches.

The Kennedy presidential library in Boston will launch a new exhibit of artifacts from his funeral and mark his death with excerpts of his speeches and a moment of silence.

In Washington, a memorial mass will be held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle while the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will lay a wreath at a bust of Kennedy and discuss his legacy at the start of the evening's classical music performance.

Museums, libraries, schools and churches across the country will also be marking his death with exhibits, lectures and memorials.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

Date created : 2013-11-21

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