JFK Farewell: “We shall be as a city upon a hill” ~ January 9, 1961

MassMoments reminds us that on this day January 9, 1961, President-elect John Fitzgerald Kennedy addressed the Massachusetts legislature. He acknowledged in an oft-quoted reminder that “of those to whom much is given, much is required.” Yet, the main subject of his address was the unique legacy of the Commonwealth – our Bay State. He noted: “No man about to enter high office in this country can ever be unmindful of the contribution this state has made to our national greatness…. Courage  — judgment—integrity—dedication—these are the historic qualities of the Bay Colony and the Bay State.” Kennedy took formal leave of the state and on January 20,1961  he stood hatless in the bitter cold on the steps of the Capitol and stepped into history as he was inaugurated the 35th President of the United States.

On this day…

  …in 1961, John F. Kennedy bade farewell to the people of Massachusetts and reminded them of the state’s unique legacy. In a speech at the State House, the youngest man and first Catholic elected to the presidency quoted the words of John Winthrop in 1630, “We must always consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.” “No man about to enter high office in this country,” Kennedy said, “can ever be unmindful of the contribution this state has made to our national greatness.” He referred to the “enduring qualities of Massachusetts” — “they are,” he explained, “an indelible part of my life, my convictions, my view of the past, and my hopes for the future.”

Read the full article here at MassMoments.org.


Note: Last year on the 50th anniversary of this address, Peter Cannellos of the Boston Globe penned this analysis of the speech in his op-ed piece – “What Kennedy knew but didn’t say.”

“He was reminding his home state that its fruits were intellectual. He was promising Masschusetts that he would give its tired institutions a new burst of vitality, in a more unified landscape where Boston truly could be a city on a hill, and its people could truly be the best and brightest.”

Read the full Cannellos piece here at boston.com.