"Ask not what your country can do for you—"
John F. Kennedy, 1961
KENNEDY, John F. (1917-1963). Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy President of the United States of America. [Washington, 1961].
The rare, privately-printed edition of one of the most memorable inaugural addresses in American history, inscribed on the front endpaper by John F. Kennedy to the Wrightsmans: "For Charles and Jayne / with warm regards / John Kennedy / Christmas 1961" This speech, the best-known inaugural address since Lincoln's second inaugural, was written by Kennedy with the assistance of Theodore Sorenson, who had been instructed to study Lincoln's Gettysburg address as a model; there are numerous passages which are strongly evocative of Lincoln's rhythmic cadences. The speech reads, in part: "We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom--symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago ... Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage ... Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty ... And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country ... With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."
Octavo (244 x 170mm), title page printed in blue and black, with tissue guard; leaf with Presidential seal printed in gold; leaf with date of the address, January 20, 1961; 8 pages text, each page printed on rectos only. White cloth, upper cover with large gilt Presidential emblem, spine gilt-lettered, "Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy * January 20, 1961"; matching white cloth slipcase with Presidential seal. Minor scuffing to slipcase, otherwise an extremely fine copy.