50 Years Later, President Kennedy’s Inaugural Words Are Still Important to Americans

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Survey finds that vast majority see his words as relevant to our country today.

A new Knights of Columbus-Marist poll finds that Americans overwhelmingly believe that key themes from President Kennedy’s inaugural speech are still important in America today – 50 years later.

The survey focused on several memorable passages dealing with the importance of freedom, of service to the country, and the role of God in our national life.  The results show that 85 percent or more of Americans still consider each of these ideas important for the United States.

The following are the percentages by which Americans say each quote surveyed is still either very or somewhat important:

• 96 percent for “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

• 95 percent for “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

• 86 percent for “Here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

• 85 percent for "The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

In addition, approximately three-quarters of Americans see the first two quotes as “very important,” while about six in ten say the same for the latter two quotes.

The poll also found that a full two-thirds of Americans think President Kennedy was “one of the best presidents in U.S. history.” That number jumps to nearly three in four (72 percent) with the addition of those who think he was “the best president.”

“Fifty years after President John F. Kennedy stirred a nation with these important words, Americans continue to recognize the importance of what he said, of his definition of what it means to be an American,” said Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. “President Kennedy reminded us then that we must be at the service of God and country and that message – as Americans clearly understand – is still very important to our nation today.”

John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic elected to the presidency, and was a member of the Knights of Columbus. In 2010, the Knights funded the restoration of the inscriptions from President Kennedy’s inaugural speech located at his grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

The survey of 1,018 adults conducted January 6 to January 10 has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.