Call to Action

All Exhibits

Introduction

We in the sixties are going to move the world again in the direction of freedom and I ask your help in doing so.

John F. Kennedy
San Francisco
November 2, 1960


Call to Action provides a backdrop to the changing times of John F. Kennedy's lifetime. A shifting American culture set the stage for the young president, who used his influence over the nation's youth to inspire public service initiatives and responsible citizenship.

Kennedy's inaugural address, arguably the most quoted presidential speech of the 20th century, outlined his call to action. His exhortation of a new generation is now identified with an era of change:

And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Resonating with a new social consciousness, Kennedy's words were both encouraging and energizing. His determination lent strength to the civil rights movement, which began in the 1950s in the segregated South. By the 1960s, the politics of identity began to take root. Groups of diverse Americans who felt marginalized and overlooked insisted on equality and self-determination. In each arena, activists found their voices and demanded change. The efforts of the activists awakened, infuriated, emboldened, shocked and educated the nation. For all Americans, these were extraordinary times.

Call to Action is organized by The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza to accompany an inaugural series of public programs exploring social issues of Kennedy's era. Focusing on the Dallas experience, the Museum will host community leaders, scholars and local activists for a variety of thought-provoking programs ranging from gallery talks to film screenings.