Call to Action

All Exhibits

Role of John F. Kennedy

Photograph of President Kennedy greeting crowd outside the Hotel Texas
Dallas Times Herald Collection

An even more valuable national asset is our reservoir of dedicated men and women—not only on our college campuses but in every age group—who have indicated their desire to contribute their skills, their efforts, and a part of their lives to the fight for world order. We can mobilize this talent through the formation of a National Peace Corps, enlisting the services of all those with the desire and capacity to help foreign lands meet their urgent needs for trained personnel.

John F. Kennedy
Inaugural Address

During his brief presidency, John F. Kennedy spoke out and affected issues that became increasingly important in the decade ahead. His attention to the rights and responsibilities of American citizens inspired the nation to individual involvement. After his death, Kennedy’s words and image were used like symbols to justify the beliefs and actions of passionate individuals swept up in the social movements.

Women's Rights

Women are entitled to equality of opportunity for employment in government and in industry. But a mere statement supporting equality of opportunity must be implemented by affirmative steps to see that the doors are really open for training, selection, advancement, and equal pay.

President John F. Kennedy
Statement on the Establishment of the President's Commission on the Status of Women
December 14, 1961

On December 14, 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10980, which established the President's Commission on the Status of Women. He appointed 26 members to the commission, which was chaired by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The purpose of the commission was "…to set forth before the world the story of women's progress in a free, democratic society, to review recent accomplishments, and to acknowledge frankly the further steps that must be taken."

Kennedy requested that the commission focus on several specific issues and make recommendations on areas in need of "constructive action." The topics included an examination of federal and state employment policies and differences in the legal treatment of men and women in regard to civil and property rights. The commission also explored new education and counseling initiatives for wives, mothers and workers with children.

Eleanor Roosevelt sent President Kennedy a progress report on the status of the commission on August 24, 1962. This report indicated that advances for women had indeed been made, notably by opening opportunities in the federal service and in the higher ranks of the military service. Kennedy's reply commended her: "These are but two examples of the areas you are attacking where this type of discrimination has prevented the full use of talents and skills."

The 86-page final report of the commission, entitled "American Women," was released with a White House summary on October 11, 1963. It was submitted on the birthday of the late Eleanor Roosevelt, who had passed away the previous November.