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JFK Awarded Posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom

Dec. 6, 1963 - John F. Kennedy today joined the roster of 31 civilian leaders whom he had personally approved to receive the new Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Johnson made the previously unannounced award to Mr. Kennedy “on behalf of the Great Republic for which he lived and died” at a White House ceremony held just two weeks after Mr. Kennedy’s murder in Dallas. The President also added the name of the late Pope John XXIII to the honors list as he completed presentation of the handsome red, white and blue medals before an audience of 200 in the executive mansion’s state dining room. Unseen by most in the room, the late President’s widow, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, watched from behind a screen to Mr. Johnson’s left as Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy accepted the medal for the late President’s family. She bowed her head as Mr. Johnson said: “John Kennedy is gone. Each one of us will know that we are the lesser for his death. But each is somehow larger because he lived… Beloved in a life of selfless service, mourned by all in death of senseless crime, the energy, faith and devotion which he brought to his extraordinarily successful though tragically brief endeavors will hereafter light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.” Mr. Johnson then gave the medal in its walnut box to the Attorney General, shook his hand without another word, and walked quickly out of the room.

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