WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will visit John F. Kennedy’s gravesite and honor two of Kennedy’s lasting initiatives as the nation observes the 50th anniversary of his assassination this week.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, will be accompanied by former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, at a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday afternoon. Also that day, Obama will be joined by scores of prominent Americans who have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in paying tribute to Kennedy’s legacy.
Kennedy established the modern version of the medal, the highest award the U.S. bestows on civilians, in the months before his death. He was killed two weeks before he planned to honor the inaugural group of recipients, and it fell to President Lyndon Johnson to preside over the ceremony at the White House on the day Kennedy’s family was moving out.
Since then more than 500 have received the medal.
Obama will present the award Wednesday to the 2013 recipients, including Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, the late astronaut Sally Ride, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, country music singer Loretta Lynn and 10 others.
On Wednesday evening, Obama plans a speech on Kennedy’s legacy of service with a dinner at the Smithsonian American History Museum attended by current and past recipients of the medal, including baseball’s Hank Aaron, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, singer Aretha Franklin, economist Alan Greenspan, activist Jesse Jackson and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Kennedy’s grandson, Jack Schlossberg, is to introduce Obama at the dinner. Other Kennedy members plan to attend, including Robert Kennedy’s daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and former diplomat Jean Kennedy Smith, a former medal winner and John Kennedy’s last surviving sibling.
Friday marks 50 years to the day since Kennedy was killed by a gunman in Dallas. Obama will meet privately at the White House that day with leaders and volunteers from the Peace Corps program Kennedy established.