JFK’s GW Connection

President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech at the university and was awarded an honorary degree.

President Kennedy GWU
President Kennedy receives an honorary Doctor of Laws in University Yard.
November 20, 2013

On May 3, 1961, President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy traveled a few blocks from the White House to attend the inauguration of GW President Thomas H. Carroll.

President Kennedy was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws and delivered a speech on University Yard.

President Kennedy waits to address the university community.

“This university bears the name of George Washington, who showed his understanding in his day of the necessity of a free society to produce educated men and women,” he said. “I don’t think that there has ever been a time when we have had a greater need for those qualities which a university provides.”

It is the job of colleges and universities, like GW, to develop “the men and women who will, with their sense of discipline and purpose and understanding, contribute to the maintenance of free societies here and around the world,” President Kennedy stressed.

Mrs. Kennedy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from GW in 1951, and the hall at 2222 Eye Street is named in her honor.

In his speech at GW, after thanking the university for awarding him an honorary degree, President Kennedy quipped, “My wife beat me to this honor … It took her two years to get this degree, and it took me only two minutes, but in any case we are both grateful.”

Listen to the speech President Kennedy gave in acceptance of his honorary degree.