THE LOOP — Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn't mourn President John F. Kennedy, but chose to celebrate his life and legacy Friday in a ceremony for Chicago Public Schools students at the Harold Washington Library.
"We remember John Kennedy today not because his death was tragic, which it was, but because his life was so extraordinary," Emanuel said in a speech to about 350 CPS students.
He recited the challenge Kennedy issued in his inaugural address: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," and called on the students to meet the same challenge.
"That flame of public service that President Kennedy lit half a century ago burns as bright as ever today," Emanuel said. "And soon the torch will be passed to each of you, the next generation."
Emanuel said the future of the city and the nation depended on how they would answer that challenge.
The event, like many across the nation, marked the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination in Dallas.
Elementary schools that sent students to the ceremony, in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium at the Washington Library, included Scott Joplin, Providence Englewood, Edgebrook, Ellington and the Albany Park Multicultural Academy.
The program included a talk by Ilene Cooper, author of a children's book on JFK, and performances by Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, meant to commemorate how Kennedy brought jazz into the White House for regular performances.
The City Council earlier this week passed a resolution honoring the fallen president at 1 p.m. Friday, focused on a bell-ringing ceremony at St. Jane De Chantal Church, 5300 S. McVicker Ave.