As time passes, the accomplishments of great leaders stand out in more objective ways. Of course, so do their failings. On the 100th birthday of John F. Kennedy it seems pertinent to listen to some of those who knew him best and others he inspired.

Even though his life ended young at 46 years, the 35th President made a lasting impact on both the country and the world. His history as a war hero, champion of Civil Rights, inventor of the Peace Corps and his visionary drive for space travel tend to outweigh his reputation as a womanizer, leaving a legacy of his service that is still romanticized in Camelot grandeur.

To honor JFK, here are reflections on his leadership by well-known people he inspired.

1. "President Kennedy is remembered as a leader and statesman who dreamed big and offered a bold vision for the future. Although his presidency was tragically cut short to just a thousand days, his ideas live on through signature programs like the Peace Corps and living memorials like the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. His words and actions have inspired generations of Americans to get involved in public service and become active and engaged citizens. JFK called on Americans to think about the challenges we face as a nation and what kind of a country we want to build." -Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator

2. "Any elected official my generation probably did and will always look at JFK as the sort of leader, as to why we might have decided to get involved in politics." - Robert DeLeo, Massachusetts State House Speaker

3. "He understood in the modern era how one uses words to create imagery. When he spoke of America's role in the world, when he asked Americans to not comfort themselves with selfish motives and what they might do for the country - those are examples." -Richard Neal, U.S. Representative

4. "He said his goal was to truly do God's work here on Earth. For me, it was a very powerful message because he was somebody who helped lift our gaze to the constellation of possibilities." - Ed Markey, U.S. Senator

5. "He challenged all of us to achieve a better and bigger future for our country: where man would walk on the moon; where individuals with disabilities could enjoy opportunity, not indifference; where skin color would not disqualify you from democracy or basic human decency; and where hundreds of citizen ambassadors across the globe could sow the seeds of peace." - Joe Kennedy III, U.S. Representative

6. "And it's been an incredible legacy but JFK in particular, I think, captured the idealism, the ability to imagine and remake America to meets its ideals, in a way we haven't seen before or since...And I don't know of anyone who has had that same impact on a generation and inspired so many people as JFK has." - Barack Obama, Former U.S. President

7. "I thought we were in good shape at home and around the world. For all the 'best and the brightest' criticism he got, I thought he was pretty shrewd in making judgments about when not to take other people's advice." - Bill Clinton, Former U.S. President

8. "There will be great presidents again but there will never be another Camelot.'' - Jackie Kennedy

9. "It was all gone now... the life-affirming, life-enhancing zest, the brilliance, the wit, the cool commitment, the steady purpose." - Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. on the assassination.

10. "TWO THINGS I ALWAYS KNEW ABOUT YOU ONE THAT YOU ARE SMART TWO THAT YOU ARE A SWELL GUY LOVE DAD." -A cable from his father Joseph Kennedy for his graduation.

11. "I still have difficulty seeing John F. Kennedy clear. The image of him that comes back to me ... is so clean and graceful--almost as if I can still see him skip up the steps of his airplane in that half lope, and then turn, flinging out his arm in farewell to the crowd, before disappearing inside. It was a ballet movement." - Theodore White, Historian

12. "There was a heroic grandeur to John F. Kennedy's administration that had nothing to do with the mists of Camelot." -David Talbot, Journalist

13. "When President Kennedy says, 'Let us focus on the means by which we can resolve our differences,' that clearly is a call for diplomacy. But it's also a good reminder that when we look at these new ways in which we have tied our destiny to every other person on the planet, these new challenges cannot be addressed through military force or conflict... they can only be addressed through international cooperation." - Meaghan O'Sullivan, Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs and director of the Belfer Center's Geopolitics of Energy Project

14. "The capital city, somnolent in the Eisenhower years, had suddenly come alive ... [with] the release of energy which occurs when men with ideas have a chance to put them into practice." - Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Historian

15. "Now it is true that Sen. Kennedy did take a specific step. He was in contact with officials in George during my arrest, and he called my wife, made a personal call and expressed his concern and said to her that he was working and trying to do something to make my release possible." - Martin Luther King Jr.

16. "This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. For me, it is a deep personal tragedy. I know that the world shares the sorrow that Mrs. Kennedy and her family bear. I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help--and God's." -Lyndon B. Johnson, Former U.S. President

17. "Fundamentally, it has to do with his vision of America in the world. A vision of hope, combined with a strategy of peace, is the greatest source of American power and global security." It was a vision "he articulated the moment he became president and lived by all of his life." - Caroline Kennedy

18. "Kennedy's appeal for recognition of what he called the mutual dependence of the worlds of intellectuals and politicians, his call for a central role for learning and expertise, these are all too timely today as we find ourselves in what some have dubbed a 'post-factual era' in American public life." -Drew Faust, President of Harvard University

19. "The Cuban Missile Crisis was his finest moment of crisis management, but the American University speech was his finest moment as a statesman." - Joe Nye, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor

20. "I think God must have taken Jack to show the world how lost we would be without him. But that is a strange way of thinking to me - and God will have a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see him.'' - Jackie Kennedy

Published on: May 24, 2017
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