"I urge all of you today, especially those who are students, to act, to enter the lists of public service and rightly win or lose the prize." -President Kennedy, Remarks at Vanderbilt University, May 18, 1963
On December 19, 1963, a mere twenty-seven days after Dallas, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and some of the late president's closest confidants gathered in a private dining room of New York's 21 Club. Struggling through their shared grief, they discussed how best to commemorate John F. Kennedy. They quickly agreed on the creation of a library and a museum. Yet, they just as quickly agreed that something was missing. As John Kenneth Galbraith wrote in a memo the following day, "So far we do not have what will make the institution live."
The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Harvard University’s Institute of Politics have their origins in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Inc., a non-profit corporation that was chartered in Massachusetts on December 5, 1963, to construct and equip the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Massachusetts.
The Kennedy Library Corporation raised more than $20 million for both the construction of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and for the creation and endowment of an institute at Harvard for the study of politics and public affairs. More than 30 million people from around the world, including school children, contributed to the fund. In 1966, the Kennedy Library Corporation presented Harvard University with an endowment for the creation of the Institute of Politics (IOP).
A memorial to President Kennedy, the Institute of Politics' mission is to unite and engage students, particularly undergraduates, with academics, politicians, activists, and policymakers on a non-partisan basis and to stimulate and nurture their interest in public service and leadership. The Institute strives to promote greater understanding and cooperation between the academic world and the world of politics and public affairs. Led by a Director, Senior Advisory Board, Student Advisory Committee, and staff, the Institute provides wide-ranging opportunities for both Harvard students and the general public.
Each year, to celebrate their common roots, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government award the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards to two young Americans who are changing their communities and their country. The New Frontier Awards are presented to exceptional young Americans under the age of 40 whose contributions in elective office, community service or advocacy demonstrate the impact and value of public service in the spirit of John F. Kennedy.