President John F. Kennedy came to campus on October 26, 1963, to receive an honorary degree and preside over the Robert Frost Library groundbreaking. In Coolidge Cage, Kennedy gave what historians consider to be his last major speech before his assassination a month later. Some 10,000 people came to Amherst for the event and his speech, which was unusual in its passionate support of the arts.
“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist,” he said. “When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.”
The library was completed in 1965, and poet Richard Wilbur ’42 spoke at the dedication.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the late commander-in-chief’s birth, Amherst College held a symposium titled “Poetry and Politics: A Celebration of the Life and Legacy of President John F. Kennedy” on Oct. 28, 2017. The gathering concluded with a keynote speech delivered by U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, D-MA, on the steps of Amherst’s Frost Library—not far from the spot where his great-uncle, the president, gave a short speech almost 54 years to the day before.