8 John F. Kennedy Quotes That Will Inspire You To Be Better, In Honor Of His Birthday

Although he was just two years into his presidency when he was assassinated on November 22, 1963, at the age of 46, President John F. Kennedy, Jr., left an enduring legacy, stemming from his work on expansive foreign policy challenges, contributions to the civil rights movement, and, along with his young family, a glamorous image oftentimes equated with American royalty. Today, May 29, would have been JFK's 99th birthday if he were alive to celebrate it. Thankfully, though he's no longer here to see it, there's a wealth of John F. Kennedy quotes still floating around that have continued to inspire generations of young people eager to follow in his prolific footsteps (or perhaps to just push a little more each day).

It's impossible to know what JFK would have accomplished had his presidency not been cut short, but both during his time in office and after, he has been immortalized in the hearts of the American people as a symbol of purpose and hope. Whether he was encouraging Americans to literally shoot for the moon through his expansion of the U.S. space program or successfully finessing the Cuban missile crisis, an incredibly tense and potentially disastrous event, Kennedy's actions and words encourage us as a nation and as individuals to strive to eschew complacency and embrace progress.

On Selflessness & Teamwork

During his inauguration speech in 1961, Kennedy implored Americans to commit themselves to the good of the United States, so that we can all be great. "Ask not what your country can do for you," he said, "ask what you can do for your country." This is certainly applicable today, and in all kinds of situations, from helping friends and family members out without expectation of repayment to teaching kids to cherish and take care of their siblings, always.

Going After What You Want & Deserve

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"Let us never negotiate out of fear," Kennedy also stated in his now-famous inauguration speech. "But never let us fear to negotiate." If you think you deserve a well-earned raise at work, ask for it! (After all, JFK's wife, Jackie Onassis, certainly never held back.)

On Health... & So Much More


"For one true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members," Kennedy said during a 1962 special message to Congress about the health needs to the country. "Let this be the measure of our nation."

It's so true that when one succeeds, all have a better change of greatness. Kennedy was talking about health,which is so important, but this is also a message about the role teamwork and just plain caring about others has in our society, and how it can make us all so much better.

Wealth Isn't The Most Important Thing

"This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor," Kennedy once succinctly said, in his 1963 State of the Union address. And he's right: It's easy to get caught up in going after the most stylist and exclusive Yeezys and the newest iPhone, but what's really important is connecting with others and reflecting, whether that be through religion or writing thoughts down in a journal. Internalizing good makes us a better, richer nation altogether.

On Getting Your Butt To The Gym

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"We have become more and more not a nation of athletes but a nation of spectators," said at a 1961 NFL Hall of Fame Banquet. Ouch. That's pretty brutal. I feel like I have go for a run or something, like, now.

Plus, I want to belong to a nation that leads and innovates, not one that sits idly. Getting physically active might just be an easy way to get that going.

On Staying True To A Cause

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Here's one that I really love, that JFK delivered back in 1962:

What really counts is not the immediate act of courage or of valor, but those who bear the struggle day in and day out — not the sunshine patriots but those who are willing to stand for a long period of time.

It's a shoutout to those consistently sloughing though to defend and advance what they believe in, whether it's reproductive justice or the Black Lives Matter movement. To me, this says: Find your passion, your cause, and leave it better. Points for staying with it, not making huge progress immediately.

On Being The Best You Can Be

Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world — or make it the last.

JFK said this just months before he died, in a 1963 address to the UN General Assembly, and it translates perfectly to today. With the Internet and social media, we all have more and more of an opportunity to share our opinions, stand up for causes, interact with others, and so much more. Moms are literally molding little humans into the adults they will someday become. It's all a lot of responsibility, and one to take very seriously.

On Plain Truths

...There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some are stationed in San Francisco. It's very hard in the military or personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.

JFK didn't try to sugarcoat or justify this address to the nation, but the implicit message is clear: We, as a country and individuals, must accept unfairness (but not inequality), and work to be our best regardless.

Despite any issues that may have arisen in his life or with his untimely and tragic death at the age of 46, President John F. Kennedy managed to leave behind a wealth of important knowledge for future generations — whether he realized it or not. All that's left for us to do is to read it and remember — and perhaps try to be better.