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JFK Library receives famous Frost poem

He wrote it for inaugural, but couldn’t finish it due to glare of the sun
/ Source: The Associated Press

The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum has obtained the original version of the poem that Robert Frost prepared for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, but never read in its entirety because of the glare of the sun.

At Kennedy's 1961 inauguration, Frost, who was 86 at the time, stood at the podium reading the beginning of "Dedication," a poem he wrote by hand, then typed for easier reading at the inauguration. But after trying to use a hat borrowed from Vice President Lyndon Johnson to shield the page from bright sun glancing off the snow, Frost recited his poem, "The Gift Outright," from memory.

Frost had intended to deliver a full reading of "Dedication" before reciting "The Gift Outright."

The museum received the original handwritten poem this week from the estate of Frederick Holborn, one of President Kennedy's special assistants, who died last June.

"It is such a remarkable piece of American history and culture. It is just wonderful to have it back home," said Deborah Leff, the museum's director.

The poem speaks of the rise of American democracy and its affect on the world. At the bottom of the original version of the poem, Frost wrote, "To John F. Kennedy, At his inauguration to be president of this country. January 20th, 1961. With the Heart of the World," followed by, "Amended copy, now let's mend our ways."

The document is being sent to a conservator because the material used to frame it is causing acid damage, said Brent Carney, a spokesman for the JFK Library and Museum. After it is returned to the museum, officials plan to display it in one of the museum's galleries, though they aren't yet certain which one.

Jacqueline Kennedy had the poem framed for the president to hang in the White House and wrote a now barely legible note to the president on brown paper on the back of the frame. The note was not discovered until museum archivist James M. Roth removed the paper from the frame this week.

Roth said the note reads, "For Jack, January 23, 1961. First thing I had framed to put in your office. First thing to be hung there."

"There is no signature but it's definitely her handwriting," Roth said.