Remembering John F. Kennedy’s Final Visit To Utah
When President John Fitzgerald Kennedy visited Utah on September 26, 1963, thousands of Utahns, complete with welcome signs, gathered to greet the president at the airport. It was estimated that 125,000 people lined the streets of downtown Salt Lake City in hopes of seeing the president in his convertible limousine. His visit to Utah was part of a five-day, 11-state trip that would start in Pennsylvania and cross the country to California.
The president had previously come to the state twice as a senator in the 1950s and twice as a Democratic candidate in 1960. The tabernacle visit in 1963 marked his fifth and final visit to Utah. He gave a 27-minute speech mostly devoted to foreign policy, but he also commended Utah’s high school graduation rate. He also praised the Mormon pioneers saying, “Of all the tales of America's pioneers and settlers, none is more inspiring than that of the Mormon Trail."
To conclude his speech he paraphrased section 136 of the Doctrine and Covenants, saying, “I think this country will continue its commitment to support the world of freedom. For as we discharge that commitment, we are heeding the command which Brigham Young heard from the Lord more than a century ago—the command he conveyed to his followers: 'Go as pioneers . . . to a land of peace.'" His visit to Utah occurred just 55 days before his assassination. Click here to listen to the entire speech.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir was on hand to provide the music for the visit. One of the songs they performed was “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Pictured alongside President Kennedy in the photo above is former President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints David O. McKay and Senator Frank Moss.