WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama hailed the "daring" legacy and the "sober, square-jawed idealism" of John F. Kennedy on Wednesday, as he marked the 50th anniversary of the 35th US president's assassination.
Obama also paid homage, alongside fellow two-term Democratic president Bill Clinton, at Kennedy's hillside grave to honour a man murdered at the age of just 46, but whose legend endures for Americans as a symbol of their nation's spirit and possibility.
Later, at a dinner honoring winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an award minted by Kennedy, Obama said that the wealthy slain president could have enjoyed a life of luxury and ease, but picked instead "a life in the arena."
"Fifty years later, John F. Kennedy stands for posterity as he did in life, young, bold and daring," said Obama, who was two years old when the 35th US president was killed.
"He stays with us in our imagination, not because he left us so soon, but because he embodied the character of the people that he led," Obama added at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History in Washington.
"In his idealism, his sober, square-jawed idealism, we are reminded that the power to change this country is ours."
Obama and Clinton, along with First Lady Michelle Obama and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, earlier laid a large blue and white wreath on the sun-dappled grave of JFK, who was killed in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
They then stood together, with their hands on their hearts, as a bugler played the military lament "Taps."