On 50th Anniversary of Kennedy's Inauguration, JFK's Call to Service Still Resounds

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"To have that after the years of Eisenhower and Truman and Roosevelt, suddently to have this young energetic family was just a complete shot of adrenaline into the city, and tons and tons of young people came to town to participate in government," Roberts said.

Kennedy ascended the White House at a time of great economic prosperity, but his presidency wasn't without its challenges. He had to deal with the Cuban Missile Crisis and growing racial tensions that would eventually turn very violent.

Much of the hope and optimism felt during Kennedy's inauguration 50 years ago resonated two years ago at the same time this year, when President Obama -- the first African-American president to be elected -- took his oath of office.

The optimism of the Obama White House, however, has quickly faded amid economic discontent and political partisanship.

Though it was a different era, historians say the parallels between now and then are not widely different.

"It doesn't seem like the political environment was as caustic but it was still quite difficult. There was a definite political schism between what would be called liberal and what would be called a more military conservative version, but it was different than it is now," said Don Lawn, author of "The Memoirs of John F. Kennedy: A Novel." "The schism has gotten a lot nastier and it's becoming a lot more difficult to talk about and discuss anything."

It may have been over a lifetime ago, but there are still lessons to be learned from that time.

"The idea of public service is not as valued as it was back then. It was almost a popular position to be someone who give their life over to public service, the Peace Corps for instance," said Lawn. " It was quite a different attitude then and he was trying to promote that. He had been a public servant his whole life, he didn't have to. He was pretty rich but he chose a pretty daunting environment to challenge his stability."

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