Former president Bill Clinton and President Obama speak at the Clinton Global Initiative on Sept. 24 in New York.
(Photo: Mark Lennihan, AP)
WAHSINGTON - President Obama will honor the 50th anniversary of the death of one of his predecessors, John F. Kennedy, with a visit Wednesday to his grave and the eternal flame at Arlington National Cemetery, administration officials confirmed to USA TODAY on Saturday.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the announcement has not been officially made.
The president will be accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, former president Bill Clinton and former first lady and secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The visit comes the same day that Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an honor that Kennedy established 50 years ago. One of this year's recipients is President Clinton, according to a White House statement.
The anniversary of Kennedy's death is Friday. He is buried in Arlington next to his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Buried nearby are brothers Robert Kennedy - attorney general during the Kennedy administration and later a New York senator and presidential candidate - and Edward Kennedy, a longtime Massachusetts senator.
On Wednesday, President Obama will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The first lady will also attend. The Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The medals will be presented at the White House in a morning ceremony.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first ceremony bestowing the medals. Sixteen recipients will be honored this year, including country music legend Loretta Lynn, astronaut Sally Ride, jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, chemist and Nobel Prize winner Mario Molina and television star and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey.
Obama will give a speech at the Smithsonian American History Museum on Wednesday evening on Kennedy's legacy of service. On Friday, the actual anniversary of the assassination, he will meet privately with leaders and volunteers from the Peace Corps, an organization Kennedy established in 1961.
Contributing: Elizabeth Weise in San Francisco; the Associated Press