JFK at the Salt Lake City Tabernacle (Mormon Tabernacle)

The State of Utah was John F. Kennedy’s next stop during his 1963 Conservation Tour. He delivered two speeches. The first one was at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. It is notable that nearly all American presidents have spoken from its podium since its construction in 1867.

The president arrived at the Mormon Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City at 7:50 p.m. on Thursday, September 26, 1963. The program at the Tabernacle started at 8:00 p.m., and more than eleven thousand people (eight thousand inside and three thousand outside on the grounds of the Tabernacle) gathered to hear the president speak.

Before talking about environmental protection or domestic and foreign affairs, Kennedy emphasized the history of the Tabernacle and of the Mormon community. He said he was “proud to be back in this historic building,” noting that he had already given a speech at the Tabernacle during his 1960 presidential campaign. The President highlighted the invaluable contribution of American pioneers and settlers, the Mormon Trail, and the founders of the Mormon community, who were courageous, faithful, self-reliant, and determined to see the right prevail.

Kennedy was sure that Salt Lake City was the perfect place to talk about what could be done to preserve natural resources and the precious environment of the Salt Lake region. Besides natural resources, the president also mentioned the importance of preserving human resources, by which he meant human spirit and perseverance.

John F. Kennedy emphasized the contribution of the state of Utah not only in the field of conservation, but also in the education of children. He pointed out that a very high percentage of boys and girls at that moment were able to finish high school and then go to college.

The focus of the President’s speech was not only resource conservation and domestic affairs, like education and radical reduction of federal spending, but also U.S. foreign policy. He talked about the importance of U.S. involvement in the affairs of other countries in the world and emphasized America’s indisputable role as the global leader. “We cannot turn our back on the world outside,” President Kennedy told the crowd.

At 8:35 p.m., President Kennedy departed the Mormon Tabernacle for Hotel Utah (now the Joseph Smith Memorial Building). News accounts reported that more than 100,000 citizens, of the capital city’s 189,000 residents, gathered along the parade route to see the Democratic President.

The Salt Lake Tabernacle is an institution universally known for the music of its great choir. Its construction began in 1863 and was complete in 1867. In March 2007, the building was reopened after a two-year renovation. The Tabernacle is located in Temple Square and, even standing in front of the building, the visitors can enjoy its remarkable acoustics.

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