In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed bipartisan legislation creating a National Cultural Center in the nation’s capital. In November of 1962, President and Mrs. Kennedy launched a $30 million fundraising campaign for the Center’s construction. Former President Eisenhower and his wife Mamie participated in the event which demonstrated the bipartisan support for a world class center for the performing arts in D. C. In 1963, President Kennedy signed legislation to extend the fundraising deadline for the Center.
Two months after President Kennedy’s assassination, by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on January 23, 1964, the nation’s National Cultural Center was designated as a living memorial to President John F. Kennedy. By this Act, President Kennedy’s devotion to the advancement of the performing arts in the United States was recognized.
The Center’s mission is established in its authorizing statute: present classical and contemporary music, opera, drama, dance, and other performing arts from the United States and other countries; promote and maintain the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as the National Center for the Performing Arts; strive to ensure that the education and outreach programs and policies of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts meet the highest level of excellence and reflect the cultural diversity of the United States; provide facilities for other civic activities at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; and provide within the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts a suitable memorial in honor of the late President. To fulfill the mission as the nation’s cultural center, the Kennedy Center presents world-class art by the artists that define our culture today, delivers powerful arts education opportunities nationwide, and embodies the ideals of President Kennedy in all the Center’s activities provided throughout the living memorial.