The Mayor was just four years-old when Kennedy was assassinated, and honored him for inspiring others to join public service.
“That flame of public service that President Kennedy lit half a century ago burns as bright as ever today,” Emanuel told 350 middle school students packed into the Pritzker Auditorium.
There was also a jazz concert featuring Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and the Preservation Jazz Hall Band.
The bands played at the first, White House jazz concert in 1962.
Meantime, Governor Quinn ordered all flags to fly at half-staff, and urged people to take part in a moment of silence at 1pm.
The City Council also called on churches to ring their bells.
WGN News Writer C. Hayes published this story.