President Obama on Wednesday praised the legacy of former President John F. Kennedy, who was killed nearly 50 years ago this week.

At a black-tie dinner for recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which Obama awarded earlier today, the president paid tribute to Kennedy's "square jawed idealism."

He said Kennedy was a man "who could have retreated to a life of luxury" but instead chose public service.

β€œHe stays with us in our imagination, not because he left us too soon, but because he embodied the character of the people that he led β€” resilient, resolute, fearless and fun loving, defiant in the face of impossible odds, and most of all, determined to make the world anew,” said Obama at the Museum of American History.

Earlier in the day, Obama was joined by his Democratic predecessor former President Bill Clinton, first lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to lay a wreath at Kennedy's grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

Clinton was one of 16 Americans honored Wednesday with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which Kennedy created shortly before his death.