Like JFK, Obama chose an outdoor venue - the Denver Broncos' Invesco Field - to show that his candidacy extends beyond the politicians and interest-group leaders who have dominated the convention proceedings.
But the comparisons go beyond surface settings.
Like JFK, Obama is seen by friends as a dynamic, charismatic leader and by foes as too young and inexperienced, with elitist tendencies. Like JFK, he had to surmount establishment resistance amid internal divisions still evident at his convention.
Like JFK, Obama is a Democratic senator seeking to end two Republican terms. Like JFK, his goals include issues - health care and energy - on which political gridlock has stalled action.
Like JFK, his running mate is a well-regarded veteran senator with some controversial aspects.
Like JFK, Obama's prospects face potential pitfalls difficult to measure because the nation has never elected an African American, as it had not elected a Roman Catholic before Kennedy.
Like JFK, he faces a sub-rosa negative campaign with misleading elements and racial stereotypes. I still recall the literature that segregationist groups used against Kennedy, hardly a civil-rights firebrand.
And like JFK, who spoke after an emotional reception for Sen. Eugene McCarthy's speech extolling Adlai Stevenson, Obama follows Tuesday's fervent presentation by Hillary Clinton and Wednesday's appearance of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Already, there have been several Kennedy-Obama references, starting with Monday night's speech in which JFK's daughter, Caroline, introduced his sole surviving brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy.
"Everywhere I go in this country," she said, "people tell me that Barack Obama is making them feel hopeful the way they did when my father was president."
Her aging, ailing uncle underscored that by echoing one of JFK's signature phrases, declaring that, with Obama, "the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans."
On Tuesday, Ted Sorenson, President Kennedy's closest adviser, made an even more direct comparison, hailing Obama as someone who could match the late president's "intellect and integrity, his capacity to inspire justice at home and peace around the world."
But the real test of Obama's speech, and this entire convention, won't be at Invesco, but with the viewing audience, especially many still uncertain about his candidacy.
That group's reaction to his speech and the coming televised debates is likely to determine if this 47-year-old senator can satisfy doubts about his readiness and ride a looming Democratic tide into the White House.
His task, evident in recent polls, was illustrated Sunday at pollster Frank Luntz's focus group with two dozen undecided Colorado voters. Many described Obama as inexperienced, even "scary," saying they had no clear sense how he would implement "change."
"Give me some specifics on those dreams that you have," said Doug Mangels, 48, a firefighter and single father of three.
"Make me believe there is substance behind your charismatic rhetoric," added Lori Miller, 46, a married mother of three and a financial services administrator.
The Kennedy experience at the convention suggests that doubts will remain.
After all, Kennedy needed his historic Houston speech on the separation of church and state, a strong performance in the first televised debates, and a last-minute call to an imprisoned Martin Luther King Jr. to win a narrow victory.
That suggests that, even with a strong debate performance, which is not guaranteed, Obama may need all of his oratorical skills and the millions being spent to generate massive turnout to complete his historic quest.
Carl Leubsdorf is Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News. E-mail him