John F. Kennedy: The 35th President, 1961-1963
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The young president who brought vigor and glamour to the White House while he confronted cold war crises abroad and calls for social change at home
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was a new kind of president. He redefined how Americans came to see the nation's chief executive. He was forty-three when he was inaugurated in 1961—the youngest man ever elected to the office—and he personified what he called the "New Frontier" as the United States entered the 1960s.
But as Alan Brinkley shows in this incisive and lively assessment, the reality of Kennedy's achievements was much more complex than the legend. His brief presidency encountered significant failures—among them the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which cast its shadow on nearly every national-security decision that followed. But Kennedy also had successes, among them the Cuban Missile Crisis and his belated but powerful stand against segregation.
Kennedy seemed to live on a knife's edge, moving from one crisis to another—Cuba, Laos, Berlin, Vietnam, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama. His controversial public life mirrored his hidden private life. He took risks that would seem reckless and even foolhardy when they emerged from secrecy years later.
Kennedy's life, and his violent and sudden death, reshaped our view of the presidency. Brinkley gives us a full picture of the man, his times, and his enduring legacy.
ALAN BRINKLEY is the author most recently of The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is also the author of Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression, which won the National Book Award, The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War, and Liberalism and its Discontents. He is the Allan Nevins Professor of History and Provost Emeritus at Columbia University. He has also taught at Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge.
since Theodore Roosevelt had a presidential family so fascinated the nation. Kennedy, unlike the bullish TR, attracted attention through his elegance and glamour. He was himself a handsome, articulate man—“that special grace,” his friend Ben Bradlee once described his demeanor.26 And he made up for his personal reticence with a sharp, intelligent wit and occasional self-effacement. He notably introduced himself at a luncheon in France in 1961 by saying, “I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline
Walter Lippmann, the influential columnist, told Kennedy that Khrushchev was feeling very cocky. Despite Kennedy’s occasional bravado about going back into Cuba, he knew that the opportunity was gone. “There is a good chance,” he said, “that, if we move on Cuba, Khrushchev will move on Berlin.”71 5 “Flexible Response” Late in May 1961, Kennedy decided to present a second State of the Union address—only four months after his first. He explained the unusual timing as a result of
frontiers of science and technology, of industry, of foreign service, of economic and social development around the world.” But Wofford decried “the fact that millions of colored Americans” lived in “a rural blackbelt county in the South where even the right to vote is not yet secured.”33 At the same time, the Justice Department began enforcing the relatively weak civil rights laws passed in 1957 and 1960 to ensure voting. “It is the responsibility of the Department of Justice,” Robert Kennedy
of our time is the achievement of equal opportunities for all citizens,” the drafters wrote. “Too long have Negroes been denied fair treatment and equal opportunity in all parts of our land.” There were problems “which must concern all of us and to which we have a moral obligation to put right.”62 But the president balked. He continued to resist a moral argument, once again fearful of white southerners’ anger. He called not for justice but for peace: “This Government will do whatever must be done
F., speeches of American University, on nuclear test ban Berlin campaign of 1960 campaign of 1963 civil rights Cuban missile crisis Democratic nomination, “New Frontier” “discordant voices of extremism” Greater Houston Ministerial Association inaugural, “Ask not” last “Let the word go forth” State of the Union (1961, first) State of the Union (1961, second) State of the Union (1962) State of the Union (1963) Stevenson nominating Vietnam “Why I Am a Democrat” Kennedy, Joseph