The Kennedy Legacy

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LIFE With JFK: Classic Portraits of a Political Superstar, 1947-1963

Not many public figures from the middle part of the 20th century are as closely identified with LIFE magazine as John Fitzgerald Kennedy. 
In fact, from his days as a decorated war hero in the late 1940s, through his years as a senator, into the White House and up until the very moment of his assassination, LIFE photographers spent an enormous amount of time (and film) on the ambitious Democrat from Massachusetts.

That he married a woman as magnetic and stylish as the former  Jacqueline Bouvier only further guaranteed that the two young cultural and political icons would never be absent from the weekly’s pages for long.

Here, features a series of photographs — many of which are classics, several of which never ran in LIFE — made during the decade and a half when John Kennedy was on his way to becoming, for a time, the most powerful person on earth.

(Source: TIME)

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Get ready for the JFK centennial

Though no baby boomer will want to face this, in just under three years it is going to be the centennial of President John F. Kennedy. And the country should begin now to prepare for an appropriate celebration, something in proportion to previous grand presidential centennials where observances have lasted at least a year; where Congress, the White House, federal departments, universities, presidential libraries and other educational institutions focus on what the man meant to this nation and to the world.

There is a magnificent tradition in this nation of observing such anniversary moments. Most recently, the country did a first-rate job in 2009 of celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial. And who knew that an African-American senator, also from Illinois, would get inaugurated as the commemorations began?

In the 1980s, there were widespread observances for the centennials of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. These included what was then the second-largest celebration in the Smithsonian’s history, with FDR exhibits in 12 of its museums. A joint meeting of Congress featured the speeches of FDR; another one featured Harry Truman’s former aides.

These observances emphasized two of the great successes of 20th century America, FDR’s standing up to the Axis Powers and Truman’s standing up to the Soviet Empire. Couldn’t we use a reminder of JFK’s successes dealing with nuclear weapons?

As it did for other centennials, Congress now should pass legislation forming a national commission with representatives from both parties, the private sector and academia that could begin to organize official activities. Special one-time appropriations should be made available for the Kennedy Library in Boston, much as Congress did in the mid-1970s by giving Stanford’s Hoover Institution $7 million for Herbert Hoover’s centennial (about $31 million today), and perhaps also for space exploration, the Peace Corps and Washington’s Kennedy Center, JFK’s living cultural memorial.

Think for a moment about how many schools in this nation are named after JFK. Wouldn’t it be great for all of them to use this unique occasion to teach their students the history of that time? Of course, this kind of celebration would include media coverage, encompassing the oldest film footage to online social networks.

All of this would allow the next president to use JFK’s memory to inspire and capture the imagination of today’s young people, as JFK did in his time. People need to be reminded that great world-changing accomplishments begin with individuals — an idea that is particularly important today as more and more citizens grow disenchanted with politics.

Numerous polls show the continuing relevance of John Kennedy. He remains part of our collective memory.

The recent observances of the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination showed there is no shortage of interest in his tragic death. It is time to focus on his life.

Peter Kovler chairs the Center for National Policy and the Kovler Foundations and led the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Centennial Committee in 1982 that was a key factor in the creation of the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. Robert Dallek is a historian specializing in the presidency whose many books include, “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963.”


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May 29, 1964: Jackie Kennedy’s Return to Arlington


By Nicolaus Mills, professor of American Studies at Sarah Lawrence College

Fifty years ago on May 29, 1964, Jackie Kennedy, accompanied by her two children, returned to Arlington National Cemetery. There she placed a sprig of lilies of the valley on President Kennedy’s grave.

The occasion was JFK’s 47th birthday, and Mrs. Kennedy’s homage seemed only natural. But today it is possible to see more than a tribute to her husband in Mrs. Kennedy’s actions. It is also possible to see her deciding the time had come for her and the nation to end their period of mourning.

The day, which was intensely covered by the media, began with Mrs. Kennedy attending mass at St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Washington, where Bishop Phillip M. Hannan, who had eulogized the president following his assassination, gave the requiem sermon. Mrs. Kennedy, who had been so stoic at her husband’s burial six months earlier, wore no veil on this occasion and allowed herself to be seen crying openly.

A crowd of 1,000 people was waiting on the hillside across the Potomac when Mrs. Kennedy visited President Kennedy’s gravesite after the service, but it was as if Mrs. Kennedy looked on this spring day as one in which she was free to express her full range of feelings without worrying about being judged.

She knelt by the president’s grave, then watched as her son took the gold tie clasp in the form of his father’s World War II boat, PT-109, that he had on his coat, and placed it on the pine boughs covering the grave.


By 4:30 p.m, Mrs. Kennedy was at the Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, home of her father-in-law, Joseph P. Kennedy, for an international telecast on President Kennedy’s life, but the most revealing indication of the specialness the day held for her came in the interview she did for the May 29 Life magazine.

On December 6 Mrs. Kennedy had been the subject of a Life cover story. In a widely remembered interview with journalist Theodore White, she had made a point of comparing the Kennedy administration to King Arthur’s legendary Camelot.  Referencing the popular Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical Camelot, she had told White that the specialness her husband and his administration had achieved was too unique to be duplicated.

“She came back to the idea that transfixed her,” White wrote. “Don’t let it be forgot, that was there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot—and it will never be that way again,” White quoted Mrs. Kennedy as saying.

In her Life interviewof May 29, Mrs. Kennedy was still elegiac about her husband, but this time she was not preoccupied with the idea of the Kennedy administration as mythic. She spoke instead about preparing an exhibit of the president’s mementos that would tour the country and be used to raise funds for the Kennedy Library.

The point of the library, she stressed, was to let the president’s example be a guide to the future, not just evoke nostalgia for the past. The ’60s, Mrs. Kennedy was implicitly saying, needed a fresh start, and she was not going to stand in the way of that fresh start or turn herself into a professional widow.

Two months later, Mrs. Kennedy announced that she was giving up her home in Georgetown and moving to New York. The move freed her from the crowds that gathered daily in Georgetown to watch her comings and goings, but above all, the move let her start a new life on terms of her choosing.

In New York, Mrs. Kennedy became a leading figure in the city’s cultural life. The preservation of St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue and, most important, the preservation of Grand Central Station, which for a time during the ’70s lost its landmark designation, were among her triumphs.

“Jackie Onassis will save us,” the famed modern architect Philip Johnson commented when she took the lead in the fight to stop a proposed 59-story office tower from being erected over Grand Central Station. Johnson’s praise, made in 1975, captures how dramatically Mrs. Kennedy altered the public’s view of her and how easy it is to forget, living as we do in the age of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, that, prior to the ’60s, presidential wives were seen but rarely heard, especially after their husbands left office. 

In deciding what to do after she moved away from Washington, Mrs. Kennedy had before her only the modern example of Eleanor Roosevelt, who, following her husband’s death, took an active role in the United Nations and continued writing her newspaper column. But Mrs. Roosevelt was in her sixties when her husband died after 12 years in office. In 1964 Jackie Kennedy was just 35, the widow of a first-term president, when she began setting historical precedents of her own.


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We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.

John F. Kennedy

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Beach fun: Very rare photos of both John F. Kennedy’s at Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport. A relaxed President Kennedy is wearing nothing but swim trunks - not unusual, but unusual to be photographed. The picture of toddler John John was taken a few years later, August 4, 1964.

Beach fun: Very rare photos of both John F. Kennedy’s at Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport. A relaxed President Kennedy is wearing nothing but swim trunks - not unusual, but unusual to be photographed. The picture of toddler John John was taken a few years later, August 4, 1964.


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"Jack Kennedy was more the politician, saying things publicly that he privately scoffed at. Robert Kennedy was more himself. Jack gave the impression of decisive leadership, the man with all the answers. Robert seemed more hesitant, less sure he was right, more tentative, more questioning, and completely honest about it. Leadership he showed; but it had a different quality, an off-trail unorthodox quality, to some extent a quality of searching for answers to hard questions in company with his bewildered audience, trying to work things out with their help."

- Robert Kennedy: His Life, by Evan Thomas

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Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was a very disciplined and organized woman, made the following entry on a notecard, when her second child was born:

John Fitzgerald Kennedy 
Born Brookline, Mass. (83 Beals Street) May 29, 1917 

In all, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy would have nine children, four boys and five girls. She kept notecards for each of them in a small wooden file box and made a point of writing down everything from a doctor’s visit to the shoe size they had at a particular age. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was named in honor of Rose’s father, John Francis Fitzgerald, the Boston Mayor popularly known as Honey Fitz. Before long, family and friends called this small blue-eyed baby, Jack. 

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Jackie Kennedy’s Notes Reveal JFK’s second Term Plans

By Carl Anthony

There were minor matters to be resolved and legislative agendas to be initiated. There were new directions she intended to take and a progression of efforts he had already begun. Whether President John F. Kennedy  or First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy or both of them would have done all or part of what many journalists, colleagues, staff aides, policy experts and historians presumed or insisted they would have in a second Kennedy Administration, is ultimately a futile matter of regret, hindsight, and speculation. It always proves moot because of his assassination fifty years ago. Killed during what was then only the first preliminary political trip of JFK’s as-yet unannounced 1964 presidential re-election campaign for an intended second term, such assumptions are based on the premise that he would have won. 

In no private memorandum or recorded conversations, did JFK document his intended agenda for a second term, which would have begun on January 20, 1965 and ended on January 20, 1969.

Jacqueline Kennedy, however, did.

Jackie’s Notes
If was not a diary or memoir but it was in handwritten form (some of which she had transcribed onto typed light blue pages), in responding to my questions, and then as clarifications, corrections, edits and insertions she made in 1989 and 1990 in both margin notes and the various drafts of what became my book First Ladies: The Saga of the Presidents’ Wives & Their Power, Volume 2.

About seven years later, in my role as a contributing editor to George Magazine, I mentioned some of this to her son, the magazine co-founder and editor-in-chief. He wasn’t surprised, he cracked, that she thought that far ahead. A glimpse of some of these intentions and forecasts follow below.


While the book’s topic naturally meant the focus was on the work she intended to purse during the rest of the Kennedy Administration, she also addressed what her late husband had planned to do had his presidency continued beyond November 22, 1963, in regard to domestic legislation and foreign relations.

In fact, she addressed not only JFK’s long-range intentions but what he had planned to do later that very day.

Although she did not specify whether he would do so on Air Force One after they left Dallas or when they arrived in Austin and he had private time to work as an overnight guest at Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson’s ranch, President Kennedy was scheduled to authorize the appointment of his aide Richard Goodwin to a cabinet-level post for the arts and humanities.

In written response to a question I initially posed, Mrs. Onassis said that “JFK was going to sign a paper naming Richard Goodwin to the first Cabinet Post for the Arts.”

When I later incorporated her quote into my manuscript and she later edited it, the former First Lady inserted the words, “on November 22nd,” extending her quotation.

In her earlier declarations to me she explained how she envisioned the role of the federal governments and the widest purview of just what a Cultural Department at the Cabinet level would entail. In a secondary response, she added, “In a way, the NEA (National Endowment of the Arts) and NEH [National Endowment of the Humanities] have achieved all this.”

New role
The Texas trip marked the initial domestic travel with a political agenda which Jacqueline Kennedy made as First Lady, with or without the President. It was the beginning of an entirely new role she now intended to assume. She said it was only the first of many such trips she would make. In fact, the morning of November 22, she agreed to join the President on a campaign fundraising trip to California scheduled for early December, 1963.

She also planned to begin making joint public appearances with him on day trips from Washington, beginning with the army-navy football game on December 1, in Philadelphia. Despite the one-month mourning period following the President’s death, Jacqueline Kennedy asked that the game be played in his honor and it was, postponed just one week.


Foreign trips
Scheduled for the winter of 1964, the President and Mrs. Kennedy were to make a tour of nations of the Far East, including Japan and the Philippines. In an early draft of the First Ladies manuscript, Mrs. Onassis added that “[B]oth looked forward” to that trip and were “even thinking of moving the date up, leaving right after New Year’s.” 

Interestingly, despite the great success of her 1962 foreign trips to India, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a goodwill ambassador but official representative of the United States government  on her own, Jacqueline Kennedy had no foreseeable intention of making overseas trips without the President.

She was eager to return to India and Pakistan, but this time with JFK.


Scheduled for the summer of 1964, as President Kennedy would have been pursing the formal nomination for another term and seeking to broaden his appeal, was a vacation trip not to his extended family’s Hyannis Port, Massachusetts compound but, as she sparsely phrased it in an early draft, the “Montana mountains.” This might well suggest what JFK anticipated would be a characterization of him by a Republican presidential opponent as an eastern Establishment elitist.

However, the most startling revelation she made in terms of JFK’s vision for his international politics agenda in a second term involved the People’s Republic of China.

On a later manuscript page, she inserted a lengthy statement to this effect: “The President realized that relations with China would eventually have to be re-established and was considering a trip there in his second term.”

In scrutinizing the manuscript, she removed from it information she documented to be untrue and expounded on what she confirmed was true regarding her own future plans as First Lady.

Historical landmarks
The most startling of all her intentions for a second term was to go public in her lobbying of federal legislation protecting historical landmarks across the country as she had done privately on behalf of the White House and Lafayette Square.

She also wanted to build a far more substantial collection of historical furnishings for the White House so the point could be reached where it would no longer use loaned items for the state rooms: her misgivings were based on the fact that many collectors who loaned important historical objects would soon enough ask that these be returned and then sell them at public auction, fetching higher prices because these items been displayed in the White House.

Once a greater collection had been built, Jacqueline Kennedy was eager to then “cataloging the entire White House collection.”

Of all her later recollections about what President Kennedy intended to do, the most upsetting to her was what she curiously characterized as a “secret meeting,” with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge.

Her account suggests that he went into uncharacteristic detail with her about the reasons for this, briefing her fully on the current and unfolding situation.

He would have had two strong reasons for doing this.

First, he was meeting with the Ambassador not at the White House but at their private weekend home “Wexford,” thus intruding on what was supposed to be set aside as time alone with her and their children.

Second, since the time they had first begun dating, while he was a freshman U.S. Senator and she was a newspaper columnist and photographer, he had known of her particular depth of knowledge and nuanced understanding of the delicate situation in Vietnam which, along with Laos and Cambodia, formed the former French colony of “Indochina.” She had begun studying the situation since 1949 while enrolled at the Sorbonne and she also translated French military policy reports for him on the matter in 1953.

It is unclear why the account provided by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1990 contradicts the later publicly reported claim that the meeting was to take place at Camp David.

As the former First Lady specifically amplified my original manuscript account:

“He [JFK] was searching for a way to relieve the ambassador of his duties and to gradually diminish the U.S. presence in Vietnam. JFK had scheduled a White House meeting on this subject for Monday morning, November 25.”

This particular intention of JFK’s, “haunted for years” Jacqueline Kennedy (as her friend, the JFK-LBJ Defense Secretary Robert McNamara put it in our taped interview) because instead of beginning perhaps “to gradually diminish the U.S. presence in Vietnam” on Monday, November 25, 1963, the President was instead being buried at Arlington National Cemetery that day.


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JFK’s Five Favorite Songs & What They Tell Us About Him

In the flood of books and television documentaries released in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, too little attention is paid to the significant role that music played in JFK’s life. It’s worth remembering that musical associations are bound to be some of the first things we think about when JFK comes to mind: Camelot, his friendship with Frank Sinatra, Marilyn’s rendition of “Happy Birthday,” and the like.

Indeed JFK would forever associate pop songs with the two great tragedies of his young life: the deaths of his brother Joe and his sister Kathleen. Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” was playing on the radio in the Kennedy’s Hyannis Port house when the family received the brutal news that Joe had perished in an airplane crash while on a dangerous mission in 1944.

JFK was young congressman in 1948 listening to the Finian’s Rainbow Broadway cast album in his Washington apartment when he learned that his beloved sister “Kick” had been killed in a plane crash in France. The song “How are Things in Glocca Morra?” played as he broke down in tears.

Ted Kennedy wrote in his memoirs that hardly anyone but family and friends knew that JFK had a nice singing voice and that he regularly sang at family gatherings, often accompanied by his mother’s piano playing.

Author Steven Levy recently said this about the music on our iPods: “It’s not just what you like, it’s who you are.” JFK never owned an iPod, but knowing the songs he liked best and understanding why they were important to him can give us insight into who he was.

These were his five favorite songs:

1. "Blue Skies" as sung by Frank Sinatra. “Blue Skies” became one JFK’s best-loved songs when he was a young man, and remained so throughout his life. Composed in the 1920’s by Irving Berlin, “Blue Skies” was popularized by several of JFK’s favorite performers: Benny Goodman and Bing Crosby in the 1930s and Frank Sinatra in 1946. The song captures the optimistic and carefree attitude of the future president. Indeed, in later years Kennedy aides would describe clear blue skies as “Kennedy weather” because of its positive effect on the candidate and the crowds that came to see him. The hope and optimism that JFK inspired in his countrymen as president are reflected in the confident faith in the future reflected in “Blue Skies.” JFK was a huge fan of Sinatra’s music, often playing his albums in the White House. He attended his Sinatra and the Rat Pack’s show at the Sands in Las Vegas in February 1960, and Sinatra re-recorded his 1959 hit. Despite a widely publicized 1962 falling out between the two camps, when Sinatra’s casino license was revoked by the Nevada Gambling Control Board in 1963, JFK tried to help. During a September 28 visit to Las Vegas, JFK asked Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer, “Aren’t you guys being a little tough on Frank?”

2. "I Love Paris" as performed by Les Baxter and his Orchestra. “I Love Paris” is from the Broadway showCan-Can by Cole Porter. “I Love Paris” was another song that JFK loved and another that is associated with a carefree time. In her 1997 memoir Love, JackGunilla von Post detailed her previously unknown affair with JFK. In the book she recounts Kennedy’s visit with her in Sweden in the summer of 1955. She depicts JFK as a sensitive man happy to be away from his public and family obligations back home. Enjoying a bit of anonymity for perhaps the last time in his life, JFK sang “I Love Paris” as they drove through the Swedish countryside.

3. "Camelot" as sung by Richard Burton. Inevitably we must mention the song most associated with the Kennedy legend. Indeed “Camelot” lent its very name to that legend. Most of us will recall that JFK’s name only became associated with the Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot in the wake of his death. Camelot was built around the fictional tale of King Arthur and Lancelot. In an interview just a week after the assassination, Jackie told author Theodore H. White that JFK used to play side two of the Camelot cast album before turning in at night. “If Ever I Would Leave You” sung by Robert Goulet was the first song, and “Camelot” sung by Richard Burton was the last. Jack called “Camelot” “the song he (JFK) loved best.” Jackie insisted that this story be included in White’s article, telling him: “They’ll be great presidents again, but they’ll never be another Camelot.”

Indeed, there are many connections that bond Kennedy and Camelot, including the fact that Lerner was a prep school classmate of JFK’s who organized his 1963 birthday show at the Waldorf in NY. Lerner and Loewe graced the cover of Time magazine on Election Day 1960. Camelot opened on Broadway a few weeks later, starting its run exactly as JFK was about to take office, making the show and administration contemporaries.

The sense of loss felt to the public and the association between the song and the show was evident to all asCamelot toured the U.S. in the months after JFK’s death. When the houselights came up following the “Camelot” finale, the audience was often crying en masse.

4. "I Believe in You" as sung by Robert Morse. Less known is JFK’s love of another Broadway show of the era, Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and the song “I Believe in You.” JFK saw the show in New York in early 1961 and he had the original cast album in his White House record collection. We know the latter fact courtesy of Mimi Alford, who wrote of her affair with JFK in her 2012 memoir Once Upon a Secret. Alford recalls that JFK loved the song “I Believe in You,” noting that he was especially fond of the way Robert Morse sang the lines about being a “seeker of wisdom and truth.” The show is now forever seen as a Mad Men-era time capsule, rightly associated with the JFK administration.

5. "September Song" as sung by Walter Huston. JFK’s favorite song was undoubtedly the wistful “September Song.” Composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, “September Song” was written specifically for gravel-voiced actor Walter Huston to sing in the 1938 Broadway show Knickerbocker Holiday. Although both Bing Crosby and Sinatra recorded the song during the ’40s, it was Huston’s version that topped the charts after it was heard in the 1950 movie September Affair. In the lyric the older narrator explains to a younger lover that his time is short and he can’t play “the waiting game.” He lists the months of the year as a metaphor for life passing by quickly mentioning “September… November.” At JFK’s inaugural gala in Washington the night before he took office, comedian Jimmy Durante — who had a voice that made Huston sound like Caruso — added a strangely somber (and eerie prescient) note to the otherwise exuberant proceedings when he offered his own version of “September Song.”

JFK’s lifelong friend Lemoyne Billings would later state that by the time he reached his early thirties, JFK had seen so much death and had been sick so often that he began “living for the moment, treating each day as though it were his last, demanding of life intensity, adventure and pleasure.” Many commentators would note that JFK refused to “wait his turn” and was already planning his White House run while still only a first term senator. JFK sang “September Song” at numerous family gathering through the years, sometimes even imitating Huston’s voice as he did so. His close aide Dave Powers later wrote that JFK sang “September Song” after dinner at his family’s Palm Beach mansion on Saturday before he went to Dallas. Powers noted that he sang it “better that usual” that night.

(Source: The Huffington Post)

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