John F. Kennedy on Principles & Values



Called on Nixon and Eisenhower for advice in crises

Former presidents used to help each other in times of crisis. Trump has made that impossible. He has not spoken with Obama or Clinton since his inauguration more than three years ago (aside from a brief hello and goodbye to Obama during George H.W. Bush's funeral in December 2018). In fact, the only substantive conversation he and Obama have had was during the customary visit Trump made to the Oval Office two days after he won the 2016 election. He has been criticizing him ever since.

Contrast that with John F. Kennedy, who called on all 3 of his living predecessors to ask for their help during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A year and a half earlier, after the Bay of Pigs disaster, Kennedy had reached out to the man he'd just defeated, Richard Nixon, and to his Republican predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He knew he could not afford to be too proud to ask for help. "No one knows how rough this job is until after he has been in it a few months," Kennedy confessed to Eisenhower.

Source: Team of Five, by Kate Andersen Brower , Apr 21, 2020

1963: Walter Cronkite announced assassination on live TV

[At age 10, the TV] delivered what may have been the worst news [Schultz's mother] ever heard. Peering through his black-rimmed glasses, [news anchor Walter Cronkite] read what was written on live TV.

"From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official." Cronkite removed his glasses and looked into the camera. "President Kennedy died at one P.M. Central Standard Time." For a few empty seconds, he didn't speak. The most trusted man in America blinked back tears.

For the next three days, my mother cried and smoked as she watched TV, devastated. My father was moved by Kennedy's death, too, but not enough to join her vigil. It was up to me to fill the empty space next to her.

No one close to our family had died during my short life, except Billy's dad, who had a heart attack. That was my first experience with death. Kennedy's assassination was my second, and I absorbed the tragedy through my mother, because when you're ten, your mother matters more than a president.

Source: From the Ground_Up. by Howard Schultz, p. 51-2 , Jan 28, 2019

Legacy is aspiration, not legislative accomplishments

There were relatively few legislative accomplishments during Kennedy's presidency. Much of the landmark legislation that he initiated (such as action on civil rights) was carried through after his death. Uniquely, Kennedy's legacy is his aspiration, his spirit and challenge, his sentiments and his perceived strength and nobility. These continue to inspire modern politicians across the political spectrum and, perhaps more significantly, people across the world.
Source: The 100 Greatest Speeches, by Kourdi & Maier, p.149 , Mar 3, 2010

Camelot: romantic model of public service & inspiration

Many of the friends, aides, and followers who envisioned an Edward Kennedy presidency were basing their hopes on a romantic and ultimately irrelevant model. Whether consciously or not, they seemed enthralled by the dream that the dash and vaulting aspirations of the early 1960s would return again.

My actual vision of the presidency, to the extent that I turned it over in my mind, was more complex and less romantic. It was and remains a given that my brothers established a soaring standard for public service, and that their standards to a great extent has defined my life and my aims. I have always measured against that standard.

But my concept of myself as president had little or nothing to do with Camelot. It had nothing to do with that old preoccupation with "catching up" that I've mentioned. It wasn't about Jack, or Bobby, or my father. The eras that shaped them had passed. The present era was quite different in mood, in collective experience, and in the challenges the nation faced.

Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p.343-344 , Sep 14, 2009

Insisted on low-security open convertible despite risks

Kennedy aides told the Secret Service that the president wanted to ride in an open convertible, according to the Warren Commission Report. If it had rained, Kennedy would have used a plastic top that was not bulletproof. Kennedy himself told agents he di not want them to ride on the small running boards at the rear of the car. At 12:30 PM, shots resounded in rapid succession from the Texas School Book Depository. A bullet entered the base of the back of the president's neck. Another bullet then struck hi in the back of the head, causing a massive, fatal wound.

[Two Secret Service agents were in the limousine], but neither could immediately leap to Kennedy's assistance, as would have been the case if agents had been allowed to ride at the rear of the car. The "kill shot" to the president's head came 4.9 seconds after the first shot that hit him. If agents had been allowed on the rear running boards, they would have pushed the president down and jumped on him to protect him before the fatal shot.

Source: In the President`s Secret Service, by Ron Kessler, p. 13-14 , Jun 29, 2009

1961: Ask not what your country can do for you

[Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address]: In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility--I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you00ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Source: They Think You're Stupid, by Herman Cain, p.154 , Jun 14, 2005

Profile in Courage award to honor those with courage

Our family has honored my family's commitment to public service by celebrating that commitment in others. In 1989, we established the Profile in Courage Award, presented annually to an elected official who stands fast for the ideals upon which this country was founded, often at great personal risk. These men and women, Republican and Democrat, serving at the local, state, and national level, are the heirs to the eight legendary senators chronicled in this book. Our collective definition of courage has expanded since "Profiles in Courage" was written--today we honor those with the courage to compromise as well as those who stay the course.
Source: Profiles In Courage, Intro by Caroline Kennedy, p. xii , Mar 18, 2003

Politics obscures courage; but there is political courage

Senators, we hear, must be politicians--and politicians must be concerned only with winning votes, not with statesmanship or courage. Mothers may still want their favorite sons to grow up to be President, but, according to a famous Gallup poll of some years ago, they do not want them to become politicians in the process.

Does this current rash of criticism and disrespect mean the quality of the Senate has declined? Certainly not. Does it mean, then, that the Senate can no longer boast of men of courage?

I am convinced that the complication of public business and the competition for the public's attention have obscured innumerable acts of political courage--large and small- -- performed almost daily in the Senate Chamber.

Source: Profiles In Courage, by Sen. John F. Kennedy, p. 2-3 , Mar 18, 2003

Compromise is essential for functioning government

The way we get along, I was told when I entered Congress, "is to go along." That includes the use of compromise, the sense of things possible. We should not be too hasty in condemning all compromise as bad morals. For politics and legislation are not matters for inflexible principles.

It is compromise that prevents each set of reformers from crushing the group on the extreme opposite end of the political spectrum. The legislator has some responsibility to conciliate those opposing forces within his state and party and to represent them in the larger clash of interests on the national level; and he alone knows that there are few if any issues where all the truth and all the right and all the angels are on one side.

Some of my colleagues who are criticized today as compromising "politicians" are simply engaged in the fine art of conciliating, balancing and interpreting the forces and factions of public opinion, an art essential to keeping our nation united and enabling our Government to function

Source: Profiles In Courage, by Sen. John F. Kennedy, p. 4-6 , Mar 18, 2003

Senators must balance conscience with constituents' views

A senator who is a man of conscience cannot ignore the pressure groups, his constituents, his party. He must judge for himself which path to choose, which step will most help or hinder the ideals to which he is committed. [But] he realizes once he begins to weigh each issue in terms of his chances for re-election, once he begins to compromise away his principles on one issue after another for fear that to do otherwise would halt his career, then he has lost the very freedom of conscience which justifies his continuance in office.

But this is no real problem, some will say. Always do what is right, regardless of whether is it popular. Ignore the pressures, the temptations, the false compromises.

That is an easy answer--but it is easy only for those who do not bear the responsibilities of elected office. Are we rightfully entitled to ignore the demands of our constituents even if we are able and willing to do so? The primary responsibility of a Senator is to represent the views of his state.

Source: Profiles In Courage, by Sen. John F. Kennedy, p. 12-13 , Mar 18, 2003

Senator's loyalties split among party, state, & nation

Nine years in Congress have taught me the wisdom of Lincoln's words: "There are few things wholly evil or wholly good. Almost everything, especially of Government policy, is an inseparable compound of the two, so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded."

This book is not intended to suggest that party regularity and party responsibility are necessary evils which should at no time influence our decisions. It is not intended to suggest that the local interests of one's state or region have no legitimate right to consideration at any time. On the contrary, the loyalties of every Senator are distributed among his party, his state, his country and his conscience. On party issues, his party loyalties are normally controlling. In regional disputes, his regional responsibilities will likely guide his course. It is on national issues, on matters of conscience which challenge party and regional loyalties, that the test of courage is presented.

Source: Profiles In Courage, by Sen. John F. Kennedy, p.242-243 , Mar 18, 2003

We all face tests of courage, with unions, friends, etc.

Not only do the problems of courage and conscience concern every officeholder in our land, however humble or mighty, they concern every voter in our land--and they concern those who do not vote, those who take no interest in Government. For, in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, "holds office"; every one of us is in a position of responsibility.

These problems do not even concern politics alone--for the same basic choice of courage or compliance continually faces us all, whether we fear the anger of constituents, friends, a board of directors or our union, whenever we stand against the flow of opinion on strongly contested issues. Politics merely furnishes one arena which imposes special tests of courage.

Source: Profiles In Courage, by Sen. John F. Kennedy, p.245-246 , Mar 18, 2003

"Camelot" symbolizes longing for something beautiful & lost

The tragedy in Dallas had transformed the Kennedy personality from a slain president to a clan whose every member had been touched with his glamour. Henceforth, they would treat all other claimants to the presidency as caretakers or, worse yet, usurpers. "Camelot," the poignant conceit Jacqueline now confected, colorized JFK's career much as film distributors would some years later transform vintage B&W movies. "Camelot" came to symbolize a mass longing not limited to partisan Democrats for a return of something beautiful and lost, the honoring of a dynastic claim. What John Kennedy had won through democratic election his family now demanded as hereditary rank.

Jacqueline imprinted: "At night before we'd go to sleep, we had an old Victrola. Jack liked to play some records. The song he loved most came at the very end of this record, the last side of Camelot: 'Don't let it be forgotten, That once there was a spot, For one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.' Jack loved history so."

Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p.243-244 , Jun 3, 1996

Freedom of worship is based on religious diversity

The search for freedom of worship has brought people to America from the days of the Pilgrims to modern times. In our own day, for example, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian persecution in Hitler's Germany and the Communist empire have drawn people from their homes to seek refuge in America. Not all found what they sought immediately. Minority religious sects, from the Quakers and Shakers through the Catholics and Jews to the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, have at various times suffered both discrimination and hostility in the US.

But the diversity of religious belief has made for religious toleration. In demanding freedom for itself, each sect had increasingly to permit freedom for others. The insistence of each successive wave of immigrants upon its right to practice its religion helped make freedom of worship a central part of the American creed. People who gambled their lives on the right to believe in their own God would not lightly surrender that right in a new society.

Source: A Nation of Immigrants, by John F. Kennedy, p. 6-7 , Jan 8, 1963

Rendezvous with destiny: get America moving again in 1960s

I believe it my responsibility as the leader of the Democratic party in 1960 to try to warn the American people that in this crucial time we can no longer afford to stand still. We can no longer afford to be second best. I want people all over the world to look to the United States again, to feel that we're on the move, to feel that our high noon is in the future.

I don't believe that there is anything this country cannot do. I don't believe there's any burden, or any responsibility, that any American would not assume to protect his country, to advance the cause of freedom. And I believe it incumbent upon us now to do that. Franklin Roosevelt said in 1936 that that generation of Americans had a rendezvous with destiny. I believe in 1960 and 61 and 62 and 63 we have a rendezvous with destiny. And I believe it incumbent upon us to be the defenders of the United States and the defenders of freedom; and to do that, we must give this country leadership and we must get America moving again.

Source: The Fourth Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate , Oct 21, 1960

John F. Kennedy on 1940s-1950s Campaigns

First elected to U.S. House in 1946; to Senate in 1952

In 1946, Kennedy ran successfully for a Boston-based seat in the U.S. House of Representatives; he was reelected in 1948 and 1950. As a congressman he backed social legislation that benefited his working-class constituents.

Kennedy was a relatively ineffectual senator. During parts of 1954 and 1955 he was seriously ill with back ailments (compounded by Addison disease, for which he was treated from as early as 1953). Critics observed that he made no effort to oppose the anti-civil libertarian excesses of Joseph McCarthy. His friends later argued, not entirely persuasively, that he would have voted to censure McCarthy if he had not been hospitalized at the time.

Source: Grolier Encyclopedia article on JFK , Nov 8, 2016

1946: Campaigned for House door-to-door in Boston

In the 11th District, campaigning in the neighborhood meant climbing stairs, for these were neighborhoods with block after block of "3-deckers," 3-story tenement buildings, in which often every floor had to be visited because there were different tenants on every floor, and stairs were very hard on Jack Kennedy's back--he could climb them only one step at a time: by putting a foot on each step, and then pulling the other foot up next to it. The old Boston pols recruited by Joe Kennedy's allies and Joe Kennedy's cash to take him around looked askance at "the millionaire's kid" at first--"It was tough to sell the guy," one recalls. The pols came to think more of him, however.

They would watch as he headed out on the evening's campaign trail. "The guy was in agony," one of them came to realize. But "off we'd go again, until 11 or 12 at night, never wasting a minute." He would never admit that he felt the least bit tired or anything. He won the election.

Source: Passage of Power, by Robert Caro, p. 42-43 , May 1, 2012

1948: Rate of absenteeism was one of highest in the House

Watching Jack stroll onto the House floor one day with his hands in his pockets, a colleague said his attitude suggested: "Well, I guess if you don't want to work for a living, this is as good a job as any."

During his 1st year in Congress, he took an active role on the Housing Committee, giving a series of speeches on the postwar housing crisis, and opposed the Taft-Hartley Act. But that fall, he fell ill, and he was no longer active at all, and thereafter his rate of absenteeism was one of the highest in the House. "If you had to pick a member of that [1947] freshman class who would probably wind up as President, Kennedy was probably the LEAST likely." The House bored him.

In 1952, he ran for the Senate, against the widely respected incumbent from Massachusetts, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.

Favored when the campaign began, Lodge was overwhelmed by the Kennedy organization, directed for the 1st time by the candidate's younger brother Robert, and by Kennedy innovation.

Source: Passage of Power, by Robert Caro, p. 29 , May 1, 2012

Ambassador father pushed JFK into politics

The ambassador boasted in 1957, "I got Jack into politics; I was the one. I told him Joe was dead and that it was therefore his responsibility to run for Congress. He didn't want to. He felt he didn't have the ability and he still feels that way. But I told him he had to."
Source: A Question of Character, by Thomas Reeves, p. 73 , Dec 10, 1997

OpEd: 1952: wins Senate seat with dazzle but not substance

The Kennedy image portrayed in the campaign of 1952 was dazzling. Here was youth, energy, intelligence, warmth, and selfless devotion to principle. Few of the cheering voters knew that beneath that surface was a much less substantial reality. There was indeed intelligence, discipline, and determination. All the Kennedys fought hard and tirelessly. But behind the whole effort was the will and ambition of the Founding Father, Joe Kennedy, who cared little for any principle beyond the advancemen of his family's power and prestige.

Jack lacked the full measure of his father's ambition cruelty, and will to dominate. He was a more amiable, less focused man; his personality was not the almost carbon copy of the ambassador's that Bobby's was at the time. Still, Jack like his father and his brother, was without any guiding intellectual, philosophical, or moral vision in his pursuit of office. Politics, like life, was about winning, and little else.

Source: A Question of Character, by Thomas Reeves, p.106-107 , Dec 10, 1997

1955: "Profiles in Courage" established political stature

Kennedy said he had "bigger plans;" his first step was to secure for himself more of an "intellectual" aura. Kennedy had enlisted Ted Sorenson, wife Jacqueline, and what amounted to an entire faculty of historians in a book project about members of the Senate who had taken principled, courageous positions at odds with their constituencies. The book's publication was intended to identify Kennedy as a politician of stature, moral as well as mental. "Where else, in a non-totalitarian country, but in the political profession is the individual expected to sacrifice all--including his own career--for the national good?" it asked the reader.

The Kennedys, father and son, had great hopes for Profiles in Courage, regarding it as a tool for transforming a 1st-term New England senator into a figure of national prominence, a young politician into an emerging statesman, and an "author" at that. In Jan. 1956, Jack Kennedy hand-delivered copies to every member of the US Senate.

Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p.105-106 , Jun 3, 1996

Ran for Vice Presidency at 1956 convention

Having received his party's nomination, Adlai Stevenson moved to exploit the anxiety about the nation's #2 slot. He went before the convention to say that he would not pick a running mate. Rather, he wanted the convention to do it. Stevenson [hoped to] shift the focus of the fall campaign itself to the vice presidency, from "Ike" to "Dick". His speech cloaked an even deeper truth: Plagued by indecision, Stevenson was using Richard Nixon, the man Democrats loved to hate, as his excuse for not naming Jack Kennedy his vice-presidential nominee.

The 1st ballot count was John F. Kennedy, 304 delegates; Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver, 483; Sen. Albert Gore, also of Tennessee, 178. Senator Gore then threw his own dwindling number of delegates to his fellow Tennessean, Kefauver.

The defeat brought Kennedy to a sober reckoning. He now believed that whatever lip service they paid to tolerance, the main party leaders would simply not let him--young, independent, and Catholic--become their nominee.

Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p.109-112 , Jun 3, 1996

1957: Won Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage

Upon publication in 1956, "Profiles in Courage" garnered impressive reviews. To Joe Kennedy, good notices were not enough. He wanted the Pulitzer Prize.

n May 1957, the Pulitzer Prize was awarded to "Profiles." The committee disregarded the judges' recommendation and presented Sen. Kennedy with the award for biography. Rose Kennedy frankly credited the triumph to her husband's "careful spade work." "Things don't happen; they are made to happen," she said.

By year's end, however, the authorship of the book & Kennedy's Pulitzer had BOTH become controversial. [Under allegations] that Profiles was "ghostwritten," Kennedy's willingness to accept the prize for the book constituted a public fraud. But Kennedy's knowledge of the subject matter convinced [critics] that he had been seriously involved in the project. While Kennedy may have lacked the requisite zeal for the lonely toil of drafting and redrafting manuscripts, he would prove adequate to the more public role of promoting the finished work.

Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p.114-116 , Jun 3, 1996

John F. Kennedy on 1960 Campaign

1959: Big-city mayors recalled anti-Catholic 1928 campaign

[In 1959], Kennedy was campaigning all over the country, but he not only was young--41--but looked much younger, far too young to be a President. Furthermore, he was a Catholic. The veteran big-city bosses were Catholics, all of them: Daley, Lawrence, DiSalle, De Sapio, Prendergast, Bailey. They would never put a Catholic at the head of their party's ticket. As "Newsweek" analyzed their feelings, "30 years have passed since the defeat of Al Smith, but they still remember vividly the violent anti-Catholic feeling which the 1928 campaign engendered." Who would take Kennedy seriously anyway? From the Senate, he was little more than a joke: a rich man's son, a "playboy," and, he said, "sickly" to boot, always away from Washington because of some illness or other, and never accomplishing anything when he was present.
Source: Passage of Power, by Robert Caro, p. 14 , May 1, 2012

1960: Today we stand on the edge of a New Frontier

Jack broke tradition and arrived in the convention hall immediately after he had been nominated, to thank the delegates--and to offer a surprised Lyndon Johnson the vice presidential spot, which LBJ immediately accepted.

On the following night, to great cheers, Jack introduced a thrilling new phrase as the descriptive term for his program. "Today our concern must be with the future," he called out. "For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do."

And then: "The problems [of the past] are not all solved and the battles are not all won. And we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier. The frontier of the 1960s. A frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats."

Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p.150-151 , Sep 14, 2009

Won 1960 election over Nixon by only 0.1%

Kennedy had won 49.7% of the vote & Nixon had taken 49.6%. A mere 112, 803 votes separated the two candidates--the smallest margin of the century. Only a handful of people knew the other side of the story--the cynical manipulation of issues, unrestrained spending, vote fraud, and dishonesty about Kennedy's intellectual achievements and physical condition. What mattered to the Kennedys was victory, and they had always been willing to pay any price for it. In 1960 as before, that approach proved successful
Source: A Question of Character, by Thomas Reeves, p.214-215 , Dec 10, 1997

1960: Give direction to our traditional moral purpose

Kennedy formally announced his candidacy on January 2, 1960. Among the real issues of 1960, he said, were:With an agenda emphasizing moral ideals and global concern, Kennedy tossed his hat in the ring.
Source: A Question of Character, by Thomas Reeves, p.157-158 , Dec 10, 1997

1953: Targeted Nixon as presidential rival for 1960

Kennedy was assigned room 362; Nixon as vice president was assigned room 361, directly across the hall. While Kennedy and his staff assumed even back then that the 1960 Republican presidential nomination was Nixon's to lose, the vice president had little reason to suspect Kennedy as a rival. Just turned 40, Nixon was now the dynamic national figure of his generation. Thanks to the Hiss case and the Checkers melodrama, he was one of the few public figures known by every voter in the country. Kennedy, on the other hand, was a bachelor navy hero enjoying what seemed to be an indefinite shore leave, a man whose tenuous health had taken him to death's door; a Roman Catholic in a Protestant country that had been electing Protestant presidents since the first peal of the Liberty Bell. Add to that Kennedy's health: the strange losses of weight, the stark changes in his coloring, the absences. By all outward appearances, he seemed a genial dilettante destined for a long, no-heavy-lifting career in the Senate.
Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p. 90-91 , Jun 3, 1996

1960: primaries dominated for first time over backrooms

Kennedy scored a big victory in Wisconsin's April primary, winning 478,901 votes to Humphrey's 372,034. Yet the press preferred to put a religious spin on the results: Kennedy had won, it was decreed, because Wisconsin's Republican Catholics had crossed over to vote for him on the Democratic ballot. Wisconsin, so went the media line, proved nothing.

He would now have to win in heavily Protestant West Virginia. It didn't look good. An anti-Kennedy landslide loomed. The nomination would have to be brokered at the convention, a scenario that tallied with Lyndon Johnson's own game plan.

In West Virginia, Kennedy rewrote the game plan for Johnson and all future presidential campaigns. Henceforth, the battle would be in the primaries, not in Capitol offices. Having influenced Catholics in Wisconsin to back Kennedy out of religious solidarity, the new Kennedy spin was designed to convince West Virginia's Protestants that bigotry was the only reason a person could have for opposing him.

Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p.129-130 , Jun 3, 1996

1960 slogan: Get the country moving again

[At the first 1960 presidential debate], Nixon looked like an ill-at-ease, unshaven, middle-aged fellow recovering from a serious illness. Kennedy, by contrast, was elegant in a dark, well-tailored suit that set off his healthy tan.

There wasn't a word of his opening presentation that anyone could have argued with. No, the country was not meeting its potential. No, we were not the same nation of doers who had ended WWII. Yes, the country could do better. And, yes, we needed to "get the country moving again." Kennedy was playing a hawk on foreign policy, the activist at home, the same strategy he had used in the 1952 Senate race that sent Lodge packing. By going to his rival's right on foreign policy and to his left on domestic policy, Jack Kennedy would leave Nixon scrambling for turf.

Incredibly, Nixon was agreeing with his challenger. Nixon seemed intent on getting Kennedy himself to agree that when it came to goals, there really wasn't much difference between them.

Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, 150-153 , Jun 3, 1996

1960: US is standing still & suffering lowered prestige

[President Eisenhower's observations of the Kennedy-Johnson campaign]: At home, the Democrats claimed, the US was standing still; abroad it was suffering from lowered prestige. "Last year," the Democratic presidential nominee declared, "the Soviet Union exceeded the growth of this country by 3 times."

"Unemployment," he amplified elsewhere, capitalizing on a temporary increase during the month of October, "has doubled in this country since Mr. Eisenhower took office, while the number of jobs has grown only 15%."

He demanded that the US Information Agency release a public opinion poll which, he alleged, showed that our prestige abroad had reached a new low.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.598 , Jan 1, 1965

John F. Kennedy on Personal Background

JFKs's Addison disease kept secret for decades

Secrecy about a President's health has a rich history. Although John F. Kennedy's tan was often described as a sign of vigor, it was caused by Addison's disease, an endocrine disorder, which Kennedy and his aides hid for decades, and which left him dependent on multiple medications.

Yet it is impossible to conceal the sheer physical strain of the Presidency. The absence of peers and friends takes the greatest toll. Kennedy, who liked to compare his critics to hecklers at a bullfight, quoted a poem by the matador Domingo Ortega: "Only one is there who knows / And he's the man who fights the bull."

Source: Evan Osnos in New Yorker magazine , May 8, 2017

1960: separate Catholic identity from public life

Kennedy's famous speech [on Catholicism in 1960] is actually quite different from the way it is often described. Instead of reconciling his religious identity with his role in public life, Kennedy entirely separated the two.

In 2008, Mitt Romney's Mormon faith was likewise perceived as an issue by some voters. Some pundits and political advisors urged him to "do a JFK." Just give a speech, they told him, and reassure voters that your faith will have nothing to do with your presidency. Unlike JFK, Romney declared that our religious liberty is "fundamental to America's greatness."

Like Kennedy, Romney Mitt praised all Americans' freedom to worship as they choose. Like Kennedy, he also declared that "no authority of my church, or of any other church, for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions." But unlike Kennedy, he spoke out strongly for America's religious heritage, and how it continues to define us as a nation

Source: America by Heart, by Sarah Palin, p.184-186 , Nov 23, 2010

The Catholic Question: I follow both my conscience & nation

Despite increasing Republican attacks on Jack's Catholicism, Jack addressed, on live television, a convention of southern Protestant ministers.

Facing these conservative clerics who had regarded him as a likely agent of the Vatican whose loyalties were to the pope rather than the American people, my brother stood at ease behind the podium and delivered on of the pivotal speeches of his career. He was not the Catholic candidate for president, he told the stony faces before him; he was the Democratic Party's candidate for president who happened to be a Catholic. Speaking without a trace of defensiveness, Jack gradually disarmed the ministers. "If the time should ever come," he assured them, "When my office would require me to either violate my conscience, or violate the national interest, I would resign the office." He subtly peeled back the layer of righteousness regarding "the Catholic question: and exposed the bigotry that lay beneath. The ministers sent him offstage with a standing ovation

Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p.153-154 , Sep 14, 2009

Double life as charismatic leader and cheating husband

Agents assigned to guard Kennedy soon learned that he led a double life. He was the charismatic leader of the free world. But in his other life, he was the cheating, reckless husband whose aides snuck women into the White House to appease his sexual appetite. Besides one- night stands, Kennedy had several consorts within the White House. One was Pamela Turnure, who had been his secretary when he was a senator, then Jackie's press secretary in the White House. Two others, Priscilla Wear and Jill Cowen, were secretaries; "neither did much work," says a former Secret Service agent. "We had radio contact with Jackie's detail in case she came back." One afternoon, Kennedy was cavorting in the pool with young women when Secret Service agents on Jackie's detail radioed that she was returning to the White House unexpectedly. "Jackie was expected back in ten minutes, and JFK came charging out of the pool," says an agent.
Source: In the President`s Secret Service, by Ron Kessler, p. 11-12 , Jun 29, 2009

1947: Diagnosed with Addison's Disease and given Last Rites

[During a Congressional trip] to his ancestral home in Ireland, Kennedy fell desperately ill. A London doctor diagnosed his condition as Addison's disease, a failure of the adrenal glands that can prove fatal. On Kennedy's return to New York aboard the Queen Elizabeth, he was given the last rites of the church. Many had no clue as to the seriousness of the affliction that weakened Kennedy's physique and yellowed his skin. That was something the fun-loving Kennedy let no one know.

For Jack Kennedy, staying alive was a serious concern. He managed the sweet life of the young bachelor despite his bad back, which often had him on crutches, and Addison's disease, which cast doubt over his longer-run prospects.

Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p. 54-57 , Jun 3, 1996

Founded "Muckers Club" to fight high school elitism

As a 17-year-old senior at the exclusive Choate School, John Kennedy organized the "Muckers Club." Both the idea and the name came from a sermon given at chapel by the prep schools' starch-collared headmaster, who had railed that day against those troublemaking students who he said lacked the proper Choate spirit. He called them "Muckers," slang for the local Irish-American ditchdiggers who were a familiar sight around campus. To show his contempt, young Kennedy recruited a dozen friends to meet every evening just after chapel. They would have a single purpose: concoct pranks aimed at wreaking havoc on the proper Choate order. The chance to plot mischief with young Kennedy's Muckers proved so popular that admission was limited, by the founder's decree, to those too rich for the school to expel.

What sealed the Kennedy gang's doom was a bold scheme to disrupt a major social event by dumping manure onto the school's dance floor, with the Muckers arriving, shovels in hand, to save the day.

Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p. 23 , Jun 3, 1996

1953: Married Jackie when she was 22-year-old college senior

In 1953, one compartment in John Kennedy's life remained to be filled. If he was to advance politically, he would have to shed his playboy image and acquire for himself a wife. Jacqueline Bouvier a 22-year-old George Washington University senior had already interviewed both Kennedy & Nixon for her job as "Inquiring Camera Girl" on the Washington Times-Herald. Kennedy "asked for a date."

"I gave everything a good deal of thought, so I am getting married this fall," he now wrote. Kennedy managed to keep secret his engagement to Miss Bouvier until after the Saturday Evening Post had run a long-planned feature: "Jack Kennedy: The Senate's Gay Young Bachelor." The Kennedy-Bouvier wedding, that September in Newport, engendered an even bigger publicity blitzkrieg.

Looking out over the Long Island Sound, the groom made an assessment that, coming from any other man of his age, might have seemed either presumptuous or fantastic. "That would be a helluva place to sail in the presidential yacht."

Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p. 92-93 , Jun 3, 1996

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