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The JFK Era

November 22, 2010
by findingDulcinea Staff
John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a grave turning point in the vibrant era of the 1960s, shocking even to those that disagreed with the young president’s policies. In honor of Nov. 22, 1963, we offer sites detailing the Kennedy era, the foreign policy mishaps and milestones, and the legacy of this short-lived political figure.

The Job of President

To be president of the United States: What does the job really entail? The Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia is the “leading research institute for the study of the American presidency,” and publishes “The President at Work,” a helpful look at the departments and offices a president is responsible for overseeing. Read the snapshot descriptions or click through for a deeper understanding of each sector. At the bottom of each page you’ll also find recommended reading lists.

Watch excerpts from "The Kennedys," an American Experience film on PBS that presents a more personal look at the history of the Kennedy clan. The film covers John F. Kennedy’s presidency and gives a balanced account of the Bay of Pigs incident, Vietnam, Communism and other issues of JFK’s term.

JFK Biographies

An official biography of John F. Kennedy is available at the White House Web site, along with external links to other interesting information about the president.

There were milestones and controversies in Kennedy’s short term as president, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum’s glossary of important terms from the era uncovers many of them. Discover the hidden meanings behind terms used in historical documents about JFK, particularly regarding the Cold War.

JFK’s religion—he was an Irish Catholic raised in Brookline, Mass.—set him apart from every president that preceded him. Time magazine has an analysis of what JFK’s religion meant in terms of policy, both domestic and foreign.

As a member of the most visible American political family, Kennedy received press treatment as both a politician and a celebrity. In 1961 he gave a speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association that assessed the media's representation of the government. The text of this speech is hosted on the Internet Archive site.

The Miller Center compiles encyclopedic information, pictures, related essays and biographical information on U.S. presidents. Kennedy’s page features several essays and lectures on his life, discussing the era before his presidency, foreign affairs, key events and more. Click on the names of the members of Kennedy’s cabinet to read essays on each one.

The Spoken Word

As an orator, Kennedy was particularly gifted, and much of his legacy is memorialized in televised speeches. Even some of his earliest political statements, from congressional and senatorial campaigns in the 1940s and 50s, are available online. Watching these early speeches hints at the powerful orator he was to become; even in less serious roles Kennedy was provocative and impassioned.

In 1946, as a candidate for Congress, Kennedy gave an Independence Day speech called “Some Elements of the American Character,” which can be read online at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum site.

Kennedy’s Senate career took off in the 1950s. The Internet Archive hosts speeches from that period, as he took steps toward the presidency.

Learn the context and background of Kennedy’s 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, in which he expressed solidarity with democratic West Berlin.

JFK's defense of Medicare is captured in a speech given in 1960, also hosted by the Internet Archive.

Links to dozens of JFK speeches from the late 1950s and early 1960s are available at the Web site of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. You’ll find lesser-known addresses, including remarks to university students at home and abroad, religious conferences and statements following the birth of the Peace Corps. Most are in audio format, though some are text-only.

Programs for Change

“How JFK Mobilized the U.S. for Recovery,” an essay that originally published in the Executive Intelligence Review, is available on the Schiller Institute site. The essay positions the Apollo space mission as a positive sequel to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Author Marsha Freeman argues that some of Kennedy’s unfinished business in the mission should be implemented today.

In 2003, The Seattle Times discussed JFK's assassination and how it affected people, then and now.

Symbolic JFK Events

A Navy lieutenant during the Second World War, JFK's role as a military hero was an important part of his campaign image. During his presidency, he made several formal appearances with the Navy and other branches of the military. Watch a video of Kennedy reviewing the Navy in action on the Internet Archive.

Watch a partial newsreel covering Kennedy’s election in 1960. It features commentary as well as footage of politicians and their families casting their votes.

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