The Last Truly Admired President: John F. Kennedy

The White House

Author – This is a section of the White House Web site dedicated to all forty-four presidents of the Union.

Objective versus Subjective Slant – As the nerve center of the Executive is the only remaining superpower, the White House has to maintain credibility. Hence, this single long page about JFK, as the President was familiarly known then, limits itself to highlighting the signal accomplishments of the Kennedy presidency: forging ahead on both domestic issues and foreign relations. This is material written with an eye to posterity and history books. The source can only be House records.

Consistency with Information Elsewhere – Since all the information given is factual, this Web page is consistent with material about John Kennedy anywhere else.

Rationale for Choice of Subject and Web Site – Other than the JFK Library site (see below), the White House must be presumed to be the most authoritative site about past Presidents. Even with the comparatively sparse material presented here, it is clear that the all-too-short Kennedy administration was a launching pad for the nation’s prosperity, a step forward for civil rights, a vigorous inspiration for American volunteerism, the start of a crash effort to match the Soviets in the space race and an audacious defense against the spread of Communist tyranny.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Author – The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (www.nara.gov) created the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.

Objective versus Subjective Slant – Having responsibility for all presidential libraries from Herbert Hoover onward, Federal records, regional archives, the Federal Register, and the National Archives in Washington DC, NARA has very high standards of integrity to maintain about culling and preserving factual records.

Consistency with Information Elsewhere – The JFK Library is both consistent and more complete than any other information source about the Kennedy years in the White House if only because it houses under one roof all official documents about those years.

Rationale for Choice of Subject and Web Site – Besides the aforementioned points about why Kennedy was a titan among modern American presidents, the Library and Museum enables historians and researchers to delve into the minutiae of the Kennedy presidency. According, the site gives online access to the Presidential Diary (a day-by-record of what went on in the Oval Office), a timeline, historical resources, education and public programs aimed at different audiences, and information about the Profiles in Courage” and “New Frontiers” awards. Far from being a stroll through shelves, the Library endeavors to stay with the times by making full use of interactive tours, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and podcasts to deliver its product: information.

The War Years and Early Political Career (Wallechinsky and Wallace, 1981)

Author –David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace helped produce this extract from “The People’s Almanac” for TriviaLibrary.com.

Objective versus Subjective Slant – No special interests are evident in this site save for the evident goal of serving up “bite-size, two-minutes to read factoids”. Adapting material from an authoritative Almanac and editing the information to be concise, the authors show no inclination to bias for or against JFK.

Consistency with Information Elsewhere – The information matches what Kennedy wrote of his World War II exploit in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage”.

Rationale for Choice of Subject and Web Site – None of these is to denigrate what the authors selected for their entry about the war years and Jack Kennedy’s first dozen-odd years in politics. This short, one-page site asserts that Kennedy wanted to be a writer but the combination of military honors for his heroism in saving the crew of PT-109 and his father’s insistence he had to stand in for elder brother Joseph who had been shot down over Europe paved the way for landslide wins representing the Cambridge district in Congress. Of course, all sites about Kennedy never fail to mention that the clan patriarch was a political wheeler-dealer adept at manipulating Boston politics. But that does not detract from the fact that JFK was eloquent and exuded the kind of stellar appeal that made him a household name all over the world when he ascended to the White House. This was a feat unmatched in the post-World War II era.

Jacqueline Kennedy (The Field Museum)

Author – Chicago’s Field Museum.

Objective versus Subjective Slant – The Web site of the Field Museum is a service portal that normally gives prominence to the scientific and natural attractions that normally comprise the range of exhibits. For six months beginning November 2004, however, the museum displayed the fashion, art, and culture that Jackie as First Lady of the land brought to an unmatched level. There is no question about the facts and the artifacts since all these were on loan from the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.

Consistency with Information Elsewhere – Far from conflicting in any way with whatever other chroniclers of JFK had to say about his presidency, the several pages put up by the Field Museum amplify the undeniable: the First Lady was a huge factor in the popularity of John Kennedy.

The rationale for Choice of Subject and Web Site – Those who yearn for glory days inevitably gush that John and Jacqueline Kennedy made Camelot come alive in the American ethos. From the days when she graced her husband’s campaign for the presidency and the all-too-brief time they resided in the White House, Jacqueline was the epitome of beauty, intelligence, grace, culture, and, yes, American motherhood. Heads of state were just as pleased to meet her as her charismatic husband. And when tragedy struck – losing a premature baby in 1963 and the assassination of the President later that year – the world shared her grief and admired her courage.

The facts, still photos, and the film kept by the JFK Presidential Library and Museum are no embellishment of the historical record. Rather, they are a vibrant record of charisma, intelligence, popularity, geopolitical clout, awakening the American spirit of volunteerism, peace and prosperity as the nation neared its second Bicentennial. Camelot did shine briefly but never before nor since.

References

Field Museum, The (2007). Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House years. Web.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (2010). Presidential library and historical museum. Web.

Wallechinsky, D. & Wallace, I. (1981). President John F. Kennedy: World War II and early political life. Web.

White House (n.d.). John F. Kennedy, 1961-1963. Web.