JFK HAD AN ACUTE SENSE OF NEARNESS TO AMERICA’S PAST
Today JFK+50 continues our report on “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy,” edited by Ted Widmer & published by Hyperion, 2012.
The title of Chapter 1 is HISTORY.
Mr. Widmer says:
“John F. Kennedy possessed an acute sense of his nearness to the American past.”
He cites the example of how President Kennedy had historians work & speak in the White House.
Although he doesn’t mention Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. by name, this is obviously one historian he has in mind.
JFK also joined the American Historical Association*.
*The American Historical Association was founded in 1884 & chartered in 1889 to promote the teaching of history & preservation of historical documents.
The list of past presidents includes: John Jay, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Frederick Jackson Turner, Theodore Roosevelt & Woodrow Wilson.
And, of course, John F. Kennedy had experienced history 1st hand in his travels in Europe before the beginning of World War II & his service in the US Navy in the South Pacific during that war.
Widmer also writes that JFK’s presidency was influenced by history.
Examples which come to mind are the centennial of the start of the Civil War (1861-1961) impacting the civil rights movement & the Yalta agreement at the end of World War II impacting the Berlin crisis of 1961.
Mr. Widmer had written in his introduction that the reasons why JFK had the audio recording system installed in the White House in 1962 may never be known, but he speculates in this chapter that because JFK often talked of one day writing his memoirs, he may have had that in mind in having an audio record to serve as a source in that process.
Chapter 1 also includes a transcript of the 1st recording on CD1 which comes with the book that was made in 1940 after JFK graduated from Harvard & published his 1st book, Why England Slept.
The announcer asks:
“What are your plans for the future?”
“Well, I don’t know exactly yet. I’m interested more or less in working sometime in my life for the government, but I haven’t really decided as yet.”**
I liked United States history even before JFK was elected. I grew up with historical heroes like Davy Crockett on television & in the movies.
I believe strongly, however, that John F. Kennedy’s presidency turned my interest into a love or passion that would lead to a 40 year career in teaching the subject.
I honestly cannot imagine how my life would have been without a President Kennedy.
Pierre Salinger once said that not a single day went by after JFK’s death that someone didn’t mention President Kennedy’s name to him & he added “so it’s impossible for me to forget about him.”