JFK: A Vision For America (Review)

John Fitzgerald Kennedy would have been 100 years-old this year had he lived. The centennial year of Kennedy’s birth has inspired some new books about the 35th President of the United States. The first one I came across is JFK: A Vision for America by Stephen Kennedy Smith and Douglas Brinkley.

This nearly five-pound book is filled with photographs and historical notes regarding the life and times of Jack Kennedy. It’s a beautifully assembled work that will be a keepsake that will hold its intellectual value for many years.

I consider John F. Kennedy as my first President. My first solid memory of Kennedy was the televised debate between him and Richard Nixon. Even though I was a grade school pupil, I still remember some of the major aspects of JFK’s short term in office. There was the “New Frontier”, the Cuban missile crisis, the Peace Corps, his speech at the Berlin Wall where he said, “Ich bin ein Berliner”, the civil rights question, and, of course, the assassination. Kennedy inspired my interests in politics, civil rights, and activism. These are some of the reasons this book had to come home with me.

In addition to the generous amount of photographs in JFK, is the compendium of Kennedy’s most inspiring and important speeches. Reading them can re-energize spirit and patriotism of the early 1960s. JFK’s patriotism was so stimulating because it was not overbearing, forceful, or showy. He had a lifelong, deep love of this country that was integral with his personality. He didn’t have to brag about his patriotism, he lived it.

The authors of JFK: a Vision for America did a brilliant job of collating and assembling the contents of the book. JFK’s nephew Stephen Kennedy Smith is a lecturer at the Sloan School of Management and a fellow at the Connection Science group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has served as a staffer of the Senate Judiciary and the Foreign Relations committees. He remains very active in Democratic Party politics.

Douglas Brinkley is an history professor at Rice University, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine and Audubon, as well as CNN’s Presidential Historian. Brinkley is a member of the Society of American Historians and the Council on Foreign Relations. He recently won the Sperber Prize for Best Book in Journalism and is a past recipient of the Washington Post Notable Book of the Year award. Brinkley has also won a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

In addition to Smith and Brinkley are 42 additional noteworthy contributors.  There are essays by such luminaries as Henry Kissinger, Ron Suskind, Jimmy Carter, Norman Mailer, Chris Matthews, and Kofi Annan.  The very first essay was penned by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. His Holiness remembers Kennedy’s strong advocacy of the separation of church and state. The new Tibetan constitution was inspired in large part by Kennedy’s eloquence on the subject.

It was somewhat surprising to find essays by people who are normally hostile to the Democratic Party. One, in particular, is John McCain. His first connection with JFK’s policies came about when McCain was stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. This was during the Cuban missile crisis, a formative event in McCain’s life. His essay ends with this sentence: “He [Kennedy] was the man who issued my personal summons to history, and who seemed in that moment to be the very best man for the job.”

JFK: a Vision for America is a book to spend quality time digesting.  For those of us who lived during the time of Kennedy, the book is more than a nostalgia trip; it’s an important record of the times. For people born after the Kennedy years, JFK provides an in-depth history of the nation in the middle of the 20th century. This is a book to be treasured.

{ JFK: A Vision for America by Stephen Kennedy Smith and Douglas Brinkley, 496 pages published May 2017 by Harper; ISBN: 978-0-06-266884-4 }

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes President Kennedy. “Now the trumpet summons us again…a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle…against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, cultural highlights, History, photography, Politics, Youth and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to JFK: A Vision For America (Review)

  1. hanspostcard says:

    What is really going to interest me is how will history view President Kennedy when all the emotion is taken out of the equation? When the historians who are all looking at him and his presidency were not alive when it was taking place. When they have no memory of that terrible afternoon in Dallas. We are almost to that point now with FDR. To have voted for FDR even once you’d have to be 95 now?

    • swabby429 says:

      You bring up a valid point. I mentallly compared how I view the Presidency of Wiliam McKinley with how people in the future will view that of John Kennedy.

      • hanspostcard says:

        I have been the book and you gave a great review. I just ordered it through my local library’s loan system. .. I don’t know- they may view him a little better or a little worse- or pretty much as we do. I always go back to that supposed quote by Zhou Enlai when asked in the 1970’s about the outcome of the French Revolution ‘It’s too soon to tell.”

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