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Kennedy, John F. - 35th President
20 January 1961 to 22 November 1963

Russell Renka
Southeast Missouri State University

General sources:   The Miller Center's American President.org site has American President - John F. Kennedy.
    The American Experience The Presidents John F. Kennedy PBS has an overview plus five topics; a Primary Sources - John F. Kennedy site with letters including many from the Cuban Missile Crisis; and a Teacher's Guide - John F. Kennedy with a Timeline covering 1961 to 1963.
    The American Experience The Kennedys PBS is a separate file associated with the film by this name.  There is a Kennedy Family Tree and coverage of Kennedy's deeply influential father Joseph, the family patriarch.  The Kennedys Timeline covers the Kennedy Family Chronology starting with Joseph's birth in 1888 and running up to 1999.  The Kennedys The 35th President - Dallek interview has prominent Kennedy historian Robert Dallek's observations on John F. Kennedy's extensive health problems, and on his presidential legacy.
    The IPL POTUS -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy includes the usual compilation of election results, Cabinet offices, and cross-references to biographical sources; but also included is a long list of speeches and remarks during Kennedy's relatively brief presidency.
    John F. Kennedy Library and Museum has many resources, several of which are listed separately below.

Personal Biographies:   John F. Kennedy Biography for Young People is a short biography from Ellen Shea, with numerous links.  Encyclopedia Americana John F. Kennedy by Frank B. Freidel, Jr. has good but now-aging coverage, concluding with a book-based bibliography dating to about 1991.

Character Above All - John F. Kennedy is an essay by journalist Richard Reeves.

Photographic History of Kennedy AdministrationImages From the Kennedy Library has a Picture Gallery and White House Photographs.
    The History Place - JFK Photo History has a four-part photograph chronicle of Kennedy's life and presidency.
    John F. Kennedy has 56 photographs by White House photographer Ollie Atkins.  These are part of Camera on Assignment:  The Ollie Atkins Photograph Collection at George Mason University.  Atkins was principal White House photographer for the Saturday Evening Post during the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson presidencies of 1953-69.
    The John F. Kennedy Memorial Page site has Photos and Speeches.

1960s History Links:  See United States History Index for 1960-1969 to catch many of the topics cited below.

1960 Election:  Senator Kennedy's famously narrow election victory over Vice-President Richard Nixon is in Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections for 1960.  Starting with 1960, click on "Counties" to see far greater detail on vote distribution at a glance.  The striking behavior of Alabama and Mississippi is briefly explained in the notes.  The pattern of southern habits of voting Democratic for president is also captured in the other southern states.  Take a good look; after 1964, this pattern rapidly disappears.

1960 Campaign Debates:   The Kennedy Library has The 1960 Presidential Campaign Debates, and the crucial First Kennedy-Nixon Debate on 26 September 1960, in print and audio, but not video.  That permits one to judge the two without the intervention of television.
    Debating Our Destiny: The 1960 Debates from PBS Online Newshour includes retrospective looks at the famous first debate from later participants in recollections mediated by Jim Lehrer.
    "Senator John F. Kennedy & Vice President Richard M. Nixon--Presidential Debate" via RealAudio is archived at History Channel, Speech Archives.
    Debate History: 1960 Debates from the Commission on Presidential Debates has transcripts and video material.  A large photograph of the studio setting is at Kennedy debates Nixon from Images of American Political History.
    Debating Our Destiny: The 1960 Debates consists of interviews by Jim Lehrer of PBS with several leading politicians who recalled the history-making televised event.
        Did Kennedy truly win the first debate?  The customary view is that he did, but chiefly on the radical Kennedy-Nixon contrast in their television images.  Snapshot evidence of that is shown at the Debates of a paper by Anne Marie Carmona housed at Television and Presidential Elections.

1960 Democratic Primary Elections:  See Democratic Primaries from the John F. Kennedy Memorial Page.

1960 Democratic National Convention: Democratic Convention of 1960 is briefly described.

Campaign Commercials:  Of the 11 classic commercials cited at AllPolitics - Ad Archive, one is from 1960, entitled "JFK Uses Ike to Blast Nixon."  MoviePlayer is required for this site, and can be downloaded from Apple - Products - QuickTime.

Telephone Logs:  American RadioWorks - White House Tapes:  The President Calling by Stephen Smith and Kate Ellis covers the tapped telephone conversations of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon from 1961 through 1974.  The specific Kennedy file is American RadioWorks - The President Calling - Kennedy with the 1962 Mississippi civil rights crisis, and some conversations on foreign policy.

Audio Samples from JFK Tapes:  The Kennedy Library has news release and tape samples at site entitled "Kennedy Library Releases Largest Quantity of JFK Recordings" (on 24 November 1998).  Among these are conversations the President had with Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett during the Oxford civil rights confrontation of September 1962; and conversations with former Presidents Eisenhower, Truman and Hoover during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Major Speeches: The Kennedy Library's Speeches of John Kennedy has 36 speeches from 1960 through 1963 by candidate and then President John F. Kennedy.  Many include audio files.  Included are the 9 January 1961 pre-inauguration "City upon a hill" speech in Massachusetts, the September 1962 Rice University address ("Why go to the moon?"), the October 1962 announcement of a U.S. naval embargo against the Soviets in Cuba, the 11 June 1963 speech on civil rights, the 26 June 1963 speech in Berlin ("Ich bin ein Berliner."), and the 26 July 1963 nuclear test ban treaty statement.
    Also see the Library's Sound Excerpts From Speeches and Presidential Recordings for sound clips of the many notable Kennedy speech excerpts.  These are in .wav files, considerably superior to the sound attachments from the full-test items above.  Also included on this page are many excerpts from Kennedy telephone logs.
    The John F. Kennedy Memorial Page has speeches_main with 25 major speeches, many in audio-video as well as print form.  Included is a speech text never given in Dallas on 22 November 1963.
    IPL POTUS -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy under "Historical Documents" has 25 text versions of Kennedy speeches from 1960 through 1963, including nearly all the most noted ones.   Immediately below that are several Audio and Video documents.
    The americanpresidency.org Audio-Video Archive - John F. Kennedy has 26 audio and video excerpts, including many from before 1961.  (In case this direct link fails, go to americanpresidency.org Audio - Video Archive and try both the Kennedy heading and also the side-bar list of presidents.  If that fails, then go to Eisenhower at "presid=34" and try subbing "presid=35".  These files are quirky but worth the trouble to get.)
      A text file list at The Program in Presidential Rhetoric: Presidential Speech Archive (under Kennedy's name) has other important speeches, including the Speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on religious intolerance during the 1960 campaign.  See also Inaugural Address of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in January 1961; and Moon Challenge speech to Congress on 25 May 1961.   Finally, there are Kennedy's 1962 and 1963 State of the Union Addresses.  Cross-check these with the 12 speeches listed at American Experience-Kennedy-Resources.
    For pre-presidential speeches, see Senator John F. Kennedy's Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech in text and video from Los Angeles on 15 July 1960.

Kennedy Press Conferences:  Kennedy is renowned for his skill in handling these, and he's the first president to have them televised. The Library has all 64 of them in text files at President Kennedy's Press Conferences Menu Page.  Two also have an audio clip.

Kennedy followers:  There are legions of devoted fans, some of whom have produced interesting and varied websites.  Two in particular are John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th President of the United States, and Mark Cordell's John F. Kennedy Memorial Page.

Foreign Policy with Kennedy:

    Cold War:  VLColdWarIndex has yearly indices with two major events in 1961 (the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the Berlin crisis in 1961) and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

    Cuban Missile Crisis (of October 16-29, 1962):  See VLColdWarIndex - 1962 for source list on this.  A good individual starting point is The Cuban Missile Crisis with its detailed timeline of this event together with Real Audio tapes.  It's from History and Politics Out Loud:  a searchable archive of politically significant audio materials).
    The John F. Kennedy Library has commemorated the the 40th anniversary in October 2002 in The World On the Brink:  John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Scroll down for a chronicle with accompanying images and primary documents on this crisis.  Harvard University and producers of "Thirteen Days" co-host the site C U B A N - M I S S I L E - C R I S I S with the non-hyperbolic heading "The most dangerous moment in human history."   It has comprehensive information on these events, including commentary from Graham Allison and Ernest May.  H-Net's Diplomatic History site has numerous primary documents at Documents Relating to the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Also, History Out Loud has The Cuban Missile Crisis with a tape-based daily chronicle of events, plus a RealAudio Record Cuban Missile Crisis October 23, 1962 - part 3.
    Numerous other observances have been posted in or around October 2002.  George Washington University hosts
The National Security Archive with The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962:  A Political Perspective After 40 Years published in October 2002.  Press releases include significant new declassified information on the high dangers the world faced in October 1962.  This is part of the strong trend to release core Cold War documents during the 1990s.  Even the National Security Agency (aka "No Such Agency") has published a documents list, at NSA and the Cuban Missile Crisis - Document Archive.

    Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963:  The Making of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1958-1963 from The George Washington University's National Security Archive tells the story from inception of aerial nuclear tests in 1958, to the post-Cuban Missile Crisis ban on atmospheric tests.
    The Limited Test Ban Treaty from Federation of Atomic Scientists includes treaty text and primary documents.

    Berlin:  Another extraordinary Cold War hotspot in 1961-1963, the Wall-divided German city eventually became the leading symbol of Cold War's end in 1989.  Kennedy's 1961 Berlin Crisis heightened rather than cooled that conflict; see The Berlin Crisis 1958-1962 and First Strike Options and the Berlin Crisis, September 1961, both from George Washington University's The National Security Archive.

  Vietnam:  Comprehensive site is The Vietnam War.  Another excellent overview is at The Wars for Vietnam:  1945 to 1975 from Robert Brigham at Vassar College.  Refer particularly to his Viet Nam War Overview.  See Kennedy TV Interviews on Vietnam from 2 September and 9 September, 1963.  Chronology of the war is at Chronology--U.S.-Vietnam Relations.   The outline at JFK & the Search for Friends in Asia shows the haunting difficulty of pursuing containment in the 1960s.  Good maps of Laos and Cambodia are included.  Vietnam material is extensive.  Links to maps and to other Vietnam sites are plentiful.
    Robert McNamara on the Vietnam War is profiled in Conversations with History, at Conversation with Robert McNamara - p. 6 of 8; and McNamara's famous views on exact management are profiled at Conversation with Robert McNamara - p. 5 of 8 - Thoughts on Management.

   Kennedy and Khrushchev Avalon Project:  The Kennedy-Khruschev Exchanges is thorough.  The official Department of State site is Kennedy-Khrushchev Exchanges.  A Document 5:  Kennedy-Khrushchev meeting, June 4, 1961 (extract) records the dismal meeting of the two in Vienna.  Images of American Political History has their Vienna meeting photographs at Kennedy and Khrushchev (and go to adjacent thumbnails for related pictures).  See the Norman Cousins interview from UC Berkeley's Conversations with History,  Norman Cousins - The Quest for Peace - p. 3 of 5.
    See also:  other foreign policy sites, especially on the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Foreign Trade:  American President - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative offers a brief outline of the creation of this office with the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

The Space Race and Lunar Landing:  See preceding entries with Eisenhower under this title.  The race truly heated up during the Kennedy years and became a major national preoccupation in Cold War context with the special addition of Kennedy-spurred urging to elevate the nation's aspiration for great achievements, per Greatest Space Events of the 20th Century: The 60s.  The eventual result was a moon landing before the end of the decade, per The History Place - Apollo 11; and The Astronauts Mercury Gemini Apollo and the Race to the Moon.  That was a scientific achievement too, but Kennedy mainly cared about the politics of it all, which specifically meant aiming for a lunar landing; see White House Tapes:  Shed Light on JFK Space Race Legend; also JFK Library Releases White House Tape on Space Race; and Did Politics Fuel the Space Race? (and sure enough, it did!).  NASA commemorates Kennedy's 25 May 1961 speech stating the lunar landing objective, at The Decision to Go to the Moon: President John F. Kennedy's May 25 1961 Speech before Congress; and check the adjoining files, including this archive entitled "Key Documents in the History of Space Policy" at history.nasa.gov.  Another detailed accounting is NASM--Apollo to the Moon--Kennedy and the Moon Decision.

Civil Rights:  The PBS Domestic Policy section on Kennedy is almost exclusively addressed to civil rights; see the mislabeled Presidential Politics.  See also the transcript of Kennedy's 11 June 1963 introduction of a major civil rights legislative proposal, at The Presidents-Kennedy - Civil Rights Announcement, June 11, 1963.
    Martin Luther King was the undisputed national civil rights leader in the Kennedy period.  The most important source is Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University.  See the text of "I Have A Dream" at Web66 Martin Luther King Day.  See classic images of King and the movement from Life Magazine at Martin Luther King Tribute.  Several King speeches are at Speeches for COMM 26000
    Oral histories are a particularly rich source of information for civil rights, as the subject would often lack detailed records otherwise.  For Mississippi, Civil Rights Oral History Bibliography.
    Civil Rights, 1954-1963 has “The Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1963” from Professor Dennis Simon at SMU, has text and photographs of major events, including the 1961 Freedom Marches, the 1962 Ole Miss riot, and the several key events of 1963.  Included are links to Kennedy's 1962 speech on Mississippi and his June 1963 address on civil rights.

The Peace Corps:   Peace Corps Online President John F. Kennedy is a combined conversational and archive site for the Peace Corps, including its 1961 origins with President Kennedy.

The New Frontier:  This moniker for the ambitious Kennedy domestic program is cited at

Person of the Year:  Time Magazine's top award acknowledged the President's remarkable public appeal in his first year in office:  John F. Kennedy - 1961.

Executive Orders and Proclamations:  See Federal Register - Executive Orders - John F. Kennedy.  See JFK Executive Orders by Date, produced by Maria E. Schieda at the Documents Center maintained by Grace York at the University of Michigan.  Note Guide at bottom of the document for guidance.

Kennedy's Health:  He looked young, vigorous, and healthy when President.  Now we know the falsehood of that last item.  See PBS, Online NewsHour Pres. Kennedy's Health Secrets -- November 18, 2002.

The Kennedy Assassination:  A reputable place for starting on this is National Archives and Records Administration, NARA JFK Assassination Records JFK Home Page.  They house the Warren Commission Report.
    Online NewsHour & Local PBS Stations The Kennedy Assassination 40 Years Later -- November 2003 covers many facets of this shattering event.  There are also many other sites.  On the assassination, Online NewsHour Zapruder Film -- July 14, 1998 is important.
    Elsewhere on the web, Yahoo offers as good a start as any for this jungle search; see Yahoo! President Kennedy, John F. (1917-1963)--Assassination.  Obviously, take care to stay with reputable sources on this subject, as documentaries may work fine, but no current movies need apply.
    C-SPAN The Sixth Floor Museum Series has oral history interviews of several principle figures associated with the event in Dallas.
    The Warren Commission review of Kennedy's death was published in fall 1964; see NARA JFK Assassination Records: Warren Commission Report for its 888-page review; and History Matters, Warren Commission.

Obituary of John F. KennedyOn This Day Birthdays May 29 from the New York Times portrays Kennedy after his death on 22 November 1963.

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