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Exploring A More Complex View Of JFK On The Centennial Of His Birth

Sen. John F. Kennedy talks to newsmen, Nov. 9, 1960 at the Hyannis Armory, Mass., after his election to the presidency. (AP)
Sen. John F. Kennedy talks to newsmen, Nov. 9, 1960 at the Hyannis Armory, Mass., after his election to the presidency. (AP)
This article is more than 5 years old.

Memorial Day this year happens to fall on the birthday of an American veteran, president and icon: John F. Kennedy.

JFK was born 100 years ago in Brookline. Forty-three years later, he became the youngest person elected to the presidency of the United States.

Kennedy did not complete his term in office, of course. He was assassinated during a re-election campaign trip to Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

His death shocked the nation. It amplified the already turbulent 1960s. It dimmed the faith that many had placed in Kennedy, that the young president might be able to change America's course on war in Vietnam, on civil rights, on the Cold War.

But in thinking of JFK, we sometimes think of what one insightful observer once wrote of Princess Diana, another political icon cut down in her prime... she wrote of "the cleansing tragedy of death"... that a generation of mourners would remember Diana, as they did JFK, in the light of selfless perfection. When myth replaces the man, we choose not to remember the affairs, the illnesses, the ambition, the lies.

In recent years, that's been changing. The truth about JFK the man is now complementing popular memories of Kennedy as icon. And it's given us a much more authentic, complex, human picture of one of America's most famous presidents.

This hour on Radio Boston, we listen back to conversations we've had that explore that more complex view of John F. Kennedy.


Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball" and author of "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero." He tweets @HardballChris.

Robert Dallek, BU professor emeritus, historian and author of "An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963."

Tom Putnam, former director of the JFK Presidential Library.

Ellen Fitzpatrick, professor of history at the University of New Hampshire and author of "Letters To Jackie: Condolences From A Grieving Nation."

This program aired on May 29, 2017.


Meghna Chakrabarti Twitter Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.



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