History Podcasts

John F. Kennedy University

John F. Kennedy University

John F. Kennedy University is one of premier co-educational institutions in California. The university was established in 1964, with an aim of providing continuing opportunities for adult education.John F. Kennedy University has campuses in Berkeley, Pleasant Hill, Campbell, and Pittsburg. The main campus is based at 100 Ellinwood Way in Pleasant Hill, and it houses five schools - the School of Law, the School of Management, the Graduate School of Professional Psychology, the School of Holistic Studies, and the School of Education and Liberal Art.This university awards BA degrees in psychology; philosophy and religion; social ecology; and science, health, and living systems; BS degrees in business administration and legal studies; MA degrees in career development, psychology, and teaching; professional degrees in law, and other certificate programs. In addition, the continuing and extended education programs are offered for psychologists, MFTs, LCSWs, and psychiatric nurses.The John F. It holds more than 100,000 volumes and 800 print journals, and includes access to 5,000 full-text journal titles.John F. The School of Law is accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.


Robert Kennedy

Robert Kennedy was the U.S. attorney general from 1961 to 1964 and a U.S. senator from New York from 1965 to 1968. A graduate of Harvard University and the University of Virginia School of Law, Kennedy was appointed attorney general after his brother John Kennedy was elected president in 1960. In this role, Robert Kennedy fought organized crime and worked for civil rights for African Americans. In the Senate, he was a committed advocate of the poor and racial minorities, and opposed escalation of the Vietnam War. On June 5, 1968, while in Los Angeles campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, Kennedy was shot. He died early the next day at age 42.


Collective Memory: Through History’s Lens

ABOVE PHOTO: President John F. Kennedy reads the program for Vanderbilt's 90th anniversary convocation in 1963. (Photo by Cecil Stoughton)

When I was in sixth grade, John F. Kennedy became one of my boyhood heroes. During his 1960 campaign he came to my hometown of LaGrange, Ga., after giving a speech at FDR’s Little White House in Warm Springs. The motorcade came through LaGrange on its way to the airport.

Students, faculty and staff of Harwell Avenue Elementary School walked a couple of blocks to Vernon Road and waited on the sidewalk for the appearance of the Democratic presidential nominee. My uncle, William P. Trotter, BA’41, was state director of public safety and led the motorcade. JFK sat on the back of a yellow convertible with white interior. He wore a blue suit and had a deep tan. It seemed he acknowledged each teacher with a wave and a smile. From that day forward I had a special interest in Kennedy and followed his campaign closely. Our class watched his inaugural address in black and white in the school library.

President John F. Kennedy arrives at Vanderbilt University's Dudley Field in a Lincoln Continental convertible. (Photo by Cecil Stoughton, White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.)

As a freshman at Vanderbilt during 1967–68, I would sometimes run on the cinder track around Dudley Field. On the wall next to the track on the east side of the stadium was a plaque commemorating President Kennedy’s May 18, 1963, speech at Vanderbilt. A quote from the speech—“Liberty without learning is always in peril, and learning without liberty is always in vain”—is on the plaque. That same quote was on The Vanderbilt Hustler masthead when I was an undergraduate.

I did not think about the plaque or JFK’s speech for almost 20 years after I graduated. In the fall of 1990, I took my son Jordan to Fan Day at Vanderbilt Stadium. Mainly we wanted to see Vandy punter David Lawrence, whom I had taught, and Coach Greg Mantooth, with whom I had worked a couple of summers at Camp Laney, the Alabama boys’ camp where I have been director since 1974.

It did not take long for me to start smiling. We knew we were viewing photographs not many people had seen.

After visiting with David and Greg, we walked across the field to see the plaque. It was not there, and I was curious to learn what had happened to it. I also wanted to learn more about Kennedy’s Vanderbilt visit. I ordered an audiocassette of his speech from the John F. Kennedy Library & Museum, and I wrote Vanderbilt Chancellor Joe B. Wyatt to inquire about the plaque, which I subsequently learned had been relocated to the stadium’s south concourse.

As an outgrowth of my interest, I wrote an article for the Spring 1993 issue of Vanderbilt Magazine, “JFK at Vanderbilt,” which detailed Kennedy’s Founder’s Day speech 30 years earlier. My research for that article included spending a day with Chancellor Emeritus Alexander Heard and Robert McGaw, director of information and publications in 1963. McGaw had been in charge of planning and coordinating Vanderbilt’s presidential visit. We talked about the day and the intense preparations for it. Then McGaw took me to Special Collections at the library, a historian’s treasure trove. All the correspondence between Vanderbilt and the White House was there. Newspaper and magazine articles concerning the visit were saved. Boxes contained a seating chart of the speaker’s platform, a program, parking passes, press credentials, a blueprint for the platform, and a copy of the speech signed by President Kennedy.

As the 50th anniversary of the speech drew near, I grew curious to learn if anything new could be added to the story, and contacted the JFK Library. I made an appointment to view any White House photos taken May 18, 1963. We scheduled the appointment to coincide with a JFK Library Forum on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy–Nixon debates.

When my wife, San, and I arrived at the JFK Library, the staff had already pulled the May 18, 1963, photo file. It did not take long for me to start smiling. We knew we were viewing photographs not many people had seen. Many were taken by White House photographer Cecil Stoughton, who took many of President and Mrs. Kennedy’s favorite family photos. Also there, as I had hoped, were photos of the Vanderbilt visit, including some never published until now.

At the time of his Vanderbilt speech, President Kennedy was dealing with civil rights struggles at home and Cold War crises abroad. The Cuban missile crisis and rioting at Ole Miss had taken place only seven months before. In May 1963 the eyes of the world were on Birmingham, Ala. Photos of black demonstrators being attacked by police dogs and knocked to the ground by fire hoses were on television and in newspapers and magazines. The president came to Vanderbilt and addressed the situation in his speech.

President Kennedy addresses the 90th anniversary convocation. Behind him is student Linda Armstrong, BAཻ, president of the Vanderbilt Women's Student Government Association. (Photo by Cecil Stoughton, White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.)

After his speech the president flew by helicopter from Nashville to Muscle Shoals, Ala., where he gave an address to mark the 30th anniversary of the signing of the bill creating the Tennessee Valley Authority. Because of the situation in Birmingham, a planned motorcade through the Alabama Tri-Cities did not take place. His speeches were given at federal facilities, and he traveled by helicopter.

Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who previously had called Kennedy a military dictator for ordering 3,000 federal troops on standby in Birmingham, met the president at the TVA facility in Muscle Shoals. After the speech Wallace flew on the helicopter with Kennedy to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, where the president made a brief speech. During the flight they discussed Birmingham. A memo by presidential press secretary Pierre Salinger detailing their conversation is among the items I viewed at the JFK Library.

President Kennedy concluded his Founder’s Day address at Vanderbilt by saying, “Ninety years from now, I have no doubt that Vanderbilt University will still be fulfilling this mission. It will still uphold learning, encourage public service, and teach respect for the law. It will neither turn its back on truth and wisdom nor turn its face from newborn challenge. It will still pass on to the youth of our land the full meaning of their rights and responsibilities. And it will still be teaching the truth—the truth that makes us free, and will keep us free.”

For 50 years the university has held true to his vision.

President Kennedy greets students and guests at Vanderbilt's 90th anniversary convocation. (Photo by Cecil Stoughton, White House / John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)


A Brief History of Affirmative Action

This section is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of affirmative action law, cases, or policies. It is, however, a brief review of some of the laws and regulations that have impacted UCI policy, practice, and discussion on affirmative action in recent years.

Executive Order 10925

On March 6, 1961 President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, which included a provision that government contractors "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin." The intent of this executive order was to affirm the government's commitment to equal opportunity for all qualified persons, and to take positive action to strengthen efforts to realize true equal opportunity for all. This executive order was superseded by Executive Order 11246 in 1965.

Executive Order 11246

On September 24, 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin by those organizations receiving federal contracts and subcontracts. In 1967, President Johnson amended the order to include sex on the list of attributes. Executive Order 11246 also requires federal contractors to take affirmative action to promote the full realization of equal opportunity for women and minorities. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), under the Department of Labor, monitors this requirement for all federal contractors, including all UC campuses, and has developed regulations to which these contractors must adhere. For federal contractors employing more than 50 people and having federal contracts totaling more than $50,000, compliance with these regulations includes disseminating and enforcing a nondiscrimination policy, establishing a written affirmative action plan and placement goals for women and minorities, and implementing action-oriented programs for accomplishing these goals. In addition, an official of the organization must be assigned responsibility for implementation of equal employment opportunity and the affirmative action program.

An excerpt from the executive order follows (Part II, Subpart B, Sec. 202(1)):

The contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Such action shall include, but not be limited to the following: employment, upgrading, demotion, or transfer recruitment or recruitment advertising layoff or termination rates of pay or other forms of compensation and selection for training, including apprenticeship.

SP-1 and SP-2

On July 20, 1995 the Board of Regents of the University of California adopted Regents Resolutions SP-1 and SP-2. In effect, SP-1 required that race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin not be considered in the admissions decision process. SP-2 focused on University employment and contracts, eliminating consideration of the same attributes in hiring and contracting decisions. Both resolutions stipulated that nothing contained within these sections should be interpreted to prohibit any action strictly necessary to maintain or establish eligibility to receive federal or state funding. To that end, the requirements set forth under Executive Order 11246 still applied to UC campuses. The relevant sections are as follows:

Effective January 1, 1997, the University of California shall not use race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin as criteria for admission to the University or to any program of study.

Effective January 1, 1996, the University of California shall not use race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin as criteria in its employment and contracting practices.

SP-1, Section 6 (and SP-2, Section 3):

Nothing in Section 2 (Section 1 of SP-2) shall prohibit any action which is strictly necessary to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal or state program, where ineligibility would result in a loss of federal or state funds to the University.

Proposition 209

During the November 5, 1996 election, California voters voted 54% to 46% to amend the California Constitution through an initiative commonly known as Proposition 209, or the California Civil Rights Initiative. The proposition has been incorporated into the California Constitution under Article 1, Section 31. Although the constitutionality of the initiative was legally challenged, the U.S. Supreme Court denied further appeal and let stand the new California law on November 3, 1997. The proposition includes the following sections:

(a) The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

(e) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting action which must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal program, where ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the State.

(f) For the purpose of this section, "State" shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the State itself, any city, county, city and county, public university system, including the University of California, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the State.

On May 16, 2001 the Board of Regents of the University of California unanimously approved Regents Resolution RE-28. This resolution rescinded SP-1 and SP-2 and at the same time acknowledged the University would be governed by Article 1, Section 31 of the California Constitution (Proposition 209). The section of the resolution referring to the above statements is as follows:

Now, therefore, be it resolved that SP-1 and SP-2 are rescinded by this resolution, and:

A. That the University has complied with and will be governed by Article 1, Section 31 of the California Constitution by treating all students equally in the admissions process without regard to their race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin, and by treating employees and contractors similarly.

Students and state lawmakers had urged the repeal, arguing that the ban on "affirmative action" had caused the university to be perceived as inhospitable to minority students. Proponents of the repeal cited a sharp drop in the number of in-state black and Hispanic first-year students and the hiring rates of women and underrepresented minority faculty members.

This repeal reaffirms the University's commitment to a student body and workforce representative of California's diverse population. "This sends a clear and unequivocal message that people of all backgrounds are welcome at the University of California," said Regent Judith L. Hopkinson, who introduced RE-28.

The University of California remains governed, however, by both Proposition 209, which bans the use of preferences, and by federal law that bans employment discrimination by federal contractors. Although the repeal will have little immediate, practical impact on the University, RE-28 includes a commitment to K-12 outreach programs that aim to improve the educational preparation of California's elementary and secondary school students to pursue a college education.

Current Status

SP-1, SP-2, and Proposition 209 reiterated the intent that no preferential treatment be given to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. Executive Orders 10925 and 11246 referred to taking affirmative action to ensure nondiscrimination based on these same characteristics. The question facing the University is how the institution will pursue equal opportunity for all qualified applicants, students and employees, and meet its obligations as a federal contractor. As the debate continues regarding what is permissible and what is ethically responsible, the University continues to fulfill its affirmative action obligations within the parameters of the law.

The University must publish its nondiscrimination policy, develop a written affirmative action plan, and take affirmative action to ensure discrimination is not practiced based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The University must also monitor its activities to ensure compliance with federal and state law and University nondiscrimination policies.

T he Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity (OEOD) is responsible for maintaining, updating, and ensuring compliance with the University non-discrimination and affirmative action policy regarding academic and staff employment. OEOD also prepares and distributes an annual Affirmative Action Plan, and compiles data for affirmative action and organizational analysis. For more information about the University's nondiscrimination or affirmative action policies, please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity at (949) 824-5594 or [email protected]

103 Multipurpose Science & Technology Building
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-1130


John F. Kennedy : American University Address (1963)

Kennedy’s hope for peace ran like one continuous thread through his speeches. But never was it more stirringly enunciated than in this address at the American University in Washington D. C. on June 10, 1963.

Address delivered 10 June 1963

President Anderson, members of the faculty, board of trustees, distinguished guests, my old colleague, Senator Bob Byrd, who has earned his degree through many years of attending night law school, while I am earning mine in the next 30 minutes, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

It is with great pride that I participate in this ceremony of the American University, sponsored by the Methodist Church, founded by Bishop John Fletcher Hurst, and first opened by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. This is a young and growing university, but it has already fulfilled Bishop Hurst’s enlightened hope for the study of history and public affairs in a city devoted to the making of history and to the conduct of the public’s business. By sponsoring this institution of higher learning for all who wish to learn, whatever their color or their creed, the Methodists of this area and the Nation deserve the Nation’s thanks, and I commend all those who are today graduating.

Professor Woodrow Wilson once said that every man sent out from a university should be a man of his nation as well as a man of his time, and I am confident that the men and women who carry the honor of graduating from this institution will continue to give from their lives, from their talents, a high measure of public service and public support. “There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university,” wrote John Masefield in his tribute to English universities — and his words are equally true today. He did not refer to towers or to campuses. He admired the splendid beauty of a university, because it was, he said, “a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see.”

I have, therefore, chosen this time and place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth too rarely perceived. And that is the most important topic on earth: peace. What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and to build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women — not merely peace in our time but peace in all time.

I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age where great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age where a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.

Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need them is essential to the keeping of peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles — which can only destroy and never create — is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace. I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary, rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war, and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.

Some say that it is useless to speak of peace or world law or world disarmament, and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitude, as individuals and as a Nation, for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward, by examining his own attitude towards the possibilities of peace, towards the Soviet Union, towards the course of the cold war and towards freedom and peace here at home.

First examine our attitude towards peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again. I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of universal peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal.

Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions — on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process — a way of solving problems.

With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor, it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors. So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly towards it.

And second, let us reexamine our attitude towards the Soviet Union. It is discouraging to think that their leaders may actually believe what their propagandists write. It is discouraging to read a recent, authoritative Soviet text on military strategy and find, on page after page, wholly baseless and incredible claims, such as the allegation that American imperialist circles are preparing to unleash different types of war, that there is a very real threat of a preventive war being unleashed by American imperialists against the Soviet Union, and that the political aims — and I quote — “of the American imperialists are to enslave economically and politically the European and other capitalist countries and to achieve world domination by means of aggressive war.”

Truly, as it was written long ago: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.”

Yet it is sad to read these Soviet statements, to realize the extent of the gulf between us. But it is also a warning, a warning to the American people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats.

No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture, in acts of courage.

Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war. Almost unique among the major world powers, we have never been at war with each other. And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and families were burned or sacked. A third of the nation’s territory, including two thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland — a loss equivalent to the destruction of this country east of Chicago.

Today, should total war ever break out again — no matter how — our two countries will be the primary target. It is an ironic but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation. All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours. And even in the cold war, which brings burdens and dangers to so many countries, including this Nation’s closest allies, our two countries bear the heaviest burdens. For we are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combat ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle, with suspicion on one side breeding suspicion on the other, and new weapons begetting counter-weapons. In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours. And even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.

So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.

Third, let us reexamine our attitude towards the cold war, remembering we’re not engaged in a debate, seeking to pile up debating points. We are not here distributing blame or pointing the finger of judgment. We must deal with the world as it is, and not as it might have been had the history of the last 18 years been different. We must, therefore, persevere in the search for peace in the hope that constructive changes within the Communist bloc might bring within reach solutions which now seem beyond us. We must conduct our affairs in such a way that it becomes in the Communists’ interest to agree on a genuine peace. And above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy — or of a collective death-wish for the world.

To secure these ends, America’s weapons are nonprovocative, carefully controlled, designed to deter, and capable of selective use. Our military forces are committed to peace and disciplined in self-restraint. Our diplomats are instructed to avoid unnecessary irritants and purely rhetorical hostility. For we can seek a relaxation of tensions without relaxing our guard. And, for our part, we do not need to use threats to prove we are resolute. We do not need to jam foreign broadcasts out of fear our faith will be eroded. We are unwilling to impose our system on any unwilling people, but we are willing and able to engage in peaceful competition with any people on earth.

Meanwhile, we seek to strengthen the United Nations, to help solve its financial problems, to make it a more effective instrument for peace, to develop it into a genuine world security system — a system capable of resolving disputes on the basis of law, of insuring the security of the large and the small, and of creating conditions under which arms can finally be abolished. At the same time we seek to keep peace inside the non-Communist world, where many nations, all of them our friends, are divided over issues which weaken Western unity, which invite Communist intervention, or which threaten to erupt into war. Our efforts in West New Guinea, in the Congo, in the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent, have been persistent and patient despite criticism from both sides. We have also tried to set an example for others, by seeking to adjust small but significant differences with our own closest neighbors in Mexico and Canada.

Speaking of other nations, I wish to make one point clear. We are bound to many nations by alliances. Those alliances exist because our concern and theirs substantially overlap. Our commitment to defend Western Europe and West Berlin, for example, stands undiminished because of the identity of our vital interests. The United States will make no deal with the Soviet Union at the expense of other nations and other peoples, not merely because they are our partners, but also because their interests and ours converge. Our interests converge, however, not only in defending the frontiers of freedom, but in pursuing the paths of peace. It is our hope, and the purpose of allied policy, to convince the Soviet Union that she, too, should let each nation choose its own future, so long as that choice does not interfere with the choices of others. The Communist drive to impose their political and economic system on others is the primary cause of world tension today. For there can be no doubt that if all nations could refrain from interfering in the self-determination of others, the peace would be much more assured.

This will require a new effort to achieve world law, a new context for world discussions. It will require increased understanding between the Soviets and ourselves. And increased understanding will require increased contact and communication. One step in this direction is the proposed arrangement for a direct line between Moscow and Washington, to avoid on each side the dangerous delays, misunderstandings, and misreadings of others’ actions which might occur at a time of crisis.

We have also been talking in Geneva about our first-step measures of arm[s] controls designed to limit the intensity of the arms race and reduce the risk of accidental war. Our primary long range interest in Geneva, however, is general and complete disarmament, designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms. The pursuit of disarmament has been an effort of this Government since the 1920’s. It has been urgently sought by the past three administrations. And however dim the prospects are today, we intend to continue this effort — to continue it in order that all countries, including our own, can better grasp what the problems and possibilities of disarmament are.

The only major area of these negotiations where the end is in sight, yet where a fresh start is badly needed, is in a treaty to outlaw nuclear tests. The conclusion of such a treaty, so near and yet so far, would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. It would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms. It would increase our security it would decrease the prospects of war. Surely this goal is sufficiently important to require our steady pursuit, yielding neither to the temptation to give up the whole effort nor the temptation to give up our insistence on vital and responsible safeguards.

I’m taking this opportunity, therefore, to announce two important decisions in this regard. First, Chairman Khrushchev, Prime Minister Macmillan, and I have agreed that high-level discussions will shortly begin in Moscow looking towards early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty. Our hopes must be tempered with the caution of history but with our hopes go the hopes of all mankind. Second, to make clear our good faith and solemn convictions on this matter, I now declare that the United States does not propose to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere so long as other states do not do so. We will not be the first to resume. Such a declaration is no substitute for a formal binding treaty, but I hope it will help us achieve one. Nor would such a treaty be a substitute for disarmament, but I hope it will help us achieve it.

Finally, my fellow Americans, let us examine our attitude towards peace and freedom here at home. The quality and spirit of our own society must justify and support our efforts abroad. We must show it in the dedication of our own lives — as many of you who are graduating today will have a opportunity to do, by serving without pay in the Peace Corps abroad or in the proposed National Service Corps here at home. But wherever we are, we must all, in our daily lives, live up to the age-old faith that peace and freedom walk together. In too many of our cities today, the peace is not secure because freedom is incomplete. It is the responsibility of the executive branch at all levels of government — local, State, and National — to provide and protect that freedom for all of our citizens by all means within our authority. It is the responsibility of the legislative branch at all levels, wherever the authority is not now adequate, to make it adequate. And it is the responsibility of all citizens in all sections of this country to respect the rights of others and respect the law of the land.

All this is not unrelated to world peace. “When a man’s way[s] please the Lord,” the Scriptures tell us, “he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights: the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation the right to breathe air as nature provided it the right of future generations to a healthy existence?

While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests. And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both. No treaty, however much it may be to the advantage of all, however tightly it may be worded, can provide absolute security against the risks of deception and evasion. But it can, if it is sufficiently effective in its enforcement, and it is sufficiently in the interests of its signers, offer far more security and far fewer risks than an unabated, uncontrolled, unpredictable arms race.

The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough — more than enough — of war and hate and oppression.

We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we must labor on–not towards a strategy of annihilation but towards a strategy of peace.


John F. Kennedy kept these medical struggles private

Every member of “the greatest generation” can tell you where they were on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese Air Force bombed Pearl Harbor. And every Baby Boomer has a similar clarity of mind when recalling the horrors of Nov. 22, 1963.

That, of course, was the day 56 years ago when Lee Harvey Oswald murdered President John F. Kennedy as his motorcade drove through the streets of Dallas. Yet it is only in the past few decades we have had a more thorough understanding of President Kennedy’s complex medical history.

To put it bluntly, long before he died at age 46, Kennedy was a very sick man.

As a child, Kennedy nearly died from scarlet fever and also had serious digestive problems — most likely spastic colitis or irritable bowel syndrome, which plagued him for the rest of his life. As a young man, he suffered from urinary tract infections, prostatitis, and a duodenal ulcer. Better known was his notorious spine and back problems that began while playing football in college. His lower back pain was so severe, he was initially rejected by the both U.S. Army and the Navy when he first volunteered for service in World War II.

Through his own tenacity and father’s connections, Kennedy joined the Naval Reserve and became an officer on a P.T. (patrol torpedo) boat. During a battle in the Solomon Islands, on Aug. 1, 1943, the ship was strafed in half by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. PT-109 quickly sank and two of the crew members died. Eleven others, including Kennedy, survived, floundering in the Pacific. A few of them were seriously injured. Along with the crew, Kennedy swam several miles to an island, towing one of the injured men by a life-vest strap. He then swam to other islands in search of fresh water and a U.S. vessel. Eventually, the men were rescued thanks in part to a distress signal Kennedy carved on a coconut shell.

The following year, 1944, Kennedy underwent the first of four unsuccessful back surgeries he had three more procedures between 1954 and 1957 while he was a U.S. senator. His spinal surgeries, which included fusions of the lumbar vertebrae and the placement of metal plates, were complicated by poor wound healing, painful abscesses, and osteomyelitis (an infection of the bone). He was so ill at a few points during this period that his Catholic priest administered last rites. During a long period of recuperation in 1956, he wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Profiles in Courage,” with the help of his eloquent speechwriter Theodore Sorenson.

Almost every day of Kennedy’s adult life, he experienced debilitating back pain, especially in the lumbar spine and the sacroiliac joints. Many times, his back was so stiff from pain and arthritis that he could not even bend over to tie his shoes. Few people who live free of this disability understand how badly it affects one’s life. Still, Kennedy soldiered on to make his indelible mark on the world — until his assassination.

Some physicians have argued that the rigid back brace he wore while sitting in the presidential limousine on Nov. 22, 1963, contributed to his death. After the first, non-fatal gunshot struck him, Kennedy was unable to bend down. Instead of crumpling to the bottom of the car, the stiff brace held him upright and he remained in Oswald’s gun sight so that the killer was able to shoot the president in the head.

Yet Kennedy’s most serious health issue was Addison’s disease. This is an insufficiency of the adrenal glands, the organs which produce the vital hormones that help control sodium, potassium, and glucose levels in the blood, and mediate the body’s reactions to stress. Addison’s disease patients often begin their illness by experiencing severe diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and low blood pressure. If left untreated, it is a life-threatening disease. Since the late 1930s, doctors have been able to manage this serious illness with the prescription of corticosteroids, which, according to his biographer Robert Dallek, Kennedy probably began taking in one form or another since at least 1947, when he was officially diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency. Some reports, however, claim he may have taken the medication earlier. The chronic use of steroids over his lifetime likely caused osteoporosis of various bones in his body, most notably his spine, where he suffered from three fractured vertebrae.

During his presidency, Kennedy was also treated with a slew of opiate pain killers, local anesthetic (lidocaine) shots for his back pain, tranquilizers such as Librium, amphetamines and stimulants, including Ritalin, thyroid hormones, barbiturate sleeping pills, gamma globulin to stave off infections, as well as the steroid hormones he needed to keep his adrenal insufficiency at bay. According to The New York Times, during the Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962, the president was prescribed “antispasmodics to control colitis antibiotics for a urinary infection and increased amounts of hydrocortisone and testosterone along with salt tablets to control his adrenal insufficiency and boost his energy.”

In his 1965 book “A Thousand Days,” the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. described an interview with Kennedy in July of 1959, in which he asked the U.S. senator about the rumors of his having Addison’s disease. Kennedy, who was about to run for president, confidently told Schlesinger, “No one who has the real Addison’s disease should run for the presidency, but I do not have it.”

Here, Kennedy was being both a duplicitous politician and an astute historian of medicine. In 1855, Thomas Addison, the senior physician to London’s Guy’s Hospital, published his treatise, “On the Constitutional and Local Effects of Disease of the Suprarenal Capsules.” The adrenal insufficiency of the six patients he described in this publication was caused by a destructive and infectious tuberculosis of the adrenal glands. Kennedy had adrenal insufficiency of an unknown cause but he was not in any way, shape or form, infected with tuberculosis. So, technically, he did not have “real Addison’s disease.”

Such verbal flim-flam recalls a mordant observation often attributed to our 35th president: “Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but they don’t want them to become politicians in the process.”

Left: President John F. Kennedy. Photo by Gerald L French/Corbis via Getty Images


“JFK’s Early Campaign” 1959


August 1959: Senator John F. Kennedy during session with the press in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo, Jacques Lowe.

During the year, he would spar with critics and challengers attempting to derail his bid to win the Democratic nomination. In early March 1959, his Catholic faith surfaced in the media after Look magazine ran an interview that quoted him at length on the issue. That brought both pro- and anti-Catholic voices into the fray. Kennedy’s Catholicism, in fact, would dog him until election day – no matter how many times he would seek to explain his firm belief in separation of church and state, that his sole allegiance would be to his oath as president, that he would not be “controlled by the Pope,” etc., etc.


March 6, 1959: JFK, 41, and Jacqueline Kennedy, 29, arriving at airport, Salt Lake City, Utah. Deseret News.

At the event, known locally as “Bernie’s Barbecue,” Kennedy gave a brief speech and signed some copies of his book Profiles in Courage.

He also told the 400 or so people and press assembled there that the May 10th,1960 Nebraska primary would be key to his election plan.

Photographer Jacques Lowe had traveled with Kennedy to the Omaha event, and he snapped one of his iconic photos of Kennedy, displayed in the first photo above, with JFK projecting a relaxed, confident demeanor as press and visitors gathered around him.


On October 16th, 1959 in Crowley, LA, at the Int’l Rice Festival, Senator Kennedy did the honors of crowning the new Rice Queen, Judith Ann Haydel. E. Reggie Archive.

He also toured California and Oregon met with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley at a World Series baseball game at Comiskey Park and at one stop in Wisconsin, spotted a St. Louis Cardinals baseball team bus and sought out the famous star, Stan Musial, to campaign for him.

There were also stops at a U.S. Steel Co. coal cleaning plant in West Virginia a talk before a lady garment workers conference in Miami Beach Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner speeches in various cities and appearances before some state legislatures, including those in Tennessee and Montana. And as he had done for Democrats in the new state of Alaska in 1958, campaigning for state candidates as Alaska held its first elections, Kennedy visited Hawaii in July 1959 to stump for Democratic candidates there as Hawaii held its first elections later that month. But during his political travels of 1959, Kennedy had some difficult moments too, especially when he faced meager turnouts, as he was still unknown in many locations. “In Oregon,” recalled photographer Jacques Lowe who traveled with JFK for part of 1959, “Kennedy walked into a union hall to find eleven men waiting to hear him.” Undeterred, according to Lowe, JFK didn’t miss a step. “Without hesitation, he launched into his speech.”


October 1959: Sparse greeting committee on hand as JFK, Jackie, & Pierre Salinger arrive in Portland, Oregon. Photo, Jacques Lowe.


Sept 1959: JFK featured on the cover of a Duluth, MN TV Guide booklet for week of Sept 26-Oct 2, as Kennedy was then slated to appear on KDAL-TV, Sept 26, before a live audience. Also shown on the cover are local newsmen, Dick Anthony and Mundo DeYoannes.

Stephen Smith, JFK’s brother-in-law, married to Jean Kennedy, had opened up a Kennedy campaign headquarters in January 1959 at the Esso building in Washington, DC. Smith and other members of Kennedy’s staff and family would also travel with JFK in various combinations as he toured the country in 1959. But Jackie Kennedy, in particular, traveled with him frequently that year, and was with him on some of his loneliest and most difficult campaign stops — including those where JFK was still an unknown quantity, playing second fiddle to local politicians or given “less-than-spotlight” positions in farm shows, high school assemblies, and union hall meetings.

By September 1959, Kennedy and his team began using their own private plane for campaign travel — a Convair 240 series — which helped smooth some of the logistics and hassles of campaigning. The 1948 airplane was purchased by JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, retrofitted for campaign use, and leased to the campaign though a Kennedy company. The plane, named The Caroline after JFK’s daughter, was a twin-engine craft with Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines. As the campaigning intensified through the following year, The Caroline would provide great travel range and flexibility, and thereby, some advantage to Kennedy over his competitors.

Back in the Senate, meanwhile, JFK kept up with his responsibilities there, attending hearings and working on range of issues, including labor reform legislation, which did not emerge to Kennedy’s liking or labor’s, but did manage to make some improvements. In his Senate capacity, Kennedy was also involved in national defense issues, civil rights matters, aid to cities, foreign affairs issues, and education, among others. He also continued to write articles that would occasionally appear in the popular press, publishing, for example, a TV Guide article on November 14, 1959 on the role of television in politics, billed on the cover as, “How TV Revolutionized Politics by Sen. John F. Kennedy.”


After speaking at Wisconsin's River Falls State College in Nov. 1959, JFK returned to campaign in the town again in March 1960 (University of Wisconsin-River Falls Archives).

In October 1959, U.S. Rep. Sam Rayburn (D-TX), then Speaker of the House, announced the creation of a Johnson-for-President Committee signaling the candidacy of Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, Senate Majority leader. And in late December, Senator Wayne Morse entered the Oregon primary as a favorite son.

On December 30th, 1959, Senator Humphrey made his candidacy official. A few days earlier on the Republican side, presidential candidate, New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, withdrew from his party’s race. Vice President Richard Nixon now had clear sailing to the Republican nomination.

Senator Kennedy and his team, meanwhile, in late October 1959, began preparing for the official presidential race the following year, 1960 – a tough year ahead with Democratic Primary battles in the spring leading up to the National Democratic Convention in July. …At the meeting, JFK shone forth as his own brilliant strategist, giving a three-hour presentation that was essentially a detailed political survey of the entire country, with- out notes… On October 28, 1959, a core group of a dozen or more key advisors and staff assembled with Kennedy and his brother Bobby at Hyannis Port, MA. This group had come together to plan political and election-year strategy, primarily for entering and winning a selection of Democratic primaries and winning the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination. At the meeting, JFK shone forth as his own brilliant strategist, giving a three-hour presentation that was essentially a detailed political survey of the entire country, without notes, amazing all those assembled. “What I remember,” said Lawrence O’Brien, recounting JFK’s performance to journalist Theodore White, “was his remarkable knowledge of every state, not just the Party leaders, not just the Senators in Washington, but he knew all the factions and key people in all the factions.” Ted Sorensen added that JFK was not only the best candidate, but “the best campaign manager too,” a guy who had an incredible capacity for names, dates and places, and a solid grasp of where he was liked and not liked and why.


1959: JFK captured by photographer Gene Barnes as he addressed a California women’s group in Pomona.

“If there was anything truly impressive about the Kennedy of the 1959 ‘undercover’ campaign it was this: He never talked down to an audience. If he was addressing a farm group, he didn’t play the cornball or insert small-talk in his speech. He spoke about man’s higher aspirations – simply and never too distantly. His listeners went away occasionally uplifted, occasionally unimpressed, but never patronized.”

What follows below is an abbreviated listing of some of JFK’s travel and speaking itinerary for the year 1959, highlighted with photographs and a few magazine covers from that year. A number of his speeches from 1959 are also listed below in “Sources, Links & Additional Information” at the bottom of this article. See also at this website additional stories on JFK’s “road to the White House,” including separate stories on his campaigning in 1957 and 1958, as well as other stories such as, “The Jack Pack, 1958-1960.” Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

JFK’s 1959 Campaigning
Speeches, Dinners, Media, Democratic Party Activity, Etc.
January-December 1959


One of JFK’s visits in 1959 was the Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, TN, where he visited in February along with wife Jacqueline. DOE photo.


Feb 1959: Jackie & JFK at Oak Ridge Nat’l Labs, Oak Ridge, TN, with Alvin Weinberg and Sen. Al Gore, Sr.


ORNL Director, Alvin Weinberg briefing JFK at the Oak Ridge Graphite Reactor, 1959. DOE photos.


May 9, 1959: Senator Kennedy (left) with Senator Jennings Randolph (white hat) and coal miners, U. S. Steel Cleaning Plant, Gary, WV. WV state archives.


June 1, 1959: JFK on the cover of Newsweek magazine, as the religion issue gets top billing in an early survey for the 1960 race.


Portion of front page from “The Ohio State Morning Lantern” newspaper, Columbus, Ohio, July 2, 1959 reporting on JFK visit to the state in late June 1959.


Sept 19, 1959: Senator John F. Kennedy giving speech at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. Photo, JFK Presidential Library.


Sept. 27 1959: Senator John F. Kennedy and Cleveland Mayor Anthony Celebrezze are featured speakers at the Cuyahoga County Democratic Steer Roast.


Oct 1959: JFK courting Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley at Comiskey Park during Dodgers-White Sox World Series game, along with baseball commissioner "Happy" Chandler (with hat) and Daley’s son, Richard M., then a state senator, in foreground. Chicago Sun-Times.


Oct 5, 1959: Ticket for local dinner at the Hotel Clark in Hastings, NE, featuring Senator John F. Kennedy.


Oct 1959: JFK speaking at the Int’l Rice Festival in Crowley, LA where he and Jackie were hosted by Judge Edmund Reggie, at left, dark suit. E. Reggie Archive.


Oct 1959: Senator John F. Kennedy addressing a crowd of some 130,000 at the Louisiana Rice Festival in Crowley, Louisiana. Photo, Edmund Reggie archive.


Nov. 2, 1959: Senator Kennedy giving an address at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), CA.


Nov. 1959: JFK with California Gov. Pat Brown on Kennedy’s visit to So. California. Brown was a likely “favorite son” candidate in California’s June 1960 primary, which JFK would not enter. (L.A. Mirror-News).


Fall 1959: A Jacques Lowe photo of JFK, Jackie and brother-in-law Steve Smith (back to camera) at an Oregon diner. JFK then was still unknown in many locations.


Nov. 12, 1959: JFK, with students at River Falls State College, Wisconsin, appears unfazed by signmaker’s difficulty with his name (University of Wisconsin-River Falls Archives).


Nov. 1959: JFK in a quiet moment gazing into a tug boat’s wake during a tour of Coos Bay, Oregon. (Jacques Lowe).

Jan-Feb-Mar 1959

Jan 15: Charlotte, NC, Chamber of Com
Jan 31: Phila., PA, Roosevelt Day Dinner
Feb 2: Boston, Harvard /Neiman Fellows
Feb 11: Wash., DC, Rural Electric Co-ops
Feb 15: CBS-TV, Face the Nation
Feb 24: Oak Ridge, TN, Rotary Club Speech
Feb 24: Oak Ridge National Labs Tour
Feb 24: Nashville, TN, Democratic Dinner
Feb 25: Nashville, Tennessee Legislature
Mar 2: Wash., D.C., AFL-CIO Speech
Mar 3: Look magazine, JFK interview
Mar 6: Medford, OR, Roosevelt Day Dinner
Mar 6: Salt Lake City, UT, Roosevelt Dinner
Mar 7: Boise, ID, Jefferson-Jackson Dinner
Mar 8: Butte, MT, Jeff-Jackson Dinner
Mar 8: Helena, MT, Montana Legislature
Mar 17: Providence, RI, St. Patrick’s Dinner
Mar 21: Wash., DC, No. Carolina Dem Club
Mar 25: Wash., DC, Nat’l Grain Co-ops

Apr 1: Palm Beach, FL, Strategy Mtg.
Apr 4: Akron, OH, Sheraton-Mayflower
Apr 4: Akron, Beacon-Journal interview
Apr 4: Akron, Jefferson-Jackson Dinner
Apr 5: Canton, OH
Apr 5: Cleveland, OH
Apr 5: Newark , NJ
Apr 5: NY City, Lunch, Brook Club
Apr 5: NY City, Adolph Toigo
Apr 9: Milwaukee, WI, Gridiron Dinner
Apr 10: Beloit, WI, Beloit College
Apr 10: Janesville, WI, Union Hall
Apr 12: Indianapolis, Negro College Fund
Apr 13: Indianapolis, Nat’l Library Week
Apr 13: Lafayette, Indiana
Apr 15: Wash., DC, Methodist Bishops
Apr 16: Wash., DC, Civil Liberties Conf
Apr 16: Cleveland, OH, Cleveland Press
Apr 27: College Pk., Univ. of Maryland
Apr 30: NY, NY, Women in Radio & TV

May 1: Sacramento, CA, State Legislature
May 1: Los Angeles, Press Club of L.A.
May 4: Wash., DC, Int’l Conf. India/U.S.
May 8: Boston, MA, LBJ & Truman Dinner
May 9: Gary, WV, US Steel Cleaning Plant
May 9: Welch, WV, Fundraising /Coal Spch
May 15: Miami Bch, Lady Garment Workers
May 19: Portland, OR, Dinner
May 21: Buffalo, NY, Grv. Cleveland Dinner
May 23: Detroit, MI, Jeff-Jack Dinner
May 24: Chicago, Daily News Youth Awards

June 1: Cover story, Newsweek magazine
June 3: NY City, Cap & Millinery Workers
June 6: Garden City, NY, Dem. Dinner
June 8: Boston, MA, J.F. Chapman
June 11: Harvard Commencement
June 15: Bethesda, MD, Chevy Chase H.S.
June 16: Ocean City, Leag. of Municipalities
June 19: Seattle, WA, Press Conference
June 19: Seattle, KIRO Radio (Jackie)
June 19: Seattle, JFK- KING TV taping
June 19: Seattle, WA, Post-Intelligencer
June 19: Seattle, Jackie – Dem. Women
June 20: Seattle, Jackie – Women’s Clubs
June 20: Seattle, Eagles Convention
June 20: Seattle, Seattle Times visit
June 20: Seattle, KIRO-TV panel
June 20: Seattle, KIRO-Radio
June 20: Seattle, Jeff-Jack Day Dinner
June 20: Seattle, Democrats /Olympic Hotel
June 21: Seattle, Morning Mass
June 21: Tacoma, WA, Breakfast meeting
June 21: Yakima, WA, Press Conference
June 21: Yakima, Democratic Dinner
June 22: Flight to Chicago-Washington, DC
June 27: Columbus, OH, Press Conference
June 27: Bellaire, OH, Jeff-Jack Day Dinner
June 28: NY, NY, Society of African Culture

July-August 1959

July 2: Dallas, TX, State Junior Bar
July 3-4-5: Hawaii Tour & Dem. Candidates
July 13: Spring Lake, NJ, Gov’s Day Picnic
July 30: Milwaukee, TV Taping, WTTI
July 30: Milwaukee, WTNJ, Open Qs
July 30-31: Milwaukee, D.A.’s Convention
Aug 1: Portland, OR, Press Conference
Aug 1: Portland, Broiler Restaurant Mtg.
Aug 1: Portland, Portland Journal
Aug 1: Portland, Portland Oregonian
Aug 1: Portland, Dave Epps Mem. Dinner
Aug 2: Portland, Church/Mass
Aug 2: Portland, Young Dems Coffee Hour
Aug 2: Portland, Conference
Aug 2: Portland, TV/Bob Holmes/KOIN
Aug 2: Portland, TV/Viewpoint/McCall
Aug 2: Portland, Edith Green Reception
Aug 3: Seaside, OR, AFL-CIO Speech/TV
Aug 3: Seaside, OR, Dinner/G. Brown
Aug 3: Portland, TV/Fennel Program
Aug 9: Omaha, NE, Picnic & Press Conf.
Aug 29: Jackie Kennedy, Life cover story

September 1959

Sep 1: Pierre Salinger joins JFK
Sep 11: San Francisco, AFL-CIO
Sep 15: Columbus, OH, Arrival
Sep 16: Columbus, OH, Bankers Assoc.
Sep 16: Columbus, Ohio Academy G.P.
Sep 17: Oxford, OH, Miami University
Sep 17: Cincinnati, Campaign Hdqtrs
Sep 17: Cincinnati, Dem. Luncheon
Sep 17: Cincinnati, TV/Radio Press Conf
Sep 17: Cincinnati, High School Editors
Sep 17: Dayton, OH, Press Conference
Sep 17: Dayton, OH, County Bar Assn.
Sep 18: Akron, OH, Press Conference
Sep 18: Akron, League of Municipalities
Sep 18: Athens, OH, Ohio University
Sep 18: Athens, Ohio University Rally
Sep 19: Bowling Green Univ. Reception
Sep 19: Toledo, OH, Dem. Luncheon
Sep 19: Toledo, Press Conf, Perry Hotel
Sep 19: Toledo, Lucas Co. Dem. Picnic
Sep 19: Youngstown, OH, Dem. Dinner
Sep 20: Newport News, VA
Sep 20: Pt. Comfort, Va. Municipalities
Sep 20: Washington, D.C.
Sep 24: Madison, WI, Labor Leaders
Sep 24: Madison, Press /Park Hotel
Sep 24: Madison, Capital Times
Sep 24: Darlington, WI, Luncheon spch
Sep 24: Flatteville, WI, State College spch
Sep 24: Lancaster, WI, Court House spch
Sep 24: Prairie du Chein, WI, private mtgs
Sep 24: Prairie du Chein, Dinner w/Dems
Sep 24: Prairie du…, Checkerboard Aud.
Sep 25: Richland Cntr, WI, Highland Cntr.
Sep 25: Virogua, WI, Griole Café lunch
Sep 25: Sparta, WI, City Aud/Reception
Sep 25: LaCrosse, WI, State College speech
Sep 25: LaCrosse, TV appearance/taping
Sep 25: LaCrosse, Sawyer Aud. speech
Sep 26: Eau Claire, WI
Sep 26: Rice Lake, WI, Land of Lakes Hotel
Sep 26: Rhinelander, WI, A-port Press Conf
Sep 26: Rhinelander, Eagle Hall Temple
Sep 26: Duluth, MN, KDAL-TV, Live
Sep 26: Superior, MN, Central High School
Sep 27: Cleveland, OH, Dem Leaders Lunch
Sep 27: Cleveland, Euclid Beach Pk /Roast

October 1959

Oct 1: Rochester, NY, Temple B’rith Kodesh
Oct 2: Indianapolis, Mayor Boswell Dinner
Oct 4: Omaha, NE, evening arrival
Oct 5: Fremont, NE, Farm Policy
Oct 5: Columbus, NE, Farm Policy
Oct 5: Norfolk, NE, Farm Policy
Oct 5: Hastings, NE, Farm Policy & Dinner
Oct 9: Fayette City, PA, County Dem Dinner
Oct 10: Wheeling, WV, Airport Press Conf.
Oct 10: Wellsburg, WV w/ Sen. J. Randolph
Oct 10: Charleston, WV, w/Sen. J. Randolph
Oct 11: Westchester, NY, Dem Picnic
Oct 11: Westchester Country Club
Oct 11: New Haven, CT, Negro Reception
Oct 11: New Haven, Cocktail Party
Oct 11: New Haven, Democratic Women
Oct 12: Atlantic City, NJ, UAW Convention
Oct 12: Atlantic City, Small World taping
Oct 12: Washington, DC, Arrive Home
Oct 13: Lincoln, NE, Brkfst, Gov’s Mansion
Oct 13: Lincoln, Press Conference
Oct 13: Lincoln, Nebraskan Wesleyan Univ.
Oct 13: Lincoln, Service Clubs of Lincoln
Oct 13: Lincoln, Mtg w/ Nebraska Friends
Oct 13: Lincoln, Dem Recep / KETV Tape
Oct 13: Lincoln, NE, AFL-CIO St. Convnt’n
Oct 14: Kearney, NE, Teachers College
Oct 14: Kearney, Press Conference
Oct 14: Kearney, Reception
Oct 14: Grand Island, NE, Chamber of Com
Oct 14: North Platte, NE, Dem Reception
Oct 14: Scotts Bluff, NE, Dem Dinner
Oct 15: Baton Rouge, LA, Capitol Hse Hotel
Oct 15: New Orleans, Press Conference
Oct 15: New Orleans, Radio/TV News group
Oct 15: New Orleans, Candidates Reception
Oct 16: New Orleans, Negro Dem Leaders
Oct 16: Lafayette, LA, E. Reggie Reception
Oct 16: Lafayette, LA, Old Bourne C. Club
Oct 16: Crowley, LA, Int’l Rice Festival
Oct 16: Lake Charles, LA
Oct 17: Milwaukee, WI. Airport Press Conf.
Oct 17: Milwaukee, Pulaski Day / Poland
Oct 17: Waukesha, WI, Luncheon
Oct 17: Milwaukee, WISN-TV
Oct 17: Milwaukee, Schroeder Hotel Recep
Oct 18: San Francisco, CA, Press Conf
Oct 18: San Francisco, League of Calif Cities
Oct 18: San Francisco, Dem. Reception
Oct 18: Salem, OR, Arrival
Oct 20: Salem, Committee at Berg Home
Oct 20: Salem, Willamette University
Oct 20: Portland, OR, Municipalities Lunch
Oct 20: Portland, Coffee, YMCA
Oct 20: Portland, Clakamas County Dinner
Oct 21, Portland, Democratic Roundtable
Oct 21: Portland, Portland Realty Board
Oct 21: Portland, Portland State College
Oct 22: New York, NY, Al Smith Dinner
Oct 24: Bloomington, IL, Dem. Reception
Oct 24: Springfield, IL, Press Luncheon
Oct 24: Springfield, Midwest Farm Conf.
Oct 24: Joliet, IL, Local Dems
Oct 24: Joliet, IL, Democratic Dinner
Oct 24: Joliet, IL, American Legion Hall
Oct 25: Rockford, IL, Dem Breakfast
Oct 25: Rockford, IL, Tebala Shrine Temple
Oct 25: DeKalb, IL, County Chairmen
Oct 25: DeKalb, IL, Elk’s Club Luncheon
Oct 25: DeKalb, IL, Egyptian Theater
Oct 25: Rock Island/Moline, IL
Oct 25: Rock Island, IL, Dem Reception
Oct 25: Moline, IL, Le Claire Theatre Rally
Oct 26: Quincy, IL, TV Press Conference
Oct 26: Quincy, IL, Dem Reception
Oct 26: Quincy, IL, Quincy College
Oct 26: Peoria, IL, Democratic Luncheon
Oct 26: Peoria, IL, Press Conference
Oct 26: Decatur, IL, Reception
Oct 26: Decatur, Masonic Temple, Press
Oct 26: Decatur, Masonic Temple Dinner
Oct 26: Decatur, Masonic Temple TV Spch
Oct 28: Hyannis Port, MA, Strategy Mtg
Oct 30: Oakland, CA, Mills College speech
Oct 31: Bakersfield, CA, Press Conference
Oct 31: Santa Monica, CA, Airport Recep.
Oct 31: Lompoc, CA, La Purisma Inn Lunch
Oct 31: Lompoc High School
Oct 31: San Diego, CA, Press Conference
Oct 31: San Diego, John A. Vietor Reception
Oct 31: San Diego County Dems Dinner

November 1959

Nov 1: San Diego, CA
Nov 1: Burbank, CA, Lockheed Terminal
Nov 1: Hollywood, CBS-Taping, Inquiry
Nov 1: Riverside, CA, Press Conf
Nov 1: Riverside, Arnold Heights School
Nov 1: Anaheim, CA, Disneyland by Rail
Nov 1: Anaheim, Orange Co. Democrats
Nov 1: Los Angeles, CA, Reception
Nov 1: Los Angeles, Ambassador of Ceylon
Nov 2: Los Angeles, Press Conference
Nov 2: Los Angeles, UCLA Reception
Nov 2: Los Angeles, UCLA /Royce Hall
Nov 2: Los Angeles, U of So. Cal Reception
Nov 2: U of So. Cal, Address Student Rally
Nov 2: Los Angeles, Jeff-Jack Day Dinner
Nov 5: Klamath Falls, OR
Nov 6: Klamath Falls, OR, Democrats
Nov 6: Coos Bay, OR, Lions Club Luncheon
Nov 6: Coos Bay, Barge Trip of Harbor
Nov 6: Coos Bay, Democratic Dinner
Nov 7: Bend, OR, Jr. Chamber Luncheon
Nov 7: North Bend, OR, No. Bend H. S.
Nov 7: Pendleton, OR, Press Conference
Nov 7: Umatilla Co Dem Party Dinner
Nov 8: Milton-Freewater, OR, Reception
Nov 8: Walla Walla, Reception
Nov 8: Baker, OR, Democratic Dinner
Nov 8: Baker, OR, KBKR Radio
Nov 9: La Grande, Luncheon
Nov 9: La Grande, E. Oregon College
Nov 9: Portland, OR, Mtg. w/ Labor
Nov 12: Minneapolis, A-port Press Conf.
Nov 12: River Falls, WI, RF State College
Nov 12: Eau Claire, Elks Club Luncheon
Nov 12: Eau Claire, WI, EC State College
Nov 12: Eau Claire, WEAU-TV
Nov 12: Marshfield, WI, Hotel Charles
Nov 13: Portage, WI, Portage High School
Nov 13: Watertown, WI, Dem. Luncheon
Nov 13: Milwaukee, Marquette University
Nov 13: Kenosha, WI, Labor Leaders
Nov 13: Kenosha, WI, Dem State Convntn
Nov 13: Kenosha, Hotel Wisconsin Recep.
Nov 14: TV Guide, JFK on TV & Politics
Nov 14: Oklahoma City, OK, Press Conf
Nov 14: Norman, OK, OU-v-Army game
Nov 14: Oklahoma City, Jeff-Jack Dinner
Nov 15: Hyannis Port, MA
Nov 15: Augusta, ME, Gov. Clauson
Nov 15: Augusta, Dem. Party Dinner
Nov 16: Wash., DC, Nat’l Milk Producers
Nov 17: Wilmington, DE, DuPont/Hercules
Nov 17: Wilmington, Bldg. Trades Union
Nov 17: Wilmington, Press Conference
Nov 17: Wilm., DE, Brandywine 100 Dinner
Nov 19: Kansas City, MO, Arrival
Nov 19: Independence, MO, Harry Truman
Nov 19: Kansas City, Nat’l Guard Armory
Nov 19: Kansas City, Dem Luncheon
Nov 19: Kansas City, Local Labor Leaders
Nov 19: Wichita, KS, Labor Meeting
Nov 19: Wichita, Hotel Allis, Press Conf
Nov 19: Wichita, Democratic Reception
Nov 19: Wichita, Democratic Dinner
Nov 20: Wichita, Cerebral Palsy Home
Nov 20: Wichita, Wichita University
Nov 20: Dodge City, KS, Dem Reception
Nov 20: Salina, KS, Marymount College
Nov 20: Hays, KS, Press Conference
Nov 20: Hays, KS, Democratic Dinner
Nov 21: Iowa City, IA, State Committee
Nov 21: Iowa City, Iowa Memorial Union
Nov 21: Iowa City, Speak at Reception
Nov 21: Iowa City, Univ. Club Luncheon
Nov 21: Iowa City, Iowa vs. Notre Dame
Nov 21: Des Moines, IA
Nov 21: Carroll, IA
Nov 28: Denver, CO, Democratic Dinner
Nov 28: Boulder, CO, Dem. Reception
Nov 29: Pueblo, CO, Democratic Dinner
Nov 30: Grand Junction, CO, Dem. Dinner
Nov 30: Denver, American Municipal Assn.

December 1959

Dec 2: Durham, NC, Duke University
Dec 7: NY City: Pres. Truman Reception
Dec 7: NY City, Eleanor Roosevelt Tribute
Dec 8: NY City
Dec 9: Nebraskans for Kennedy opens
Dec 10: Pittsburgh, PA, Bishop Wright
Dec 10: Pittsburgh, PA, Press Conf.
Dec 10: Pittsburgh, Univ of Pittsburgh
Dec 10: Pittsburgh, Dem. Luncheon
Dec 10: Pittsburgh, KDKA, “Sound Off”
Dec 10: Pittsburgh, WIIC-TV
Dec 10: Pittsburgh, Allegheny Bar Assn.
Dec 11: Gary, IN, Hotel Gary Reception
Dec 11: Gary, IN, Benefit Banquet
Dec 17: Washington Post: JFK to Announce


Note: This listing provides a rough overview of JFK’s 1959 travel itinerary, speeches, and other activities at the listed locations. Some dates and events are “best approximations” given uncertain and/or conflicting sourcing information. More detailed information on JFK’s activities at some of the these locations is available at the JFK Presidential Library in Boston. The full titles of a number of his major speeches in 1959 are included below, in the second half of “Sources.” More photos also follow below.


Articles Featuring John F. Kennedy From HistoryNet Magazines


In April 1943, 25-year-old John F. Kennedy arrived in the Pacific and took command of the PT-109. Just months later, the boat collided with a Japanese ship, killing two of his men (John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, PC101).

The most famous collision in U.S. Navy history occurred at about 2:30 a.m. on August 2, 1943, a hot, moonless night in the Pacific. Patrol Torpedo boat 109 was idling in Blackett Strait in the Solomon Islands. The 80-foot craft had orders to attack enemy ships on a resupply mission. With virtually no warning, a Japanese destroyer emerged from the black night and smashed into PT-109, slicing it in two and igniting its fuel tanks. The collision was part of a wild night of blunders by 109 and other boats that one historian later described as “the most screwed up PT boat action of World War II.” Yet American newspapers and magazines reported the PT-109 mishap as a triumph. Eleven of the 13 men aboard survived, and their tale, declared the Boston Globe, “was one of the great stories of heroism in this war.” Crew members who were initially ashamed of the accident found themselves depicted as patriots of the first order, their behavior a model of valor.

The PT-109 disaster made JFK a hero. But his fury and grief at the loss of two men sent him on a dangerous quest to get even.

The Globe story and others heaped praise on Lieutenant (j.g.) John F. Kennedy, commander of the 109 and son of the millionaire and former diplomat Joseph Kennedy. KENNEDY’S SON IS HERO IN PACIFIC AS DESTROYER SPLITS HIS PT BOAT, declared a New York Times headline. It was Kennedy’s presence, of course, that made the collision big news. And it was his father’s media savvy that helped turn an embarrassing disaster into a tale worthy of Homer.

Airbrushed from this PR confection was Lieutenant Ken­nedy’s reaction to the accident. The young officer was deeply pained by the death of two of his men in the collision. Returning to duty in command of a new breed of PT boat, he lobbied for dangerous assignments and displayed a recklessness that worried fellow officers. Kennedy, they said, was hell-bent on redeeming himself and getting revenge on the Japanese.

Kennedy would later embrace the myths of PT-109 and ride them into the White House. But in his last months in combat, he appeared to be a troubled young man trying to make peace with what happened that dark night in the Solomons.

Jack Kennedy was sworn in as an ensign on September 25, 1941. At 24, he was already something of a celebrity. With financial backing from his father and the help of New York Times columnist Arthur Krock, he had turned his 1939 Harvard thesis into Why England Slept, a bestseller about Britain’s failure to rearm to meet the threat of Hitler.

Getting young Jack into the navy took similar finagling. As one historian put it, Kennedy’s fragile health meant he was not qualified for the Sea Scouts, much less the U.S. Navy. From boyhood, he had suffered from chronic colitis, scarlet fever, and hepatitis. In 1940, the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate School had rejected him as 4-F, citing ulcers, asthma, and venereal disease. Most debilitating, doctors wrote, was his birth defect—an unstable and often painful back.

When Jack signed up for the navy, his father pulled strings to ensure his poor health did not derail him. Captain Alan Goodrich Kirk, head of the Office of Naval Intelligence, had been the naval attaché in London before the war when Joe Kennedy had served as ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. The senior Kennedy persuaded Kirk to let a private Boston doctor certify Jack’s good health.

Kennedy was soon enjoying life as a young intelligence officer in the nation’s capital, where he started keeping company with 28-year-old Inga Marie Arvad, a Danish-born reporter already twice married but now separated from her second husband, a Hungarian film director. They had a torrid affair—many biographers say she was the true love of Kennedy’s life—but the relationship became a threat to his naval career. Arvad had spent time reporting in Berlin and had grown friendly with Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, and other prominent Nazis—ties that raised suspicions she was a spy.

Kennedy eventually broke up with Arvad, but the imbroglio left him depressed and exhausted. He told a friend he felt “more scrawny and weak than usual.” He developed excruciating pain in his lower back. Jack consulted with his doctor at the Lahey Clinic in Boston, and asked for a six-month leave for surgery. Lahey doctors as well as specialists at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed chronic dislocation of the right sacroiliac joint, which could only be cured by spinal fusion.

Navy doctors weren’t so sure that Kennedy needed surgery. He spent two months at naval hospitals, after which his problem was incorrectly diagnosed as muscle strain. The treatment: exercise and medication.

During Jack’s medical leave, the navy won the battles of Midway and the Coral Sea . Ensign Kennedy emerged from his sickbed ferociously determined to see action. He persuaded Undersecretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal, an old friend of his father, to get him into Midshipman’s School at Northwestern University. Arriving in July 1942, he plunged into two months of studying navigation, gunnery, and strategy.

During that time, Lieutenant Commander John Duncan Bulkeley visited the school. Bulkeley was a freshly minted national hero. As commander of a PT squadron, he had whisked General Douglas MacArthur and family from the disaster at Bataan, earning a Medal of Honor and fame in the book They Were Expendable. Bulkeley claimed his PTs had sunk a Japanese cruiser, a troopship, and a plane tender in the struggle for the Philippines, none of which was true. He was now touring the country promoting war bonds and touting the PT fleet as the Allies’ key to victory in the Pacific.

At Northwestern, Bulkeley’s tales of adventure inspired Kennedy and nearly all his 1,023 classmates to volunteer for PT duty. Although only a handful were invited to attend PT training school in Melville, Rhode Island, Kennedy was among them. Weeks earlier, Joe Kennedy had taken Bulkeley to lunch and made it clear that command of a PT boat would help his son launch a political career after the war.

Once in Melville, Jack realized that Bulkeley had been selling a bill of goods. Instructors warned that in a war zone, PTs must never leave harbor in daylight. Their wooden hulls could not withstand even a single bullet or bomb fragment. The tiniest shard of hot metal might ignite the 3,000-gallon gas tanks. Worse, their 1920s-vintage torpedoes had a top speed of only 28 knots—far slower than most of the Japanese cruisers and destroyers they would target. Kennedy joked that the author of They Were Expendable ought to write a sequel titled They Are Useless.

On April 14, 1943, having completed PT training, Kennedy arrived on Tulagi, at the southern end of the Solomon Islands. Fifteen days later, he took command of PT-109. American forces had captured Tulagi and nearby Guadalcanal, but the Japanese remained entrenched on islands to the north. The navy’s task: Stop enemy attempts to reinforce and resupply these garrisons.

Except for the executive officer—Ensign Leonard Thom, a 220-pound former tackle at Ohio State—PT-109’s crew members were all as green as Kennedy. The boat was a wreck. Its three huge Packard motors needed a complete overhaul. Scum fouled its hull. The men worked until mid-May to ready it for sea. Determined to prove he was not spoiled, Jack joined his crew scraping and painting the hull. They liked his refusal to pull rank. They liked even more the ice cream and treats that the lieutenant bought them at the PX. Jack also made friends with his squadron’s commanding officer, 24-year-old Alvin Cluster, one of the few Annapolis graduates to volunteer for the PTs. Cluster shared Jack’s sardonic attitude toward the protocol and red tape of the “Big Navy.”

On May 30, Cluster took PT-109 with him when he was ordered to move two squadrons 80 miles north to the central Solomons. Here Kennedy made a reckless gaffe. After patrols, he liked to race back to base to snare the first spot in line for refueling. He would approach the dock at top speed, reversing his engines only at the last minute. Machinist’s Mate Patrick “Pop” McMahon warned that the boat’s war-weary engines might conk out, but Kennedy paid no heed. One night, the engines finally did fail, and the 109 smashed into the dock like a missile. Some commanders might have court-martialed Kennedy on the spot. But Cluster laughed it off, particularly when his friend earned the nickname “Crash” Kennedy. Besides, it was a mild transgression compared to the blunders committed by other PT crews, whom Annapolis grads called the Hooligan Navy. [See sidebar “ The Truth About “Devil Boats .”]

On July 15, three months after Kennedy arrived in the Pacific, PT-109 was ordered to the central Solomons and the island of Rendova, close to heavy fighting on New Georgia. Seven times in the next two weeks, 109 left its base on Lumbari Island, a spit of land in the Rendova harbor, to patrol. It was tense, exhausting work. Though PTs patrolled only at night, Japanese floatplane crews could spot their phosphorescent wakes. The planes often appeared without warning, dropped a flare, and then followed with bombs. Japanese barges, meanwhile, were equipped with light cannons far superior to the PTs’ machine guns and single 20mm gun. Most unnerving were the enemy destroyers running supplies and reinforcements to Japanese troops in an operation the Americans called the Tokyo Express. Cannons from these ships could blast the PTs into splinters.

On one patrol, a Japanese floatplane spotted the PT-109. A near miss showered the boat with shrapnel that slightly wounded two of the crew. Later, floatplane bombs bracketed another PT boat and sent the 109 skittering away in frantic evasive maneuvers. One of the crew, 25-year-old Andrew Jackson Kirksey, became convinced he was going to die and unnerved others with his morbid talk. To increase the boat’s firepower, Kennedy scrounged up a 37mm gun and fastened it with rope on the forward deck. The 109’s life raft was discarded to make room.

Finally came the climactic night of August 1 and 2, 1943. Lieutenant Commander Thomas Warfield, an Annapolis graduate, was in charge at the base on Lumbari. He received a flash message that the Tokyo Express was coming out from Rabaul, the Japanese base far to the north on New Guinea. Warfield dispatched 15 boats, including PT-109, to intercept, organizing the PTs into four groups. Riding with Kennedy was Ensign Barney Ross, whose boat had recently been wrecked. That brought the number of men aboard to 13—a number that spooked superstitious sailors.

Lieutenant Hank Brantingham, a PT veteran who had served with Bulkeley in the famous MacArthur rescue, led the four boats in Kennedy’s group. They motored away from Lumbari at about 6:30 p.m., heading northwest to Blackett Strait, between the small island of Gizo and the bigger Kolombangara. The Tokyo Express was headed to a Japanese base at the southern tip of Kolombangara.

A few minutes after midnight, with all four boats lying in wait, Brantingham’s radar man picked up blips hugging the coast of Kolombangara. The Tokyo Express was not expected for another hour the lieutenant concluded the radar blips were barges. Without breaking radio silence, he charged off to engage, presuming the others would follow. The nearest boat, commanded by veteran skipper William Liebenow, joined him, but Kennedy’s PT-109 and the last boat, with Lieutenant John Lowrey at the helm, somehow got left behind.

Opening his attack, Brantingham was surprised to discover his targets were destroyers, part of the Tokyo Express. High-velocity shells exploded around his boat as well as Liebenow’s. Brantingham fired his torpedoes but missed. At some point, one of his torpedo tubes caught fire, illuminating his boat as a target. Liebenow fired twice and also missed. With that, the two American boats made a hasty retreat.

Kennedy and Lowrey remained oblivious. But they were not the only patrol stumbling around in the dark. The 15 boats that had left Lumbari that evening fired at least 30 torpedoes, yet hit nothing. The Tokyo Express steamed through Blackett Strait and unloaded 70 tons of supplies and 900 troops on Kolombangara. At about 1:45 a.m., the four destroyers set out for the return trip to Rabaul, speeding north.

Kennedy and Lowrey remained in Blackett Strait, joined now by a third boat, Lieutenant Phil Potter’s PT-169, which had lost contact with its group. Kennedy radioed Lumbari and was told to try to intercept the Tokyo Express on its return.

With the three boats back on patrol, a PT to the south spotted one of the northbound destroyers and attacked, without success. The captain radioed a warning: The destroyers are coming. At about 2:30 a.m., Lieutenant Potter in PT-169 saw the phosphorescent wake of a destroyer. He later said that he, too, radioed a warning.

Aboard PT-109, however, there was no sense of imminent danger. Kennedy received neither warning, perhaps because his radioman, John Maguire, was with him and Ensign Thom in the cockpit. Ensign Ross was on the bow as a lookout. Mc­Mahon, the machinist’s mate, was in the engine room. Two members of the crew were asleep, and two others were later described as “lying down.”

Harold Marney, stationed at the forward turret, was the first to see the destroyer. The Amagiri, a 2,000-ton ship four times longer than the 109, emerged out of the black night on the starboard side, about 300 yards away and bearing down. “Ship at two o’clock!” Marney shouted.

Kennedy and the others first thought the dark shape was another PT boat. When they realized their mistake, Kennedy signaled the engine room for full power and spun the ship’s wheel to turn the 109 toward the Amagiri and fire. The engines failed, however, and the boat was left drifting. Seconds later, the destroyer, traveling at 40 knots, slammed into PT-109, slicing it from bow to stern. The crash demolished the forward gun turret, instantly killing Marney and Andrew Kirksey, the enlisted man obsessed with his death.

In the cockpit, Kennedy was flung violently against the bulkheads. Prone on the deck, he thought: This is how it feels to be killed. Gasoline from the ruptured fuel tanks ignited. Kennedy gave the order to abandon ship. The 11 men leaped into the water, including McMahon, who had been badly burned as he fought his way to the deck through the fire in the engine room.

After a few minutes, the flames from the boat began to subside. Kennedy ordered everyone back aboard the part of the PT-109 still afloat. Some men had drifted a hundred yards into the darkness. McMahon was almost helpless. Kennedy, who’d been on the Harvard swim team, took charge of him and pulled him back to the boat.

Dawn found the men clinging to the tilting hulk of PT-109, which was dangerously close to Japanese-controlled Kolombangara. Kennedy pointed toward a small bit of land about four miles away—Plum Pudding Island—that was almost certainly uninhabited. “We’ve got to swim to that,” he said.

They set out from the 109 around 1:30 p.m. Kennedy towed McMahon, gripping the strap of the injured man’s life jacket in his teeth. The journey took five exhausting hours, as they fought a strong current. Kennedy reached the beach first and collapsed, vomiting salt water.

Worried that McMahon might die from his burns, Kennedy left his crew near sundown to swim into Ferguson Passage, a feeder to Blackett Strait. The men begged him not to take the risk, but he hoped to find a PT boat on a night patrol. The journey proved harrowing. Stripped to his underwear, Kennedy walked along a coral reef that snaked far out into the sea, perhaps nearly to the strait. Along the way, he lost his bearings, as well as his lantern. At several points, he had to swim blindly in the dark.

Back on Plum Pudding Island, the men had nearly given their commander up for dead when he stumbled across the reef at noon the next day. It was the first of several trips that Kennedy made into Ferguson Passage to find help. Each failed. But his courage earned the lieutenant his men’s loyalty for life.

Over the next few days, Kennedy put up a brave front, talking confidently of their rescue. When Plum Pudding’s coconuts—their only food—ran short, he moved the survivors to another island, again towing McMahon through the water.

Eventually, the men were found by two natives who were scouts for a coastwatcher, a New Zealand reserve officer doing reconnaissance. Their rescue took time to engineer, but at dawn on August 8, six days after the 109 was hit, a PT boat pulled into the American base carrying the 11 survivors.

On board were two wire-service reporters who had jumped at the chance to report on the rescue of the son of Joseph Kennedy. Their stories and others exploded in newspapers, with dramatic accounts of Kennedy’s exploits. But the story that would define the young officer as a hero ran much later, after his return to the States in January 1944.

By chance, Kennedy met up for drinks one night at a New York nightclub with writer John Hersey, an acquaintance who had married one of Jack’s former girlfriends. Hersey proposed doing a PT-109 story for Life magazine. Kennedy consulted his father the next day. Joe Kennedy, who hoped to secure his son a Medal of Honor, loved the idea.

The 29-year-old Hersey was an accomplished journalist and writer. His first novel, A Bell for Adano, was published the same week he met Kennedy at the nightclub it would win a Pulitzer in 1945. Hersey had big ambitions for the PT-109 article he wanted to use devices from fiction in a true-life story. Among the tricks to try out: telling the story from the perspective of the people involved and lingering on their feelings and emotions—something frowned upon in journalism of the day. In his retelling of the PT-109 disaster, the crew members would be like characters in a novel.

Kennedy, of course, was the protagonist. Describing his swim into the Ferguson Passage from Plum Pudding Island, Hersey wrote: “A few hours before he had wanted desperately to get to the base at [Lumbari]. Now he only wanted to get back to the little island he had left that night….His mind seemed to float away from his body. Darkness and time took the place of a mind in his skull.”

Life turned down Hersey’s literary experiment—probably because of its length and novelistic touches—but the New Yorker published the story in June. Hersey was pleased—it was his first piece for the heralded magazine—but it left Joe Kennedy in a black mood. He regarded the relatively small-circulation New Yorker as a sideshow in journalism. Pulling strings, Joe persuaded the magazine to let Reader’s Digest publish a condensation, which the tony New Yorker never did.

This shorter version, which focused almost exclusively on Jack, reached millions of readers. The story helped launch Kennedy’s political career. Two years later, when he ran for Congress from Boston, his father paid to send 100,000 copies to voters. Kennedy won handily.

That campaign, according to scholar John Hellman, marks the “true beginning” of the Kennedy legend. Thanks to Hersey’s evocative portrait and Joe Kennedy’s machinations, Hellman writes, the real-life Kennedy “would merge with the ‘Kennedy’ of Hersey’s text to become a popular myth.”

Hersey’s narrative devoted remarkably few words to the PT-109 collision itself—at least in part because the writer was fascinated by what Kennedy and his men did to survive. (His interest in how men and women react to life-threatening pressures would later take him to Hiroshima, where he did a landmark New Yorker series about survivors of the nuclear blast.) Hersey also stepped lightly around the question of whether Kennedy was responsible.

The navy’s intelligence report on the loss of the PT-109 was also mum on the subject. As luck would have it, another Kennedy friend, Lieutenant (j.g.) Byron “Whizzer” White, was selected as one of two officers to investigate the collision. An All-America running back in college, White had first met Ken­nedy when the two were in Europe before the war—White as a Rhodes scholar, Kennedy while traveling. They had shared a few adventures in Berlin and Munich. As president, Kennedy would appoint White to the Supreme Court.

In the report, White and his coauthor described the collision matter-of-factly and devoted almost all the narrative to Kennedy’s efforts to find help. Within the command ranks of the navy, however, Kennedy’s role in the collision got a close look. Though Alvin Cluster recommended his junior officer for the Silver Star, the navy bureaucracy that arbitrates honors chose to put up Kennedy only for the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, a noncombat award. This downgrade hinted that those high up in the chain of command did not think much of Kennedy’s performance on the night of August 2. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox let the certificate confirming the medal sit on his desk for several months.

It wasn’t until fate intervened that Kennedy got his medal: On April 28, 1944, Knox died of a heart attack. Joe Kennedy’s friend James Forrestal—who helped Jack win transfer to the Pacific—became secretary. He signed the medal certificate on the same day that he was sworn in.

In the PT fleet, some blamed “Crash” Kennedy for the collision. His crew should have been on high alert, they said. Warfield, the commander at Lumbari that night, later claimed that Kennedy “wasn’t a particularly good boat commander.” Lieutenant Commander Jack Gibson, Warfield’s successor, was even tougher. “He lost the 109 through very poor organization of his crew,” Gibson later said. “Everything he did up until he was in the water was the wrong thing.”

Other officers blamed Kennedy for the failure of the 109’s engine when the Amagiri loomed into sight. He had been running on only one engine, and PT captains well knew that abruptly shoving the throttles to full power often killed the engines.

There was also the matter of the radio warnings. Twice, other PT boats had signaled that the Tokyo Express was headed north to where the 109 was patrolling. Why wasn’t Kennedy’s radioman below deck monitoring the airwaves?

Some of this criticism can be discounted. Warfield had to answer for mistakes of his own from that wild night. Gibson, who was not even at Lumbari, can be seen as a Monday-morning quarterback. As for the radio messages, Kennedy’s patrol group was operating under an order of radio silence. If the 109 assumed that order banned radio traffic, why bother monitoring the radio?

There’s also a question of whether the navy adequately prepared Kennedy’s men, or any of the PT crews. Though the boats patrolled at night, no evidence suggests they were trained to see long distances in darkness—a skill called night vision. As a sailor aboard the light cruiser Topeka (CL-67) in 1945 and 1946, this writer and his shipmates were trained in the art and science of night vision. The Japanese, who were the first to study this talent, taught a cadre of sailors to see extraordinary distances. At the 1942 night battle of Savo Island, in which the Japanese destroyed a flotilla of American cruisers, their lookouts first sighted their targets almost two and a half miles away.

No one aboard PT-109 knew how to use night vision. With it, Kennedy or one of the others might have picked the Amagiri out of the night sooner.

However valid, the criticism of his command must have reached Kennedy. He might have shrugged off the putdowns of other PT skippers, but it must have been harder to ignore the biting words of his older brother. At the time of the crash, 28-year-old Joe Kennedy Jr. was a navy bomber pilot stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, waiting for deployment to Europe. He was tall, handsome, and—unlike Jack—healthy. His father had long ago anointed him as the family’s best hope to reach the White House.

Joe and Jack were bitter rivals. When Joe read Hersey’s story, he sent his brother a letter laced with barbed criticism. “What I really want to know,” he wrote, “is where the hell were you when the destroyer hove into sight, and exactly what were your moves?”

Kennedy never answered his brother. Indeed, little is known about how he rated his performance on the night of August 2. But there is evidence that he felt enormous guilt—that Joe’s questions struck a nerve. Ken­nedy had lost two men, and he was clearly troubled by their deaths.

After the rescue boats picked up the 109 crew, Kennedy kept to his bunk on the return to Lumbari while the other men happily filled the notebooks of the reporters on board. Later, according to Alvin Cluster, Kennedy wept. He was bitter that other PT boats had not moved in to rescue his men after the wreck, Cluster said. But there was more.

“Jack felt very strongly about losing those two men and his ship in the Solomons,” Cluster said. “He…wanted to pay the Japanese back. I think he wanted to recover his self-esteem.”

At least one member of the 109 felt humiliated by what happened in Blackett Strait—and was surprised that Hersey’s story wrapped them in glory. “We were kind of ashamed of our performance,” Barney Ross, the 13th man aboard, said later. “I had always thought it was a disaster, but [Hersey] made it sound pretty heroic, like Dunkirk.”

Kennedy spent much of August in sickbay. Cluster offered to send the young lieutenant home, but he refused. He also put a stop to his father’s efforts to bring him home.

By September, Kennedy had recovered from his injuries and was panting for action. About the same time, the navy finally recognized the weaknesses of its PT fleet. Work crews dismantled the torpedo tubes and screwed armor plating to the hulls. New weapons bristled from the deck—two .50-caliber machine guns and two 40mm cannons.

Promoted to full lieutenant in October, Jack became one of the first commanders of the new gunboats, taking charge of PT-59. He told his father not to worry. “I’ve learned to duck,” he wrote, “and have learned the wisdom of the old naval doctrine of keeping your bowels open and your mouth shut, and never volunteering.”

But from late October through early November, Kennedy took the PT-59 into plenty of action from its base on the island of Vella Lavella, a few miles northwest of Kolombangara. Kennedy described those weeks as “packed with a great deal in the way of death.” According to the 59’s crew, their commander volunteered for the riskiest missions and sought out danger. Some balked at going out with him. “My God, this guy’s going to get us all killed!” one man told Cluster.

Kennedy once proposed a daylight mission to hunt hidden enemy barges on a river on the nearby island of Choiseul. One of his officers argued that this was suicide the Japanese would fire on them from both banks. After a tense discussion, Cluster shelved the expedition. All along, he harbored suspicions that the PT-109 incident was clouding his friend’s judgment. “I think it was the guilt of losing his two crewmen, the guilt of losing his boat, and of not being able to sink a Japanese destroyer,” Cluster said later. “I think all these things came together.”

On November 2, Kennedy saw perhaps his most dramatic action on PT-59. In the afternoon, a frantic plea reached the PT base from an 87-man Marine patrol fighting 10 times that many Japanese on Choiseul. Although his gas tanks were not even half full, Kennedy roared out to rescue more than 50 Marines trapped on a damaged landing craft that was taking on water. Ignoring enemy fire from shore, Kennedy and his crew pulled alongside and dragged the Marines aboard.

Overloaded, the gunboat struggled to pull away, but eventually it sped off in classic PT style, with Marines clinging to gun mounts. About 3 a.m., on the trip back to Vella Lavella, the boat’s gas tanks ran dry. PT-59 had to be towed to base by another boat.

Such missions took a toll on Jack’s weakened body. Back and stomach pain made sleep impossible. His weight sank to 120 pounds, and bouts of fever turned his skin a ghastly yellow. Doctors in mid-November found a “definite ulcer crater” and “chronic disc disease of the lower back.” On December 14, nine months after he arrived in the Pacific, he was ordered home.

Back in the States, Kennedy appeared to have lost the edge that drove him on PT-59. He jumped back into the nightlife scene and assorted romantic dalliances. Assigned in March to a cushy post in Miami, he joked, “Once you get your feet upon the desk in the morning, the heavy work of the day is done.”

By the time Kennedy launched his political career in 1946, he clearly recognized the PR value of the PT-109 story. “Every time I ran for office after the war, we made a million copies of [the Reader’s Digest] article to throw around,” he told Robert Donovan, author of PT-109: John F. Kennedy in World War II. Running for president, he gave out PT-109 lapel pins.

Americans loved the story and what they thought it said about their young president. Just before he was assassinated, Hollywood released a movie based on Donovan’s book and starring Cliff Robertson.

Still, Kennedy apparently couldn’t shake the deaths of his two men in the Sol­o­mons. After the Hersey story came out, a friend congratulated him and called the article a lucky break. Ken­nedy mused about luck and whether most success results from “fortuitous accidents.”

“I would agree with you that it was lucky the whole thing happened if the two fellows had not been killed.” That, he said, “rather spoils the whole thing for me.”

This story was originally published in MHQ Magazine. For more stories, subscribe here.


Presidents and College Football

Gerald Ford as a center for the University of Michigan football team, 1933.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum/ NARA

Nearly 150 years after its beginnings college football season is in full swing. The sport has attracted countless players and even more fans, and presidents have belonged to the ranks of both.

Although Theodore Roosevelt never played collegiate football because of his nearsightedness, he had more impact on the sport than any other president. In the early 1900s he joined a growing group of people who were alarmed by the viciousness of the college game. In an era without helmets or face guards, with no neutral zone between teams and no limit to how many players could be on the line at once, football could be fatal almost 40 college and prep school players died from injuries during the 1904 and 1905 seasons.

On October 9, 1905 Roosevelt summoned representatives of Harvard, Yale and Princeton to the White House to talk about the future of college football and he told them that unless the game was reformed it would be outlawed—perhaps by an executive order from TR himself. Partly in response, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States was formed in 1906 and it instituted rule changes, such as allowing the forward pass, which made football safer and more popular.

Dwight Eisenhower kicking a football as a member of the U.S. Military Academy team.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum/ NARA

Dwight D. Eisenhower played football for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. In the days when players appeared on both sides of the ball during games, Ike was a running back on offense and a linebacker on defense. In November 1912 Eisenhower severely hurt his knee in a game against Tufts and his playing days came to an end he was so depressed that he seriously considered quitting the Academy. He recalled years later that “Life seemed to have little meaning. A need to excel was almost gone.” Ike’s spirits soon recovered and he coached West Point’s junior varsity football team.

John F. Kennedy enjoyed playing touch football with family and friends and watching collegiate football games throughout his life. Here he tosses the coin just before the Orange Bowl contest between Alabama and Oklahoma, January 1, 1963.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum/ NARA

After John F. Kennedy transferred from Princeton University to Harvard in 1936, he tried out for the varsity football team but was underweight at 156 pounds and ended up playing wide receiver on the junior varsity squad. Speaking in 1961 to the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Banquet, President Kennedy observed: “Politics is an astonishing profession—it has … enabled me to go from being an obscure member of the junior varsity at Harvard to being an honorary member of the Football Hall of Fame.”

Richard Nixon played football for Whittier College in California during 1932-1934 as a substitute tackle. Although his collegiate football career did not go entirely as he had hoped, Nixon remained a devoted fan and as president enjoyed interaction with college teams and their coaches. In 1969 he told the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame: “I look back on football and have many pleasant memories. I just enjoyed playing it, watching it, reading about it over the years.”

Ronald Reagan on the Eureka College football team, 1929.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum/ NARA

For many people Ronald Reagan’s connection to college football involves his portrayal of Notre Dame’s star halfback George Gipp in the 1940 film “Knute Rockne: All-American,” but Reagan was also a college football player in real life. Reagan was a starting guard for the Golden Tornadoes of Eureka College near Peoria, Illinois (he also belonged to the swimming and track-and-field relay teams). After graduation from Eureka in 1932 he worked as a part-time announcer of University of Iowa home football games for Davenport, Iowa’s radio station WOC.

Gerald R. Ford had the most distinguished college gridiron career of any president he was a member of the University of Michigan’s 1932 and 1933 and national championship teams. The Wolverines also won Big Ten Conference titles in 1932 and 1933 with Ford on their roster. In 1935 Ford graduated from Michigan and played in the College All-Star Game against the NFL champion Chicago Bears. He received offers from both the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers to try his hand at the professional game, but turned them down. “Pro ball did not have the allure it has now,” he recalled 30 years later. “Though my interest was piqued at the time, I didn’t lose sleep over the offers.” Instead Ford enrolled at Yale University Law School, where graduated in 1941.

Herbert Hoover as a student at Stanford University, 1894.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum/ NARA

Herbert Hoover didn’t play football for Stanford University, but as the football team’s business manager he played a crucial role in arranging for Stanford to play the University of California on March 19, 1892—one of the first major intercollegiate football games on the west coast. Hoover rented a baseball field in San Francisco for $250 and had 5,000 tickets printed with admission at two dollars each. The tickets were snapped up quickly, but on game day so many extra fans turned out—and paid for admission in cash—that a desperate Hoover grabbed some fellow Stanford students to search the neighborhood for pots, pans, buckets and cloth bags that could hold the bills and coins that were part of Stanford’s share of the receipts. Eventually $20,000 was collected and Hoover, fearful of robbery, did not see the game but instead stayed in his hotel room guarding the money.


Program Relocation

After careful consideration, The John F. Kennedy University (JFKU) Board of Trustees has determined that JFKU, an affiliate of the National University System (NUS) since 2009, will transfer almost all of its programs to other institutions within the NUS and then close university operations by December 31, 2020.

JFKU’s graduate psychology programs will be integrated as degree offerings at National University. The John F. Kennedy College of Law, including the JD, the BA and Paralegal Certificate Programs, will move to Northcentral University and carry on its name as the JFK School of Law at NCU. JFKU’s undergraduate programs in psychology and management, currently offered through FlexCourse, will be continued and adopted by NCU.

Our top priorities for this transition are to ensure that:

  • all students can continue their educational pursuit and earn a degree
  • virtually all JFKU programs can continue and be supported with the full resources of the NUS
  • students in the East Bay community will continue to have educational and on-the-ground training opportunities that serve both students and the community and,
  • faculty and staff have the time and resources to be able to transition to new roles within the NUS wherever possible.

National University System will keep tuition the same as that of JFKU University or the new institution, whichever is lower. We are also helping students move forward toward degrees by offering tuition discounts to most students who stay within the university system and ensuring credits earned transfer as seamlessly as possible based on program requirements. Students who do not wish to continue their studies at an institution within the National University System have the option to complete their degrees at another postsecondary institution. JFKU staff will work with those students and institutions to provide a smooth transfer.

John F. Kennedy University thanks its entire community of organizational partners that have welcomed and supported our students. We also thank our community of faculty, staff, students and alumni for the privilege of being part of an institution that continues to live on through our programs, and through the impacts of our alumni in the communities they serve.

Please visit the JFKU resource page for more details about program relocation.


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