THE LETTERS OF JOHN F. KENNEDY by John F. Kennedy

THE LETTERS OF JOHN F. KENNEDY

KIRKUS REVIEW

A selection of letters to and from John F. Kennedy written over the course of 35 years.

Sandler (Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II, 2013, etc.) asserts that "one can discover more about Kennedy the man, Kennedy the president, and the extraordinary and harrowing times in which he lived by reading his correspondence than through any number of the scores of books that have been written about him." This volume, however, presents only about 75 letters by Kennedy, many quite short. Sandler fills out the remainder of the book with letters and telegrams to Kennedy from correspondents ranging from Queen Elizabeth and Billy Graham to ordinary American voters and schoolchildren. Most of the letters appear in three sections, introduced in adulatory prose, covering the presidential election of 1960, domestic policies of the administration and foreign crises. These include a tactful exchange with Eleanor Roosevelt, firmly rebutting her assertion that Joseph Kennedy was attempting to buy the presidency for his son; frequent well-deserved hectoring missives from Martin Luther King Jr. and other black leaders urging Kennedy to do more to support their efforts; and secret letters to and from Nikita Khrushchev about the Berlin and Cuban missile crises, when Kennedy was struggling to overcome the Russian's perception that he was a lightweight. A memo to the commander of NATO forces in Europe in which Kennedy lays out the sequence of authorized responses to Soviet provocations over Berlin, up to and including the use of nuclear weapons, is particularly chilling. Most striking to the modern ear is Kennedy's ability to set forth specific and carefully considered policies in crisp, clear sentences, a talent that has been in short supply at the upper levels of American politics for quite some time.

Though remarkably comprehensive for its limited length, more of Kennedy's voice would have served Sandler’s purpose better.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-60819-271-7
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2013




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