Smith (Sloan School of Management/MIT), John F. Kennedy’s nephew, and Brinkley (History/Rice Univ.; Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America, 2016, etc.) assemble a large collection of material by and about the late president.
Coinciding with the centennial of JFK’s birth, May 29, this volume presents speeches and accompanying commentaries from a wide range of public figures. The book is organized chronologically, briefly covering JFK’s early years, the senatorial period, 1960 presidential campaign, each of the three years in the White House, and finally his legacy. The famous speeches are included: the inaugural address, the televised update on the Cuban missile crisis, the vision for space exploration set forth at Rice University, the Ich bin ein Berliner speech, and the civil rights report of 1963. Less-well-known speeches also are here, including JFK’s address to the New York Liberal Party, entitled “Definition of a Liberal,” and the role of the artist in American society, delivered at Amherst College shortly before his death. The speeches are well-written, often elegant. They usually exuded optimism and provided a tutorial on the issues and offered solutions on the most important national challenges. Many are as timely today as they were more than a half-century ago. Enhancing these primary sources are analyses from such diverse analysts as presidential historians Robert Dallek and Michael Beschloss, politicians Elizabeth Warren and John McCain, and entertainers Dick Cavett and Robert Redford. The book is an unabashed celebration of JFK, but the speeches stand alone, and the commentary is insightful. The editors have assembled hundreds of complementary photos, most of them uncommon, enhancing the overall presentation, and the book is packed with other notable contributors, including George Packer, Norman Mailer, Dave Eggers, Joseph Ellis, Samantha Power, and Gloria Steinem.
Amid the stream of JFK books to be released for the centennial, this work should emerge as one of the most complete and useful.