tv John F. Kennedy Centennial CSPAN May 20, 2017 11:45am-12:51pm EDT
next, on american history tv, the national archives jose hosts a conversation with his nephew stephen kennedy smith and douglas brinkley. they speak of his conception of his american identity. this is just over one hour. >> when john f. kennedy was born on may 20 9, 1917, the second of nine children, the young 20th century was not that different from the late 19th century. automobiles, airplanes, and motion pictures were novelties and civil war veterans were meeting for reunions. the united states had just entered world war i. jack kennedy's lifetime saw some of the most extraordinarily
rapid changes in american life. his generation was a new generation of americans unable to witness or permit the undoing of human rights. today's guests are president kennedy's nephew, stephen kennedy smith, and historian douglas brinkley, brought together some of president kennedy's most important speeches and some that still resonate today. throughout the centennial year, organizations and individuals across the country will observe this milestone anniversary and reflect on kennedy's legacy. the john f. kennedy presidential library in boston has taken the lead with a major exhibition on may 26.pen there is installed a special
display of stairs about president kennedy's creation of the peace corps. hanging outside my office is a letter i wrote to jfk asking for information about the proposed peace corps. i never got a response. to find out more about these jfk centennial activities, check the jfk centennial website, jfkcentennial.org. today we are privileged to hear from president kennedy's own nephew, stephen kennedy smith and historian doug wrinkly about -- doug brinkley about president kennedy. stephen kennedy smith is a board member of a john f. kennedy library and served on the staff of the senate judiciary and foreign relations committee and a three-time recipient for the dan ford award at harvard law school.
douglas brinkley is a professor of history. he is the cnn presidential historian. he is the author of a number of "st-selling books, including delugee" and "the great ." brinkley has also written books on theodore roosevelt, jimmy carter, and ronald reagan and has often appeared on our stage. it is nice to have him back. our moderator susan swain is president and co-ceo of c-span. she helped launch the washington journal, book tv, and has been involved in the creation of new
c-span tv programs. she has also been recognized by her industry as a cable tv pioneer. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome stephen kennedy smith, douglas brinkley, and susan swain. [applause] susan: good afternoon and thank you for being here. i should also add that for almost 25 years he has been working with c-span on a number of presidential historical projects, most recently our third survey of presidential leadership. delighted to be back working, and looking forward to learning more about your scholarship on your uncle. before we get started would you , raise your hand if you were
born after 1960? for you, john f. kennedy is entirely a historical figure. great. that gives us a sense of perspective as we start. i want to start with you, doug brinkley, because for the past two weeks, all the folks in this room and those watching us on video have been bombarded with 100 day marker stories for our current president. in john f. kennedy's time, was there a 100 day metric? douglas: there was no 100 day metric. it is wonderful to be back at the national archives. it is one of the great institutions in america. the 100 days came out of franklin roosevelt's remarkable period. we used to do presidential inaugurations in march, not january. in march of 1933, fdr would have gave his famous we have nothing to fear but fear itself address
and then went into a frenzy -- some people call it the alphabet soup of the new deal -- of doing programs to stimulate american pride and work our way out of the depression. he did the civilian conservation corps in the first 100 days. unemployed men and women planting trees across america and the like. it was such a successful first 100 days that people would try to say how did yours stack up. truman and ike did not play ball on that 100 days thing, although eisenhower knew he had to get us out of the korean war quickly. he made us a promise, i will go korea in my first month in office and solve it. he did eventually solve it post 100 days in june of 1953. kennedy started playing as a democrat and capturing the new frontier bottled off the new
deal. let's talk about the spirit and not get into the policy weeds because we don't want to be compared to fdr too closely. in the end, john f. kennedy after his first 100 days, left office, he had an 83% approval rating, john kennedy. thatwas in the middle of first 100 days when he had the bay of pigs, which many historians thought it was a fiasco. kennedy took blame for it, failed exercise in cuba. why? why did he have such a high? because he reached across the aisle. he launched the peace corps in may of 1961. an incredible program for young people. he started with the alliance for progress. he engaged in the space race. alan shepard came in during the first days of kennedy's
administration and when the space race was on. by may 25, 1961, that is when john f. kennedy went to a joint session of congress and said we are going to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade and started using the moonshot to pull democrats, republicans alike together. let's do something that is a big american can-do project. susan: additional comments from you about that because it was a close election that brought kennedy into office. how did he manage in that short period of time to turn around public perception after a hard-fought election? stephen: kennedy's average approval rating was 70%, and i think the reason is because he gave americans the framework for understanding the relationship to the country and the world. if you look at the new frontier speech, he says the old ways
will not do, and we need to have a new frontier in this country of innovation, imagination, and decision. he talked about the pioneers who were not prisoners of their own price tags. he talked about a society that was not offer themselves, but for a common cause. he gave people a story to understand their country and the world. i think that coherent philosophy he had was unifying for people absence of such a philosophy i said in the , introduction of the book, you vagueig emotions and -- emotions and spasmodic impulses. the other interesting thing about president kennedy, he was a decorated combat veteran. he did believe in strong military.
he had a much broader conception about what american identity really was. he drew this conception from american history and his reading of greek history, roman history, and this notion that all great civilizations have great arts, great advances in science and technology. the romans built the roads. the greeks had great architecture. he wanted america to have that kind of society. hence he conceived of the national endowment for the arts and humanities. he conceived of the space program. he wanted america to be a just society. so he conceives of the civil rights program. susan: one of the things that is always interesting about doing programs at the national archives is they are meant to be interactive. at the 45 minute mark, if you have questions you are thinking
about, there are microphones at the end of each staircases. it will be interesting to see your questions comparing to the times we live in right now. with that in mind for both of you, only ronald reagan is the only other modern president who has been granted an official centennial celebration. can you talk about the background that is bringing us all together? how did that get generated in congress, and was it a bipartisan effort? stephen: two of our book contributors are john mccain and henry kissinger, who are both republicans. john mccain was sponsor of the legislation. ed markey was a sponsor in the senate. we had a reception last night at the smithsonian for the opening of this exhibit based on the book. one of the remarkable things about jfk was he appointed republicans to his cabinet.
he appointed doug dylan as treasury secretary. he was someone who reached out across the aisle. he was not always beloved by liberals in his own party because he was nonideological and pragmatic about how he thought about making decisions. i think we had -- senator mccain spoke last night. he was stationed on an aircraft carrier battle group during the cuban missile crisis, and he listened to president kennedy give his speech to the nation about the cuban missile crisis, where he said we would never back down necessarily from confrontation where freedom was at stake. he has inspired. nancy pelosi told me last night she was inspired to go into public life by president kennedy.
we have broad support for the centennial celebration. susan: there is a big kick off at the kennedy library this coming sunday and many events around the country. stephen: president obama will be there and vice president biden. susan: people are looking at the book as the reason we are gathering here today. it is a different kind of concept. it is both photographs and essays. what was the thinking behind it? how did the two of you begin to collaborate? douglas: this is stephen's project from the heart. he recognized that john f. hisedy was going to have 100 birthday, and we needed to do the right thing. it was his book where he started conceiving the idea. i thought it was a fine idea. building a narrative around the speeches of john f. kennedy and getting a who's who of americans to contribute to this. people that are busy like jimmy
carter or his holiness dalai the dalai lama or senator mccain, dave edgar's, the great novelist. there is a slew of incredible people. he was able to get everybody to say let's do this. there is a guy named lawrence schiller, who was great friends with norman mailer. he worked many years for magazines and how to do photos and do layouts properly. it is like a lost art form, these layouts of these books. it became a bit of a team. this is stephen's passion. he made all this happened. we have never had any problems working together. it has great fun. -- it has been great fun. you would be amazed at the contributors. just a minute ago we talked
wrotebarack obama, and he an essay for the book that we were not able to use for ethical reasons because it is a trait book and he was still a sitting president. everyone asked, sign me up. he was the magician that made all of this happen. susan: we are showing one of the photographs behind us now. how did the photographs come together? how did you select those? stephen: we had a team of five people who were working on this. we had folks at the kennedy library helping us, and i actually, lawrence schiller worked with us on the photo collection. i saw it previously on jfk that i wanted him to work on this with us. he came on board. we have over 500 photos and hair, many of them never seen before. this is america's great era of photojournalism. -- this ist to loo
mount olympus. these guys are the rolling stones and the beatles of photography. we have andre dumas. some of them are still alive. some of the photos are just stunning. douglas: historians participate in this as well. some of my friends and heroes, people like michael best cloth, scholar andkennedy , robert dowling have written the best single volume on kennedy's presidency to date. susan: we will have copies available after so you can look at them. they are all short essays punch rated by photographs. you can look at the arc of john kennedy's life.
stephen: we also have conan o'brien for those of you born later than me. he wrote a fantastic essay on jfk's sense of humor. he said abraham lincoln and john f. kennedy are the two funniest presidents. susan: i had a question about humor in politics. when you read through the essays again and again, including conan o'brien's essay, it is the thought of easy wit as an aspect of john kennedy's personality in his public life keeps being reinforced. how important to a successful presidency is a sense of humor and do we still have it today? [laughter] douglas: in a different way we do. now it is the president as the butt of all national satire.
kennedy was a funny guy. he was very funny when he was young. he was a prankster. he liked hijinks. he saw the absurdity of life. he was a leader of the misbehaved gang in prep school. somewhat that way when he was at harvard. the man, when he was in the navy during world war ii, the men loved him because of his sense of humor and when he started running for politics in massachusetts in 1946, running for congress and getting elected, humor was a big part. he would have such a quick wit that you would remember two or three things that he said. it became one of his hallmarks. he also had the amazing ability to be self-deprecating. by the time he becomes president, i think successful presidents use humor with
communications to create an image. theodore roosevelt was fantastic in this. people would crowd around him and he would story tell and laugh. fdr used to tell cornball jokes, to be honest. tr's was quick and ready and fdr was cornier, his humor. ronald reagan, in a book, he would take file cabinets and have each joke perfectly organized. if he had to give a speech to one club he would go into the , files and pull -- to the kiwanis club, he would go to the files and plot note cards and say put the joke there. everyone laughed. humor is essential. those pressd do conferences. i bet everyone here has seen them. helen thomas, famously, they would get into a whole thing. can you imagine, people would
leave a jfk press conference laughing even though they were dealing often with serious points. if you took the humor and charm away from jack kennedy, it would be different. they were part of his essence. stephen: one thing they asked him when he got into office whether he was surprised by anything, he said the only thing i was surprised by was things were just as bad as i said they were. [laughter] susan: which is a similar message we are getting out of our current president, if you think about it, the way things are communicated that might have more effectiveness in the public sphere. i wanted to talk about the concept of the new frontier. you referenced fdr and the new deal. president's framing their messaging around a consistent thing.
we have just been through a campaign where make america great again was a regular campaign for the trump administration, and it was successful. how long have presidents put marketing taglines on their governing principles, and how does it work with the public? douglas: it works really well, and it is a staple of american policies in the 19th century until today. you come up with a slogan like william henry harrison running in 1840. keep the ball rolling. we use that phrase now. they would use a large ball of twine and roll it all the way from ohio to washington to keep the ball rolling for william henry harrison. the log cabin ethos. one can go on and on. theodore roosevelt with the square deal started it off. he started preaching new
nationalism later in life, and fdr picked up from his cousin. he called him uncle theodore, even though he was a fifth cousin. you got the new deal, and it worked. everyone talks about it now. where is the new new deal? presidents since then have tried to find a moniker. kennedy was keen on doing so. truman did the fair deal. he didn't want to do deal again. deal had been done. presidents are looking for change. the new frontier, and the frontier is space, the frontier is oceans, science, technology, and it worked. i thought it was a great slogan. i still do. people that loved kennedy defined themselves as new frontiersman. there was a whole group of
senators that could be determined if they were part of the new frontier team, like frank anderson in new mexico. when that phrase became the cornerstone of the democratic convention in 1960. when john f. kennedy took the nomination and los angeles, he beat out hubert humphrey. he beat out lyndon johnson. evenson -- at least adlai stevenson. he ran for years trying to get the nomination. the term new frontier stuck and it still has a lot of credence to it because it captures there is something different going on in the early 1960's. it is time the new generation , the lieutenant junior grade of in,d war ii were coming replacing somebody like general eisenhower. susan: i was looking if i could
find it. in your introduction, you talk about john kennedy's skillful use of narrative and politics. explain what that concept is. stephen: i think every president does try to capture the zeitgeist of the nation and also tries to direct that in a direction they feel they want to go. i think in kennedy's case you have the largest generation of americans ever born after world war ii. they were coming onto the scene. he obviously had served in combat himself. you have really the rise of globalization. you have the rise of mass technology. he and his advisers or reading books like "the lonely crowd"
and other books. how do we organize this in a way that is good for the nation? how do we cope with our rise as the preeminent power? if you look at his life from 1917 to 1963, it spans his life as america as a national power. at the time he is killed, we are probably at the height of our popularity in the world. he is able to use this idea of the new frontier to galvanize people who really want to do something for their country. the quality of youth is they want to make their mark. david mccullough told me he left his job in random house and went to washington with a young family with no idea what he was going to do because he wanted work for jack kennedy. he ended up in the u.s. information agency.
he ended up leading the charge of promoting american ideals against communism. he had that narrative of the young generation rising. he also had the narrative that free society is more aligned with fundamental human interest than totalitarian communist societies. i think he was right about that. reagan shared that viewpoint. kennedy went to berlin and gave his berlin speech and reagan went again when the berlin wall was eventually torn down. he had both of those narratives going, national energy and national anti-communism and the third narrative he had was he went to independence hall and gave a speech called "the age of interdependence." revolution american was the age of independence, and he said there was the revolution
of 1787, the revolution of interdependence when we formed the constitution and became a national and powerful society. he said this is what we're facing globally now. we have to build global institutions like the european union and others that will lead to better cooperation and prosperity for everyone. in that sense, if you look at his inaugural and trump's inaugural, let us form an alliance, north, south, east, and west against the common enemies of man. tyranny, disease, war itself. trump's inaugural, america first, america great. america. that is the difference between jfk and donald trump. yes he believed in a strong , national power, but he understood we are interdependent. susan: he refers to books the president and his advisers were reading together. i know barack obama was quite a reader. george w. bush does not get as
much credit for it, but he was quite a reader of history and policy books in the white house. how important is it for a president to be well read? douglas: i think it is essential, and most presidents are exceedingly well read in presidential history. harry truman who ranks high on our c-span poll as one of the great presidents, did not have a college degree but he would read biography and deep into american history. hundreds of biographies of everyone from sam houston to abraham lincoln, robert e. lee, and robert fulton. he had such a breadth of american history. that is why truman would love the painter thomas hart benton who would do portraits and murals of american history, and that is someone without a college degree. he knew history would help his decision-making. john f. kennedy read "guns of august," which was a warning
about how big war can happen by a strange little event that seemed minor. a chain of them can lead to something horrific. the behavior of the kaiser wilhelm, the fecklessness that took over europe. that was important for the kennedy years. he read that at the time of something like the cuban missile crisis. being a reader mattered. in 1962, rachel carson published the book "silent spring," which gave birth to the environmental movement, and kennedy read her articles in "the new yorker" and at a press conference was asked and said i'm going to get in investigation, and he started
backing rachel carson's attacks on pesticides. previously he read her books or at least two of the three of the sea trilogy about the oceans she wrote in the 1950's. rachel carson went to jackie kennedy at georgetown and new frontier people and talked about books. when kennedy comes in, he has robert roth do the inaugural, honoring carl sandburg. these were not poets sneaking in. barack obama tried to continue that. he would have a group of historians meet quite frequently, a number of times at the white house, to talk history with president obama. george w. bush reads particularly deeply in texas history. he said his favorites were about the kings ranch. a book about sam houston, and
george w. bush became a lincoln reader like barack obama. stephen: the president of harvard also wrote about it in the book. he says it is unusual to quote some of the people in the same speech. the speech was called "the politician and the intellectual." he said the nation's first politicians were also the nation's great writers and scholars. books were their tools, not their enemies. this is his view of the importance of learning and reason in american politics. he was a historian himself. he wrote a good review of the adams papers. he won a pulitzer prize for history. he believed in reading that history mattered in presidential
decision-making. susan: let's talk about the press. john f. kennedy came into the white house at the dawning of the age of television, and he had a press corps that is very different from the press corps s face today and a news cycle that is different. what was his relationship with the press? how did he use the news media to his advantage? douglas: he was a journalist, as we have mentioned. after world war ii he wanted to be a journalist. you can look up his old articles. he covered the u.n. creation and the san francisco conference. appeared in papers all over the country. he was at potsdam writing articles. keep that in mind. john f. kennedy had this great love of books. television is a game changer for politics. in 1952, cbs news decided to
cover the convention. that used to be smoke-filled. now it started becoming infomercials for the parties. you had to be telegenic. that became a new phrase. my research on walter cronkite, i was astounded to learn that cronkite was looking to make extra cash on the side for cbs and gave a quick seminar on how to look and sound on tv. sam rayburn and john kennedy took his course. you know who didn't? richard nixon. kennedy started recognizing that new medium may be in the way donald trump recognized the same in twitter. he did recognize tv was a big deal. by the time we cut to the debates in 1960 -- that was the first time we had a presidential debate in the united states. we never had one before.
susan swain did the lincoln douglas debates on c-span. that was about illinois politics even though it had national ramifications. it got televised, and people that listened to richard nixon on radio thought he won the debates. people that watched on tv said john f. kennedy won. once he came on, cbs and nbc recognized -- cnn is covering trump all the time. the networks start thinking, let's cover john f. kennedy. they started covering alan shepard, john glenn, must watch tv events during the kennedy years, and press conferences became a big deal. the combination of using the medium of television and photography helps set the tone for john f. kennedy. i would give him an a plus on relations with the press and how
to use television to advance your policy concerns. susan: i have some issues that were very much a part of the administration that i would like you to talk generally about. one is vietnam. douglas: i have on my wall at home a note that jackie gave me after president kennedy was killed from his desk. all it says on it is vietnam, vietnam, vietnam. this is something he was thinking about. george packer, who wrote a great book on iraq, wrote about president kennedy in vietnam and he cites a book that won the pulitzer prize about vietnam. he is a professor at harvard, i
have had lunch with him to talk about this issue. he feels i think a majority of , scholars who look at this carefully, think that kennedy would have withdrawn from vietnam after 1964 and that is what packers says. in reality you can never know what the future will hold. arthur slessinger, close friend of our family, felt the same way. we will never know how kennedy would have handled vietnam. my personal belief is that if he had been president, he would have done it very differently than lyndon johnson. it would have been a demoralizing experience for america. that is one of the great tragedies of losing jfk. he was a person who was unbelievably knowledgeable about foreign policy. most of his great speeches are about foreign policy. he traveled in asia. he traveled before the war and
saw hitler and churchill speak. this was a person who really understood where the world was going. i think he would have handled the situation quite differently. douglas: we will never know. what we know is cronkite interviewed right before jfk's assassination, cronkite interviewed john f. kennedy at his home and kennedy was intimating that he would not get roped into a prolonged war. people that agree with what stephen just said will point to that cronkite interview. there is some documentation that we were going to no matter what. we don't know. 1964 would have been an election year. how would vietnam have played out in that election? we know what johnson did in 1964. he did the gulf of talking because he wanted -- gulf of
tonkin because he wanted to show anti-cold war credentials heading into the election, even though it looked like he was going to have a landslide victory over barry goldwater. he did not want to seem weak. you have the assassination of -- and there are new tapes coming out. the kennedy libraries are still bringing out new tapes dealing with vietnam. i think it is a story that will evolve. i am personally curious to see how ken burns deals with it in his vietnam war series. i have a feeling it is going to be one of constant debate. the evidence of why he would not have gone into vietnam, he was in a real peace mode at the time. he was meeting with khrushchev privately and asking how we can be the generation that brings global peace.
to do a one off in vietnam while he was trying to do this grand -- he had put forward not testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. that is sort of the mode he was in at the time of his death. we will never know. susan: let's talk about russia. we referenced the cuban missile crisis, which framed the early part of his presidency and here we are worried about the u.s.-russian relationship again. what can you say about the approach the kennedy administration took towards the russians? stephen: i think what is interesting about the speeches and history, what is interesting to me about kennedy as the presidency goes on he learns from his mistakes. he deepens as a person. he starts off as a fervent cold warrior. he comes to the edge of the
nuclear abyss, potentially 50 million people to 100 million people killed, and he skillfully gets out of that situation by offering the russians an opportunity to back down without losing face. when he gives the american university speech, he says explicitly, and i think this is more relevant to north korea, never put your adversary in a situation where they have to face a humiliating retreat or confrontation. on the one hand he became less of a fervent cold warrior, more of an advocate for peace. on civil rights, he was tepid on civil rights at first, but when he came down to it, he and robert kennedy made the decision that even if it cost them a lay -- the election, he would give the civil rights address. when he gave the address his popularity went down 30 points. democrats have not won the south
since that address. on russia, the thing that is relevant with jfk is he always kept the option for dialogue open. he never was naive about the intentions of the russians. he didn't characterize them in ways that were very positive, although he did always characterize the russian people in a positive way. i think that he had to balance idealism without illusions. idealism on the one hand. you have to deal with them, but don't characterize the russian leader in ways that are overly complementary. douglas: the national archives have new tapes coming up. we have russian document and archives opening up that was -- will shed new light on the
u.s.-russia relations. i've asked a lot about the 1960 election. herb gillman is writing a book on kennedy and nixon and he has a more favorable view of nixon but he does have impeccable scholarship. it is a fluid field in kennedy studies right now, particularly when cold war countries come into play. we can see what was happening from outside of the borders. susan: we have five or six minutes for our conversation and then we have time for questions. you can make your way over to the microphones. we've got a photograph from look magazine if we can get it on the screen. it includes you, stephen smith. my question when i look at that is since the assassination there has been so much mythology in this country about john f. kennedy. what can you tell us about the personal john kennedy that is
different or larger then or more important than the public image mythology? stephen: i was only six when my uncle -- >> where were you, by the way? stephen: that is me in the front seat. if you look closely, i looked concerned. i am concerned because we are headed for a large hill at a high rate of speed in a small, overloaded golf cart driven by a guy who wrecked his pt boat. [laughter] stephen: we would all get on the golf cart, and we would drive for this hill. he would come down also out of what we called the whirly bird, those two marine choppers and land on the lawn and he would come out and we would run over to meet him. he got a big kick out of that and i think he got a big kick out of riding around on the golf
cart and scaring everyone to death. i have great memories of my uncle. caroline and i were very close. we went trick or treating in the white house. my mother and jackie would go trick-or-treating in georgetown while she was first lady. they would put silk bags over their heads with little eyes. i had pictures. we could have shown one but it is a little scary. [laughter] stephen: he was very much with children like he was with adults. engaging, warm, fun, funny. you get a sense of a person as a child. i have some wonderful letters on my wall. one of them is a letter he wrote to my grandfather about essentially how he enrolled in the military even though he was physically unfit to do so because he wanted to fight in combat.
they have to communicate to each other about his health condition in ways that the sensors would not understand because he did not want them to know he was not doing well. they made up a name for him and would write letters under that alias. i have one of those letters on my wall. it shows you the ethic of that generation of 19 million ameren students who went to war together. whether they were mechanics or barbers, that is what we are missing in america right now. we need to create a program of national service that gets us all together as a nation in the same way that kennedy did. susan: last question before we go to our audience questions. you know i have a particular interest in first ladies. could you talk about the jfk, jacqueline kennedy onassis relationship? what role she played in politics?
melania trump is criticized for not spending time in the white house. jackie kennedy spent a lot of time away from the white house, concerned about her children. if you go to middleburg, there is a plaque about how much time she spent on the farm. would you talk about her approach to the role of first lady? douglas: yes. melania trump staying in her -- staying in new york raising her child is honorable. i don't have any qualms with her. jackie kennedy creation a huge impression on her country. her fluency in language. when she went to france she spoke french and charles de gaulle and all the leaders almost wanted to meet her more than her husband. she was popular in europe. she had a great sense of fashion.
at the knot room we saw melania trump almost consciously dressing in a jackie look. she was a mother, and she had -- was raising two little children. they had a miscarriage before and she wanted to raise those kids right. just like what the obamas did with theirs. look at how wonderful both of her children came out to be. beyond that she had a sense of decor. she liked modern art. she loved writers. i read her correspondence with john steinbeck. steinbeck broke jackie a most -- wrote jackie a most heartbreaking letter that her husband would live on. he was talking about king arthur in european history, what a hero means, and why a hero in history is bigger than a politician.
what is a hero? writers loved her, artists love d her, the country loved her. she created a modern first lady by what she wanted to do. much more visible than best german or mamie eisenhower. >> we had the speechwriter fory president kennedy speak of the national archives and he was very quick to make sure everyone knew that president kennedy froze reaches were president -- president kennedy's speeches were president kennedys speeches. justis the process -- not the wording, but the substance of it as well? one was also a speechwriter. he worked on the city on the jfk speech that famously
said that we have this amount of judgment, it integrity, dedication. dick describes the process. at lincoln's second inaugural. they looked at the idea that if president kennedy wanted the speech, president kennedy would mark up the draft and he would mark that one as well. i think this is an elaborate process. obviously jfk had some very gifted people. but there is that quote from ted sorensen in the introduction actually but these were kennedy's ideas because they were. readdy was incredibly well
and had very of your knowledge of history. like, he directed him to john thatrs sermon, which at time was not well-known. it became well-known after reagan again quoted it, but it was kennedy who first surfaced that and directed did when to come back with the draft. susan: one of the points in the book which escaped my knowledge was that jack kennedy as a younger man was not a good speech maker and it was a skill he had to learn to apply to -- to acquire for himself, which is interesting when we see the soaring rhetoric carved into buildings and the like. yes, sir. you are next. >> the issue of his catholicism is dealt with but my mother had a bugaboo with jack because he appointed his brother as attorney general. obviously, the current president has redefined nepotism, but how big of an issue was this during kennedy's day? stephen: i remember he said to robert kennedy when they were
walking out, stop smiling, bobby. you'll look happy. i think it is a legitimate issue. fortunately robert kennedy was fairly well-qualified. he served on the rackets committee in the senate. he had run a presidential campaign. there are legitimate concerns about appointing relatives to office. i think partially what should be considered is how qualified are these people, anyway, to be assigned what they are doing? if someone is well qualified for the job they shouldn't necessarily not be able to do it. susan: didn't congress change the law? douglas: they did an anti-nepotism law after robert kennedy. robert kennedy did a remarkable job as attorney general, but the
danger is when you were in a meeting room people are afraid to maybe criticize or yell at -- i can imagine now with donald trump, no one will want to yell at ivanka. on the ivanka issue, i am perfectly fine if they feel working with jared kushner they are part of the circle. i don't have too big of problems with it. that said we need to keep our eye on the nepotism law so it does not get shattered. >> thank you for being here and thank you for sharing the division of john f. kennedy and especially this particular month. my interest is seemingly so many writers have written about president kennedy as a liberal and certainly when he first came
on the scene, when he announced in 1946 his july 4th speech, he was very much a conservative. that seemingly has been lost. even the first few years of his presidency he was much more of a conservative than richard nixon was. certainly if you put that on a continuum, nixon is more of a liberal than kennedy is. i am curious as to how you would respond to today's president with respect to foreign policy as well as tax reform. certainly one of the issues the present occupant of the white house is looking at is tax reform and president kennedy's version of tax reform. stephen: president kennedy, at the time that he cut taxes, the highest marginal tax rate was for people over $440,000 year. it was 41%.
he cut it to 67%. the idea that a tax cut now is equivalent to that is ridiculous. secondly, i think what is useful for the democratic party to consider from jfk is that he put civic identity first. our family were irish catholics, but we were americans first and he thought about himself and his family as americans and i think the democratic party's overemphasized social category as identity in group politics. it is perceived that way by a lot of people and i think jfk was a centrist democrat. he appointed republicans to his cabinet as i mentioned. i think if the democratic party
wants to win another election, they can take a page from john f. kennedy's book and think about how they could be more pragmatic and inclusive of a larger message. douglas: george bundy, national security adviser, was a republican and worked for henry stinson. robert mcnamara cut, while a democrat, was a conservative person in many ways. we sometimes mistake of the jfk years as a bastion of liberalism and that might because ted kennedy had such a long, liberal career that people morphed all kennedy thinking into one but jack kennedy had a brand of leadership and american identity that was slightly different than ted kennedy. look at arthur's lesson jerk -- arthur schlessinger's book. it is what it means to be a centrist american and you will
get close to john f. kennedy's philosophical thinking on this is. stephen: he gave a speech called "definition of a liberal." he said liberalism is a believe in the possibility of society to improve itself. that is why he was pro-government, because he thought we could accomplish things together. that versus conservatism, which tries to protect what has already been established. in that sense he was a true liberal. he did believe government could be affected. that was the primary -- could be effective. that was the primary concept he had. he suggested medicare. he made changes to make america a more diverse country. he was not dogmatically,
programmatically liberal. >> when i was five or six i was privileged with a family to watch the fireworks from white house lawn on the fourth of july. my father was space advisor at the president's science advisory community. jfk versus the national security state or cia, which i believe he wanted to rein in from the internal affairs of other countries. truman, a month after the assassination, wrote an op-ed piece saying limit cia operations. what would jfk to have done in that respect? concerning the monetary system, as andrew jackson and did the second bank of the u.s., jfk began to circulate a treasury note redeemable in silver which
arguably began to undermine the expansion of the federal reserve which has become the enabler of the pax americana that eisenhower wrote a guest and i think kennedy wrote against. susan: thank you. stephen: thank you for your service. did you work in the space world? your father did. >> [inaudible] stephen: you did not hear. his father has a crater on the moon. the cia in the 1950's would do a lot of, under allen dulles'
leadership, made democrats skeptical. this was an era when in guatemala we dealt with the coup, the situation and i -- dealt with the coup, iran, covert operations, including assassination, as a mode of american cold war policy. when kennedy inherited the bay of pigs plan, that was allen dulles' cia vision of returning cubans from florida that were trained to throw a coup in fidel castro's cuba. it failed. kennedy got a lot of egg on his face for that and he was following a cia program to fruition and he learned from that to have skepticism of the cia and its power and how to rein it in and limit it and also
at times of the u.s. armed forces. he did not always say yes to the generals. he was not over enamored by brass. in that way john kennedy was a tough operator. he manned enemy -- he made enemies internally within the dod. he made the cia say i am not quite sure i fully trust some of the things you are doing abroad. susan: do you want to answer about monetary policy? >> no. i will say what president kennedy would say. no. susan: let me close by asking .ust one question the chapter on the assassination in the book is titled -- anyone who did not raise their hands, they were alive, they have
answer that question -- where were you when? why are you giving the assassination such a small part of the overall book, and let's wrap up high talking about how did the assassination change our view of this presidency? delillo to write that essay because i think he is one of our nation's most brilliant writers, and he wrote about this topic. i think it is a stunning essay. and i think, you know, we knew we had to deal with the assassination. i think there has been too much to theon paid assassination innocents at the expense of considering what is really important and useful about president kennedy's ideas? so, we deliberately have always celebrated his birthday, right? we have to note this was a national tragedy and a tragedy
for a family, but we also have a man-madet he said die, nations rise and fall, but an ideal lives on. what we are trying to celebrate with this book are those ideas and ideals. he not only inspired us, but confronted us with the opportunities and challenges of citizenship, and we are certainly confronted with those things today. one of the things he said in his last speech which he never got to give was in the future, the politics of the united states should be governed by learning and reason. otherwise those who confuse with reason will gain with their unreasonable solutions to every problem. so, there's a lot to learn from jfk. susan: your comment? says but i got to meet gerald ford.
i went -- ford.ot to meet gerald he was on the warren commission. intalked about his time nato, the presidency of gerald ford. not the warren commission. he said, can you see that? i said, yes, mr. president. he said, do you see this? these are the letters i received this week on my role in the warren commission. these are the ones about my presidency. theanted to hone in on assassination. we celebrated the 100th birthday of a major american president. i think you would rank this is one of the top 10 american presidents in our history. we wanted to focus on john f. kennedy in my essay in the book,
california, south padre island, are unders that looked, so much scholarship goes into the assassination. this is a masterpiece of literature. we got one of the finest novelists to have dealt with the assassination to close the book. well, the 100 anniversary this month. eventsre will be many around the nation. we thank you for being here for one of them today. outsideuthors will be right afterward for a book signing. thank you. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] >> you are watching american
history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span three. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. >> in 1939, some 900 jewish refugees sailed from hamburg, germany for cuba on the ship st. louis in an attempt to escape nazi persecution. cuba refused most of them and the united states turned the ship away, forcing them to return to europe. next, we hear from historians from the u.s. holocaust memorial museum talk about the st. louis's journey and the fate of its passengers. the u.s. commission on civil rights hosted this event in washington, d.c. it's just over 15 minutes. now we will turn to our