Robert Shrum: The Enduring Greatness of JFK

Roundup: Talking About History

[Robert Shrum is an American political consultant.]

We are as far removed in time from the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as that day was from the presidency of William Howard Taft. To those of us who were young in 1961, Taft seemed like ancient history.

Yet as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of JFK's summons to a new generation, his presence and his presidency still speak, at times powerfully, to succeeding generations. In part, this is because the medium constantly gives new life to the message and the man — in film, on television, nowhere more vividly than in the sights and tones of his own speeches and press conferences and almost singularly in the inaugural address.

This resonance is a possibility of modern presidency, but not a certainty. Many of Kennedy’s successors, fairly or unfairly, already exist far more in scholarly precincts than in the popular consciousness....

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