Robert Dallek calls for a year-long commemoration of JFK’s birth in 2017Historians in the News
Though no baby boomer will want to face this, in just under three years it is going to be the centennial of President John F. Kennedy. And the country should begin now to prepare for an appropriate celebration, something in proportion to previous grand presidential centennials where observances have lasted at least a year; where Congress, the White House, federal departments, universities, presidential libraries and other educational institutions focus on what the man meant to this nation and to the world.
There is a magnificent tradition in this nation of observing such anniversary moments. Most recently, the country did a first-rate job in 2009 of celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial. And who knew that an African-American senator, also from Illinois, would get inaugurated as the commemorations began?
In the 1980s, there were widespread observances for the centennials of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. These included what was then the second-largest celebration in the Smithsonian’s history, with FDR exhibits in 12 of its museums. A joint meeting of Congress featured the speeches of FDR; another one featured Harry Truman’s former aides.
These observances emphasized two of the great successes of 20th century America, FDR’s standing up to the Axis Powers and Truman’s standing up to the Soviet Empire. Couldn’t we use a reminder of JFK’s successes dealing with nuclear weapons? ...
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