JFK speaks from his Harvard past

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tags: Harvard, JFK



What did John F. Kennedy sound like as a vivacious 20-year-old, a young man who liked to balance his Harvard studies with ample amounts of sports and socializing, and whose first run for office was still almost 10 years away?

The iconic Hyannis-set home movies starring the tanned and toned Kennedy clan playing a game of touch football, or waving from the deck of a sailboat, have a prominent place in the nation’s collective memory. But the voice of the college-age JFK was lost to time — until now.

Harvard has just released what its archivists believe is the earliest voice recording of the future president, who, as it turns out, sounded a lot like a politician even as a young man. The restored recording is part of a new exhibit at the Harvard University Archives that explores Kennedy’s Harvard ties. It captures Kennedy delivering a 1937 speech about Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black for the College public speaking course “English F.”

“As far as we know, this is the earliest known recording of his voice in a research collection,” said archivist Megan Sniffin-Marinoff, who worked with the recording and helped curate the new exhibit “JFK’s Harvard/Harvard’s JFK.” She said that the  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, in Boston, holds no recording earlier than a 1940 radio interview, as far as her staff is aware.




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