JFK was remembered positively by the majority of the people but negatively by others. He was a young, witty and successful man with a cheerful face that ‘everyone’ loved. He was seen in a positive light as an aspiring young president. However, after his death he was portrayed in a more negative light as reports of his affairs surfaced. Before his death, Kennedy had to face half the population who had voted for Nixon and didn’t approve of him as president and try to win them over. However, he tackled certain things successfully, making a speech in 1962 committing himself to civil rights.
Kennedy was one of nine; he was the second eldest son and nicknamed Jack. He and his older brother Joe was the apple of their father’s eye. Although his father had many affairs, the family stayed strong and his mother remained loyal. Kennedy was successful in the 1960 election, but only just. His charm, humour and the catchy lyrics of his campaign all contributed to his popularity and the amount of votes he received. However, this was going to cause difficulties for him as half the population didn’t vote for him, especially as he won by only 1% against Nixon.
He had to show that he deserved it. To prove himself, he presented many ideas; one of which was putting a man on the moon, another was to achieve equality for black people and to keep the US economy strong. He was president for only 2 and a half years before he was assassinated. Kennedy had a relatively positive relationship with the media. Only was it after his death that reports of his affairs surfaced. The media is very decisive in creating a good or bad image of a historical character because they use different pieces of information for or against that person.
Kennedy was portrayed as a healthy, young, family man with good intentions when he was alive and even after his death, and to many, he is remembered as a good president – probably because of the fact that he was shot and killed and therefore gives a ‘hero’ impression. Kennedy also knew how to use the media to his advantage, wearing appropriately coloured suits that would make him stand out, and looking healthy and groomed for television broadcasts. He also always had a nice tan, which he got from the long breaks at his sunny holiday home that was enhanced on black and white television.
Barbara Burrows the picture editor at Life magazine suggests that Kennedy appeared a devoted, loving father to his children but used it to his advantage. Hugh Sidey, a reporter from The Times and Life magazines suggests that the media enhance Kennedy’s appearance shown by the images of him at work; ‘The way the images of Kennedy at work, it would be easy to suggest that there was a script writer backstage arranging events costumes’. One of Kennedy’s domestic successes was his efforts to achieve equality for black American’s was the speech he gave committing himself to the cause of black civil rights, in 1962.
A month later, he sent 23,000 government troops to ensure that just 1 black student was allowed to study at the University of Mississippi. However, he wasn’t acting quickly enough and he annoyed Civil Rights campaigners. Further down in the south they were scared he was moving too quickly, and got rid of him. A failure would be his efforts to keep the US economy the strongest in the world. He gave grants to companies to invest in high-tech equipment to help with the unemployment issues, however the new technology needed fewer workers therefore making many redundant and the situation worse.
A significant international failure on Kennedy’s part is the Bay of Pigs operation. Just short of three months into his presidency, the CIA sent troops to Cuba in hope that Castro would be overthrown, Kennedy had signed to say he approved of this. The plan failed and Kennedy was shown up to the public. He made a speech confessing his mistake, but he promised to learn from it. Kennedy’s speech made him more popular than before most probably because of his honesty and how normal he was- everyone makes mistakes, he even stated ‘The more I mess up, the more they love me’.
One of Kennedy’s international successes would be the Cuban Missile Crisis. The crisis began on the 15th October 1962, Kennedy calmly organized the group; EX COMM a group of his 12 most important advisors to help handle it. They decided to impose a blockade around Cuba to prevent any more weapons being transported onto the island. He had clearly learnt from his mistakes at the Bay of Pigs and used the experience. He handled the crisis well and used his own initiative and knowledge from previous operations.
Kennedy’s early death created the: ‘What would he have achieved if he had lived’ idea. His death in 1963 was just 6 years before his NASA space programme launched the first space shuttle to the moon. Unfortunately, he never got to see this- but if he had, what would he have done next? Kennedy, before his death, stated that he wanted to focus on the children and their education, especially science; he believed they were the scientists of the future. After his death everyone was left wondering what he could have done to improve their education.
The idea of not knowing what Kennedy planned to do in the future created a positive memory of all the things he had already accomplished, for example, the Cuban missile crisis which he had handled well out of all his operations. Jackie Kennedy’s social sectary, Letitia Daldrige states ‘If you put all of these factors together the style and the grace and the beauty- you realise that the legend does continue’. Kennedy’s ideas are still politically powerful today. He was seen and remembered as a ‘future-looking’ president- his ideas back then are similar to those of today and he will be remembered positively because of that.
If his ideas back then were not something we would do today or make no sense to us, we would remember his negatively. Barrack Obama came into presidency at an unfortunate time, just as the US economy was at its peak. However, Kennedy caught the economy from hitting rock-bottom just at the right time- he was lucky. This shows Kennedy in a positive light as he did an even better job that the current president, back then. Most people had a positive memory of Kennedy, as a result of writers and filmmakers. History writing is partial to the author- they choose what to include and ignore.
The reader only learns what the author wants them to know- therefore it is easy to create a negative or positive view on it. Interpretations of Kennedy have changed dramatically since his death; this could be due to new evidence displayed in the media for the public to see. His most recent affair came out in the media just a few months ago. 45-year-old Kennedy had an 18 month affair (until his death) with 19-year-old Whitehouse intern, Mimi Alford. She says was ‘swept away’ by the president. Another of his famous affairs would be his weekend with Marylyn Monroe in Palm Springs.
Everyone knew about it but kept it hushed. Even Jackie Kennedy knew he had many ‘girlfriends’ although she kept quite too. However she made it clear to her husband that she was deeply unhappy about the televised Madison Square Garden concert in which Marilyn sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ to JFK. Jackie threatened to file for divorce immediately, before the next presidential campaign, thereby jeopardising his chances of being re-elected. One Secret Service agent stated: ‘We all knew about the weekend. It wasn’t until she and the President were both dead that people started talking about an affair.
Trust me; no one was saying anything about an affair in 1962. ” The president also had affairs with Judith Exner, who was the mistress of Frank Sinatra and many members of the Mafia; very dangerous ground to walk on. Kennedy also took various drugs for his chronic back pain; including painkillers and stimulants such as Speed. As all of this information that has appeared in biographies and documentaries, has changed people’s perception of Kennedy. This reflects a change in the truth about him, and will definitely affect how Kennedy is remembered over the next forty years.
He will be known for all the recent information rather than how he was known when he was president. Why was Kennedy remembered so positively? People believed that Kennedy was a good, honest man at the time, but now we can look back and see that we were just oblivious, he considered his private personal life completely separate from his life in politics. This is proved by all the information in the media that has surfaced over the years. He was hiding his personal affairs away from the public, and when they were revealed, people’s perception of Kennedy changed.
Kennedy used the media to his advantage and manipulated the way people saw him; for example, he made deals with the chief of FBI, J Edgar Hoover to prevent word of all his scandals reaching the press. Kennedy’s image after his death was boosted by the idea of what could have happened next, or what else he could have achieved. His premature death left everyone wondering what he would have done in the future, whether or not he would have stuck to his word or how he would handle the next crisis that arose.
His death meant that he didn’t leave people with a bad memory of him, he had died a ‘hero’ and no one could have predicted his accomplishments in the future. As nobody could have foreseen the future for Kennedy, nobody knows his next moves, but for the time he was president, Kennedy is remembered the ‘future-looking president’ who’s ideas are similar to those of Barack Obama in more recent times. This also gives him a good image. On the other hand, people who do not know all the facts may have had their opinions of Kennedy influenced by filmmakers, journalists and various other types of media.
It is easy nowadays, with large amounts of technology for a filmmaker to express certain opinions without it being obvious to the viewers. They choose what to include and exclude- therefore people have been force fed specific pieces of information without realising. This may have been one factor contributing to the positive image of Kennedy. Kennedy does not deserve the positive interpretation that has been created for him until all his scandals, affairs and facts about him have been revealed to the public to make their own judgement on him and his mysterious presidency.