On December 27, Affiliate Stephen Sestanovich appeared in The New Republic with an article titled “There Will Never Be a Unified Theory of JFK: What a year of retrospectives missed about the martyred president.”
In the piece, Professor Sestanovich explores some works put out in the past year examing the presidency of John F. Kennedy 50 years after his assassination and concludes that they try to tidy up what was a complex and important story. He stresses that we should acknowledge and explore the contradictory nature of President Kennedy and discover what lessons can be drawn from it instead of trying to invent a new narrative.
“An American president who wanted to apply these lessons today would have to begin by understanding them better than did Kennedy himself. Barack Obama would be right to recall our thirty-fifth president’s firm hold on the global imagination, his strong belief in diplomatic problem-solving, and his conviction that the United States can work most productively with those who are proponents of political reform in their own societies. Yet these elements of the Kennedy legacy are hard to separate from the enormous edge that America then enjoyed in all the ingredients of global power. That power was so great that Kennedy took it almost for granted. It involved high cost and great risk, and made possible achievements and innovations that we admire to this day. It also made possible a great deal of foolishness. In our time, a president with similar aims as a peacemaker cannot afford to take American power for granted or to understand its results so poorly. He has to reckon with both halves of John Kennedy’s legacy.”
The full article can be found on The New Republic’s website here.