Kennedy published his first book, Why England Slept, in 1940, the year that he graduated from Harvard College. A study of England’s failure to increase defense spending in response to the rise of Nazism, it showed a serious grasp of international affairs, and its call on the United States to prepare for war flew in the face of many of the pronouncements of his father, former ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy. Nevertheless, Ambassador Kennedy was instrumental in supporting the book’s publication, and a range of influential opinion-shapers praised the new work, including the greatest of them all, Henry R. Luce, the force behind Time and Life. Exactly one radio interview survives from the media blitz, a recording made from a station in Rochester, Minnesota, featuring a very young author not long out of college.
Announcer: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. At this time, we are indeed pleased to have with us in our studios Mr. John F. Kennedy, son of Ambas¬sador and Mrs. Joseph P. Ken¬nedy, who is in our city visiting Dr. and Mrs. Paul O’Leary. Mr. Kennedy is the author of the recently published book, Why England Slept. . . .
This young man from Bos-ton has a clear-headed, realis¬tic, unhysterical message for his countrymen, and for his elders. And with that, we want you, too, of the radio audience, to meet Mr. John F. Kennedy, who is known to his friends as Jack Kennedy. But first, before we get into questions about this much-discussed book, I’d like to ask a few questions about how our guest has spent some of his twenty-three years. Tell me, Mr. Kennedy, where did you go to school?
JFK: Well, I attended Harvard, I just finished there this June.
Announcer: And what are you studying at the present time?
JFK: Well, I studied international relations there, and I plan to go on to law school the next three years, and study law at Yale University.
Announcer: And may I ask what are your plans for the future?
JFK: Well, I don’t know exactly yet. I’m interested more or less in working some¬time in my life for the government, but I haven’t really decided as yet.
In the pre-television age, songs were more essential to campaigns than now, and a small number of recordings preserve music from the early Kennedy campaigns. This selection, from the 1952 Senate race, in which Kennedy defeated the incumbent, Henry Cabot Lodge, offers a robust set of rhyming reasons for a Kennedy vote.
When we vote this November,
Let’s all remember,
Let’s vote for Kennedy!
Make him your selection,
In the Senate election,
He’ll do more for you and me!
Look at Kennedy’s history,
You’ll see it’s no mystery,
Why he suits us to a tee.
He’s your kind of man,
So do all that you can,
And vote for Kennedy!
Excerpted from the book LISTENING IN: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy,
The Kennedy Library Foundation; Foreword by Caroline Kennedy and Introduction and Annotations by Ted Widmer.
Copyright (c) 2012 The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, Inc. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold.
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