Putting Together the Puzzle Pieces of JFK's Legacy

Monday, November 11, 2013

U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy signs the order of naval blockade of Cuba, on October 24, 1962 in White House, Washington DC, during the Cuban missiles crisis. (AFP/Getty Images)

On November 22, the nation will pause to reflect on the 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Elected at the age of 43, Kennedy took office as the youngest president in history. With just a few years in Washington under his belt,  some say Kennedy came in unprepared, leading to the bungled Bay of Pigs invasion and his commitment of troops to Vietnam. But Kennedy still managed to guide the nation through one of its darkest hours, the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.

As historian Robert Caro says in "American Experience: JFK," a new documentary by Takeaway partner WGBH, "We will never know whether he would have been a great president—I'd bet on him, but we didn't have that chance."

In the wake of Kennedy's untimely death, we are left with puzzle pieces that do not make a complete picture of a presidency. 

Caro, the author of "The Passage of Power" and "Dallas: November 22nd, 1963" and a contributor to "American Experience: JFK," believes that while Kennedy had charisma, it was Lyndon B. Johnson that really made the JFK legacy. Without LBJ's work on civil rights and other domestic issues after Kennedy's death, Caro says our 35th president would never have attained his near-mythical status.


Robert Caro

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja and Jillian Weinberger


T.J. Raphael

Comments [2]

jim dixon

Your question to Mr. Caro about whether JFK was "tough enough" was ludicrous. After PT 109 was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer, JFK swam more than 5 miles, towing a fellow sailor whose life preserver strap JFK had clenched between his teeth. Read all about it at the Navy Web site (http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq60-2.htm)and in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/22/obituaries/patrick-h-mcmahon-dead-at-84-burned-sailor-saved-by-kennedy.html). That's the real takeaway on JFK.

Nov. 11 2013 03:56 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

What does the world look like without Kennedy stopping Nuclear War during the Cuban Missile crisis? Would I be around to comment on the war?

Nov. 11 2013 11:56 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.