Jack Kennedy Elusive Hero
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster;(November 6, 2012)
What was he like?”
Jack Kennedy said the reason people read biography is to answer that basic question. What was he like, this man whose own wife called him “that elusive, unforgettable man?” In this New York Times bestselling biography, Chris Matthews answers that question with the verve of a novelist. We see this most beloved president in the company of friends. We see and feel him close-up, having fun and giving off that restlessness of his. We watch him navigate his life from privileged, rebellious youth to gutsy American president. We witness his bravery in war and selfless rescue of his PT boat crew. We watch JFK as a young politician learning to play hardball and watch him grow into the leader who averts a nuclear war. Matthews’s extraordinary biography is based on personal interviews with those closest to JFK, oral histories by top political aide Kenneth O’Donnell and others, documents from his years as a student at Choate, and notes from Jacqueline Kennedy’s first interview after Dallas. As Matthews writes: “I found a fighting prince never free of pain, never far from trouble, never accepting the world he found, never wanting to be his father’s son. He was a far greater hero than he ever wished us to know.”
I finally found this book at Friends of the Library for $1.oo! So I had to get it!
JFK always interests me. I loved that he got us in Space and he will always be a "hero" to me because when my brother was in the Air Force JFK was President, and my mother and I, fearfully, lived thru the Cuban Missile Crisis. So now and then a get a book about JFK to read, sadly most cover his death rather then his life.
This one is about a very young Jack who felt unloved by his parents and admired his older brother who was killed in the war. It talks of his slow introduction into politics and his climb to the Presidency. It's filled with quotes from JFK which makes you feel more like you know the man rather then the President. His having to cope with Addison's Disease and his painful back and hiding it from the public is really quite dramatic.
I found out in this book that one of his hero's was Winston Churchill, and it showed in his inaugural speech...
"Kennedy and Ted Sorensen had been devoting a good deal of that Palm Beach time writing Jack's inaugural address
Given the ongoing challenge of the U.S.-- USSR relationship and its immense significance in the election, that theme would command the heart of the speech. Its focus was on strength- not as a prelude to war, but as an instrument for peace? "Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life."
The Churchillian notion of peace through strength had echoed throughout Jack's adult life. " We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed" America would arm not to fight, but to parlay its power into protection. "Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversaries, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest fort peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction."
Those decisive phrases have not lost their resonance. "Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms- and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations. Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the oceans depths, and encourage the arts and commerce."
The one domestic policy reference would be Kennedy's commitment to "human rights" at home as well as abroad. At the end came the words that passed into the world's consciousness: " And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country."
Most of us remember the last sentence but not much else.
Many also thought our "race for space" was nothing more then "beating the Russians".. but it was a lot more in America's power struggle then "just" a race for space.
I enjoyed this book. As always I learn one or two more things about Kennedy with each book, although this one wasn't just about his death... and for that I was glad.