President John F. Kennedy

There is something about John F. Kennedy. Could it be his
charisma and charm that still entrances America? Maybe it
is his elevated status as a pop culture icon that bedazzles
most American citizens. It might be the martyr status he
attained through his tragic assassination that makes
American culture revere him as a President. Whatever the
reason is that defines John F. Kennedy as probably one of
the most beloved Presidents in American History; one
assumption by many is that it has nothing to do with his
political legacy. Many respected historians will tell you that
he has an insubstantial political legacy. Using the body of
legislation that was passed during his short time in office as
evidence, historians say that significant legislation was
lacking. More than likely they will remark about his
emphasis on rhetoric and his deficient action. On the other
hand, many historians and writers contend his political
legacy reverberates to this very day. They claim that
through his mastery of that novel medium of his day,
Television, his inclusion of culture into the office of
President, and most of all his idealism, echoes in today’s
political atmosphere. In total, the latter argument is actually
stronger. Although JFK does lack substantial legislation
that would bolster a claim to a significant political legacy, in
other ways John F. Kennedy has such an intense political
legacy that to this very day the Presidency of the United
States cannot escape it. In respect to truly monumental
legislation, John F. Kennedy does lack and therefore the
people who say he does not have a true political legacy
have a point. These critics believe a true political legacy is
in what the President has accomplished legislatively in the
White House. With Kennedy, they state he was more talk
than action. They do concede it was not truly do to his lack
of initiative. He did have many proposals, but because he
was dealing with a Congress that was very strong and
composed of a Southern Democrats/Republican majority,
he had a hard time. (Kilpatrick, 51) So proposals like
federal aid to education, the creation of a Department of
Urban Affairs, and Medicare were shot down. (Kilpatrick,
53). To drum up support for them, Kennedy had to
convince the public and gain their support. That’s where
Kennedy’s famous rhetoric comes in. The talk may have
later led the American public to support the mentioned
proposals in the Johnson years, but in JFK’s years they did
nothing but make his critics say he was a lot of talk and no
action. Yet John F. Kennedy did have some significant
legislation passed through Congress, and even got
accomplishments done around Congress’ back. One
achievement is when John F. Kennedy formed the Peace
Corps. (Sorensen, 256) Another was the giving of federal
support to the arts, which was done through executive
orders. (Kilpatrick, 54) Economically, his tax cut resonates
in the policy of former President Reagan. In fact, when
tallying the recommendations Kennedy sent to the 87th
Congress, of the 107 he sent 73 were enacted into law,
with measures dealing with water pollution, mental health
care, hospital construction, mental retardation, drug safety
and medical schools. (Manchester, 227) In total, his
biggest achievement was not in what was accomplished,
but what was proposed. The critics might believe that
passed legislation is the only indicator of political legacy,
but in reality what is proposed can have profound effects.
His proposals on Medicare and programs like it might have
lead to nothing in his term, but they did come to fruition in
later Presidencies. Truthfully, one cannot say a man does
not have a political legacy if he had proposed ideas, but
they had not been passed, since those proposals can
deeply influence later Congresses and Presidents through
their ideas and insight into problems. One way President
Kennedy has a true political legacy is in his use of
Television in his campaign for in the Presidential Election of
1960. Back when Kennedy ran, it was an underutilized
tool. Kennedy brought out its potential. Through television,
he was able to present himself to vast audiences that he
could never have reached. Kennedy exploited the television
debate, first used in that election. Kennedy had poise, while
also looking tanned and well rested, while his opponent,
Richard Nixon, was sick and looked dreadful. Afterwards,
during his presidency Kennedy effectively utilized the new
medium to his advantage. He was the “contemporary man”,
as he was called by Adlai Stevenson after Kennedy’s
death. This was portrayed through TV in his vitality and
youth. (Schlesinger, 12) It was said by William
Manchester, “Newspapermen and television commentators
reported the progress of the new administration almost
breathlessly. The televised news conferences were
immensely popular. Remembering his first