President Kennedy's Schedule - History

President Kennedy's Schedule - History

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President of the United States (Kennedy's America)

The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.

The power of the presidency has grown substantially since its formation, as has the power of the federal government as a whole.While presidential power has ebbed and flowed over time, the presidency has played an increasingly strong role in American political life since the beginning of the 20th century, with a notable expansion during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In contemporary times, the president is also looked upon as one of the world's most powerful political figures as the leader of the only remaining global superpower. As the leader of the nation with the largest economy by nominal GDP, the president possesses significant domestic and international hard and soft power.

Article II of the Constitution establishes the executive branch of the federal government and vests the executive power in the president. The power includes the execution and enforcement of federal law and the responsibility to appoint federal executive, diplomatic, regulatory, and judicial officers. Based on constitutional provisions empowering the president to appoint and receive ambassadors and conclude treaties with foreign powers, and on subsequent laws enacted by Congress, the modern presidency has primary responsibility for conducting U.S. foreign policy. The role includes responsibility for directing the world's most expensive military, which has the second largest nuclear arsenal.

The president also plays a leading role in federal legislation and domestic policymaking. As part of the system of checks and balances, Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution gives the president the power to sign or veto federal legislation. Since modern presidents are also typically viewed as the leaders of their political parties, major policymaking is significantly shaped by the outcome of presidential elections, with presidents taking an active role in promoting their policy priorities to members of Congress who are often electorally dependent on the president. In recent decades, presidents have also made increasing use of executive orders, agency regulations, and judicial appointments to shape domestic policy.

The president is elected indirectly through the Electoral College to a four-year term, along with the vice president. Under the Twenty-second Amendment, ratified in 1951, no person who has been elected to two presidential terms may be elected to a third. In addition, nine vice presidents have become president by virtue of a president's intra-term death or resignation. In all, TBD individuals have served TBD presidencies spanning TBD full four-year terms.

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Fast Facts about John F. Kennedy

The following information about John F. Kennedy is arranged alphabetically by topic. For more information please contact [email protected] Have a research question? Ask an Archivist.

Airport, New York City: The law changing the name of Idlewild International Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport was signed by New York Mayor Robert Wagner on Wednesday, December 18, 1963. A dedication ceremony was held on Tuesday, December 24, 1963 at 11:00 AM. See the New York Times article of December 19, 1963, p. 25.

Appointment Books, General Information: The White House appointment books were kept by Evelyn Lincoln, the President's secretary, and recorded his workday appointments and activities. The Kennedy administration White House appointment books are by no means the complete record of the President's activities that such books tend to be for modern presidents.


  • November 22, 1963
  • Dallas, Texas (Dealy Plaza)
  • 12:30 p.m., CST (time approx.)
  • Pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital 1:00 p.m., CST
  • First press report by UPI 12:34 p.m. CST

Back Brace: Markings on the brace that President Kennedy wore indicate that it came from the Washington, D.C. firm of Nelson Kloman Surgical Supply Company.

Baseball: During his school years, John F. Kennedy played baseball as a pitcher (right-handed) and third baseman. John F. Kennedy threw out the opening day pitch for the Washington Senators, who were playing the Baltimore Orioles, on April 8, 1963.

Birth: May 29, 1917. John F. Kennedy was born in the master bedroom on the second floor of 83 Beals Street, Brookline, Massachusetts.

  • The Manitou:
    • Length: 62 feet overall (44 feet on water line). Beam: 13 feet. Draft: 9 feet.
    • Power: gasoline engine (7-8 knots).
    • Equipment: radio direction finder, fathometer, radio telephone.
    • Accommodations: icebox, propane stove, usable fireplace, head forward, and head admidships. Sleeps 3 crew forward, 4 in main cabin and the main stateroom aft sleeps 2.
    • Marconi rigged yawl.
    • Requires at least 3 experiened hands to sail her and another 2 or 3 to handle the sails and gear.
    • In addition to regular working sails, has a complete set of racing sails.
    • Designed for off-shore sailing with comfortable accommodations.
    • Donated in 1955 to the Coast Guard Academy.
    • Built in 1947 by M. M. Davis and Son in Solomans, Maryland for the James Lowes of Chicago.
    • Named after Manitou Passage in Lake Michigan. "Manitou" means "Spirit of the Water."
    • Chosen by President Kennedy in 1962: "floating White House."
    • Sold by government (Defense Surplus Sales Office) on May 23, 1968 to the Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at Piney Point, Maryland for $35,000. Used for training the Merchant Marine.
    • Length: 92' 3"
    • Beam: 16' 6"
    • Draft: 4' 10"
    • Cruising Speed: 12 knots
    • Weight: 88 tons
    • Built: 1931 by Defoe Boat Works in Bay City, Michigan
    • Owned by the Kennedy family from 1952 to 1970.
    • Length: 52'. Beam: 12'. Draft: 3.5'.
    • Commissioned by Edsel Ford.
    • Designed by Boston naval architect Walter J. McInnis and constructed by F. D. Lawley of Quincy, Massachusetts in 1930.
    • Rum-runner hull configuration and two Sterling Dolphin six-cylinder 300hp engines allow speeds of thirty knots and more.
    • Built of double plank mahogany with wide hull and varnished superstructure.
    • Open cockpit forward measuring 9' x 10'.
    • Combination galley and crew's quarters aft of the forward cockpit.
    • Originally designed with open bridge and powered by Chrysler Royal 3 cylinder marine engine.
    • Special equipment: fathometer and ship-to-shore radio.
    • Classed as an outboard runabout.
    • 17' in length, 5' beam.
    • Cruising speed 35 mph.
    • Built by Kenway Boat Co., of Saco, Maine.
    • Purchased by Joseph P. Kennedy in July 1960 as a birthday gift for Jacqueline Kennedy.
    • Powered by a 75hp Evinrude outboard motor.
    • A one-design International Star Class boat No. 902.
    • Built in 1930, it was sold to John F. Kennedy and his brother Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. in 1934. After Joseph was killed in 1944, the boat was sold to a sailor in Maine.
    • Wiano Senior Class Sloop, 25' long 8' wide, 3500 lbs
    • Built by Crosby Boatyards, Osterville, MA in 1932.

    Books, Favorites as Child (Rose Kennedy Personal Papers, "Modern Times: Memorials, grandchildren, etc. and the future")

    • Arabian Nights
    • Billy Whiskers series
    • Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
    • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
    • A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
    • King Arthur and the Round Table by A.M. Hadfield
    • Lays of Ancient Rome by Thomas Macauley
    • The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
    • Kim by Rudyard Kipling
    • Bambi by Felix Salten
    • Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
    • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrier
    • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
    • Story of a Bad Boy by Thomas B. Aldrich
    • Wing and Wing by James Fenimore Cooper
    • Biography of a Grizzly by Ernest T. Seton
    • At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald
    • Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
    • Wonder Tales From East and West, Introduction by Maud Wilder Goodwin

    Books, Favorites as President (White House Central Subject Files, Box 722, "PP 15-5: Preferences and hobbies, Books-Authors-Poetry-Prose-Fiction")

    • Lord Melbourne by David Cecil
    • Montrose by John Buchan
    • Marlborough by Sir Winston Churchill
    • John Quincy Adams by Samuel Flagg Bemis
    • The Emergence of Lincoln by Allan Nevins
    • The Price of Union by Herbert Agar
    • John C. Calhoun by Margaret L. Coit
    • Talleyrand by Duff Cooper
    • Byron in Italy by Peter Quennell
    • The Red and the Black by M. de Stendhal
    • From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming
    • Pilgrim's Way by John Buchan

    Boy Scouts: The President was a Boy Scout in Troop 2 for two years in Bronxville, New York. He was also active in the Boston Council from 1946 to 1955: as District Vice Chairman, Member of the Executive Board for more than four years, Vice President for one year, and National Council Representative for two years. He was Honorary President of the National organization of the Boy Scouts of America in 1961.

    Campaign 1946: On April 25, 1946, John F. Kennedy entered the race for the 11th Congressional District seat, which was being given up by James Michael Curley. The District comprised Boston wards 1, 2, 3, and 22 Cambridge and Somerville wards 1, 2, and 3.

    Campaign 1952: Announced his candidacy on April 6, 1952.

    Car: 1959 Pontiac Convertible Coupe. Vehicle Identification/Engine #859F-1111.

    Cigars: John F. Kennedy smoked 4-5 a day. His preference was for Upmanns or Monticellos. (White House Central Subject Files, Box 722, "PP 15: Preferences and Hobbies, General")

    Confirmation Name: Francis

    Doodles: From 1952 until the President's death, Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln, his personal secretary, accumulated and catalogued these materials. Most of the doodles are part of the Personal Papers of John F. Kennedy and further information can be found in the finding aid of that collection.

    Election 1960: Announced his candidacy January 2, 1960 in Washington, DC.

    Schedule of debates:

    • First Debate, 9/26/60: Originated from CBS in Chicago and was carried by all networks. Watched by an estimated 70,000,000 people.
    • Second Debate, 10/7/60: Originated from NBC in Washington, D.C. carried by all networks.
      Third Debate, 10/13/60: Entitled "Face-to-Face, Nixon-Kennedy" originated ABC Hollywood (Nixon) and New York (John F. Kennedy) carried by all networks.
    • Fourth Debate, 10/21/60: Originated from ABC New York carried by all networks.
    • Quotations:
      • "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke)
      • From One Man's America, by Alistair Cooke: On the 19th of May, 1780, as Mr. Cooke describes it, in Hartford, Connecticut, the skies at noon turned from blue to gray and by mid-afternoon had blackened over so densely that, in that religious age, men fell on their knees and begged a final blessing before the end came. The Connecticut House of Representatives was in session. And as some men fell down in the darkened chamber and others clamored for an immediate adjournment, the Speaker of the House, one Colonel Daveport, came to his feet. And he silenced the din with these words: "The Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought."
      • From Dante's Inferno.
      • George A. Barnum (Coast Guard)
      • Hubert Clark (Navy)
      • Timothy F. Cheek (Marines)
      • Richard E. Gaudreau (Air Force)
      • Samuel R. Bird (Army, commanding)
      • James L. Felder (Army)
      • Douglas A. Mayfield (Army)
      • Larry B. Smith (Navy)
      • Jerry J. Diamond (Marines)

      Godfather: Thomas A. Fitzgerald (maternal uncle)

      Godmother: Loretta Connelly (aunt)

      Harvard Years:

      • Address 1939-40: Winthrop House F 14
      • Field of Concentration: Government
      • Graduation Date: June 20, 1940, S. B. cum Laude

      Height: 6' 1"

      "High Hopes" Campaign Song: Sung by Frank Sinatra to the tune of his 1959 hit single, "High Hopes," but with lyrics changed in support of the 1960 Democratic presidential candidate.

      Inaugural Address: Fewer than 1900 words (the shortest since 1905), between 16-17 minutes long.

      Inaugural Poem (Robert Frost): "The Gift Outright." Frost had composed a longer poem, "For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration," but was apparently unable to see his text in the mid-day glare and recited the older poem instead.


      • Oath: Administered by Chief Justice Earl Warren
      • Bible held by Clerk of the Supreme Court James Browning, later a Federal Appellate Judge in the 9th district with offices in San Francisco
      • See the Boston Globe, Saturday, January 21, 1961 for a story on the family's children during the inaugural.


      • First bill signed into law: (PL 87-3) an act restoring military rank to former President Eisenhower. Signed 3/22/61.
      • Last bill signed into law: (PL 88-185) authorizing the striking of medals to commemorate the founding of the first union health center of the ILGWU. Signed 11/20/63. passed during Kennedy years are contained in the publication Summary of the Three-year Kennedy Record and Digest of Major Accomplishments of the Eighty-seventh Congress and the Eighty-eighth Congress, United States Congress.

      License: #53332D

      License Plate: As Senator: MA-1995

      Limousine, Presidential: 1961 Lincoln Continental Presidential Limousine "X-100" in "metalic navy blue." Equipped with two jump seats, the car could seat six adults. The blue interior had mouton carpeting on the floor, a wool broadcloth roof interior and all leather seats. Storage space for machine guns under the front seat and in the trunk compartment. Rear seat power operated and rose approximately ten and one half inches, putting the President in full view. Contained foot stands for the President's feet. Accessories: two flagstaffs (one on each front fender), two flashing type red lights located just above the front bumper, a siren, two spotlights for the flags on the fender, a two way radio telephone, an A-M radio and speaker in the rear compartment, a floodlight to illuminate the rear seat, lap robes incorporating the Presidential Seal, grab handles, a first aid kit, emergency light fire extinguisher. A continental rear tire arrangement at the rear held the spare tire. On either side of the tire was a stand for secret service men, as well as toward the front and rear on each side.

      Movies: The following are some of the movies that John F. Kennedy saw during his presidency:

      • Spartacus, February 3, 1961
      • The World of Apu, February 16, 1961
      • One-Eyed Jack, March 30, 1961
      • All in a Night's Work, April 2, 1961
      • Draft number information: While at Stanford in 1940, John F. Kennedy registered for the draft. Thirteen days later Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, blindfolded, reached into the ten-gallon "fishbowl" and began drawing numbers for the draft lottery. On the eighteenth draw he pulled out number 2748, Kennedy's. As a college student, however, he was able to defer until July of 1941.
      • Separation information: Serial # 116071/1109
      • Medals and awards:
      • Navy and Marine Corps Medal
      • Purple Heart Medal
      • American Defense Service Medal
      • American Campaign Medal (LST-449 P19-1)
      • Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with 3 bronze stars) (PT-59 P24-4)
      • World War II Victory Medal PT-109 P21-1

      Officials of the Kennedy Administration: January 20, 1961 - November 22, 1963.

      Oval Office: Listing of items in the office and on the desk.

      Pets in the White House: Two parakeets: Bluebell and Maybell three dogs: Charlie, Pushinka and Clipper and two ponies: Macaroni and Tex. Complete list of pets.

      Portraits: The portraits of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline B. Kennedy hanging in the White House were painted by Aaron Shikler.

      Presidential Medal of Freedom (Papers of John F. Kennedy. Presidential Papers. President's Office Files. Subjects. Medal of Honor, Medal of Freedom)

      • P.T. 109 was built by the Elco Naval Division of the Electric Post Company in Bayonne, N.J. It was delivered to the Navy on July 10, 1942. Fitting was completed at the New York Naval Shipyard. Lieutenant John F. Kennedy took command of P.T. 109 on April 24, 1942. He was the third commander of the ship. It was cut in two by the Japanese destroyer Amagari on 8/2/43.
      • Words on Coconut: Lieutenant Kennedy sent a message by way of friendly islanders who had found him and his men after their shipwreck. The message was composed of these words carved into the skin of a coconut: NAURO ISL. COMMANDER. NATIVE KNOWS POS'IT. HE CAN PILOT. 11ALIVE. NEED SMALL BOAT. KENNEDY.

      Reading Speed: John F. Kennedy could read 1,200 words a minute. In 1954-1955 he attended meetings at the Foundation for Better Reading in Baltimore.

      Senate Office: Room #362 Senate Office Building

      Social Security Number: 026-22-3747

      Sunglasses: Two pairs of glasses with tortoise shell frame, one with inscriptions "American Optical" and "True color Polaroid tc74-51" and the other with "Cabana TS 2505."

      “The Question”: Ted Kennedy & the Pitfalls of Running for President

      One of the most obvious questions a candidate may be asked is why do you want to be president? Why you? Why now? This isn’t the 19th century, after all, when presidents had to be dragged to the White House under the guise of modesty. Why do you want to be president is a simple question with a complex answer–and candidates should be prepared to offer one.

      Failing to do so could be fatal to any campaign. Just ask Ted Kennedy.

      “Why do you want to be president?” Roger Mudd of CBS asked Kennedy in November of 1979. Kennedy had not yet announced, but was gearing up to–he would make a formal announcement the next week.

      For a long four seconds, Kennedy hesitated, his eyes sliding to the ceiling. “Well,” he said, “uh. Were I to make the announcement to run, the reasons that I would run…” and thus commenced a rambling answer which may have derailed his entire candidacy.

      The Washington Post wrote at the time that Kennedy “appears at points uncomfortable, faltering, almost dazed.” (Although their review of the interview focused more on Kennedy’s discomfort with Mudd’s line of questions concerning Chappaquiddick). The interview, thought the paper, could have the same effect on the 1980 campaign as the 1960 televised debate between Nixon and John F. Kennedy.

      Whatever the Washington Post thought of the interview, Kennedy himself recognized it as a mistake. Decades later, Mudd wrote that he had heard that Kennedy never forgot the question, and that he blamed Mudd for it.

      “…thirty years later, Kennedy was still upset that I had asked him why he wanted to be president, even though it was widely believed among politicians and journalists alike that the only thing missing from his candidacy was a formal announcement.”

      Kennedy’s failure to answer this softball question has become a thing of political lore. The West Wing even aired an episode where the president’s staff celebrates a political rival’s inability to answer “the question.”

      “Can you answer it?” C.J. Cregg, the press secretary, later asks the president.

      “Why do I want to be president?” says President Bartlett

      “I’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of hours,” the president responds, and pauses. “I almost have it.”

      Today, many prospective Democratic candidates have sought to answer this question in their campaign launch videos or in interviews (perhaps aiming to preempt an awkward interview exchange).

      Elizabeth Warren talks of her experience fighting big business, and how she would bring that fight to the White House. Cory Booker on The View said: “I’m running to restore our sense of common purpose, to focus on the common pain that we have all over this country.” In his campaign video, he focused on his credentials as a man of the people–living among his constituents, in Newark, New Jersey.

      Even Howard Schultz, asked by John Dickerson of CBS This Morning for his “big idea” trumpeted a line about bringing people together (Schultz aims to do this as a candidate from the center). Dickerson replied that most politicians would say that, too. Still–Schultz’s answer wasn’t as bad as Kennedy’s rambling response, which began about how America was great because of its vast natural resources.

      The pitfalls of running for president are many and varied. But at the very least today’s candidates can learn from the past. When someone asks you why you want to be president–know the answer.

      According to medical records released this week, former President John F. Kennedy was in far greater pain and taking many more medications during his presidency than previously known.

      Washington physician Jeffrey Kelman examined the records with historian Robert Dallek, whose excerpts from an upcoming biography appear in this month's Atlantic Monthly. Dr. Kelman joins us now. Well, John F. Kennedy was famously the youngest man elected to the office. But it sounds like he had been sick for a really long time.


      John Kennedy was sick from age 13 on. In 1930, when he was 13, he developed abdominal pain. By 1934 he was sent to the Mayo Clinic where they diagnosed colitis or it was called colitis. By 1940 his back started hurting him, by 1944 he had his first back operation, by 1947 he was officially diagnosed as having Addison's Disease.

      And he was basically sick from then on through the rest of his life. He had two back operations, in '54 and '55, which failed. And he needed chronic pain medication from '55 through his White House years, until he died in Dallas. He was never healthy. I mean, the image you get of vigor and progressive health wasn't true. He was playing through pain most of the presidency.

      You reviewed his medical records.


      In aid of this new biography by Robert Dowling, we went to the Kennedy library where they opened the medical archives for the first time and we went back and interviewed all the records, starting from his time in the Mayo Clinic all the way up to his death.

      And this was a guy who had to do what just to get through a day?


      By the time he was president, he was on ten, 12 medications a day. He was on antispasmodics for his bowel, paregoric, lamodal transatine [ph], he was on muscle relaxants, Phenobarbital, Librium, Meprobomate, he was on pain medications, Codeine, Demerol, Methadone, he was on oral cortisone he was on injected cortisone, he was on testosterone, he was on Nembutal for sleep. And on top of that he was getting injected sometimes six times a day, six places on his back, by the White House physician, with Novocain, Procaine, just to enable him to face the day.

      Now, in the late '40s he was diagnosed with Addison's Disease.



      Addison's Disease is adrenal insufficiency. The adrenal gland makes corticosteroids and other hormones that are used for salt metabolism, response to stress, response to inflammation. In '47 he was officially diagnosed in England, as being adrenally insufficient, and from that point on, at least that point on, he was being treated with daily corticosteroids of some form or another. There is some evidence he was actually being treated earlier, with a form of [inaudible] implanted under his skin. But at, from '47 he had to receive daily steroids to survive.

      Now whether this was Addison's or simple adrenal insufficiency, this is still pretty dangerous?


      It's always dangerous without being supported, patients die. And the steroids themselves have side effects, including susceptibility to infection. Kennedy needed multiple courses of antibiotics, he had urinary infections, skin infections, he had respiratory infections.

      Can you, from the distance of 40 years, from what you were able to look at, his X-rays, his medical records, his prescriptions, talk about whether or how these illnesses affected his performance?


      We went to a lot of trouble, I mean, you can make a time line at the Kennedy Library looking at day by day, sometimes hour by hour, the history of the Kennedy presidency. And in correlating it as well as you could with the medical records, didn't seem to have affected his presidency at all. His judgment wasn't warped, in spite of the fact that he seemed to be in pain a great deal of the time, it didn't affect his performance as president. In certain ways I came out of it thinking he was a heroic character.

      Was his appearance altered by the drugs that he was on?


      He gained and lost weight, both from the colitis and from the steroids, and from the appetite, that's why he was on testosterone, in order to stimulate muscle growth and stimulate his appetite. So his performance &mdash his appearance rather did change from time to time.

      Now, in recent years there's been a lot of controversy over the use of steroids by athletes, by youngsters who are trying body building, people talk about "roid rage" and personality changes from using such medications. How do we know, or can we ever know whether they affected President Kennedy in what was still, I think, a pretty new drug regimen, wasn't it?


      Right. Steroids became available at all in 1937. And so this is reasonably new. The muscle building steroids are the testosterones, and he didn't appear to be getting doses high enough to cause psychological changes. The maintenance, corticosteroids he was receiving for the Addison's Disease, again, were probably not in high enough doses to cause psychiatric issues.

      What can you tell from the X-rays?


      He had compression fractures in his low back, he had osteoporosis. He had a lot of surgery. In 1954, they put a plate in because the pain was so bad he needed, or they felt he needed to have his spine stabilized. It got infected in '55, they took the plate out. By the late '50s there were periods had he couldn't put his own shoes on because he couldn't bend forward.

      And this is a man who also had to walk sideways down the stairs. You never saw this stuff in public apparently, but had trouble walking?


      He was on crutches. He couldn't bend down. There's one very nice picture of him being lifted up to Air Force One in a cherry picker box with a Secret Service man because he couldn't walk up the stairs.

      If you had a patient, if someone been referred to you and you got this box of records, would you be expecting someone sort of tan and fit?


      The way Kennedy that was presented to us?


      Never. It was the last thing I expected to find in the medical records. I saw him once, many years ago. And all I can remember is feeling this is a guy who couldn't have a care in the world. And that wasn't the case at all.

      Has medicine changed in such a way that these conditions wouldn't be treated this way today?


      Clearly, but it's 40 years later. I mean there's more emphasis on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, there's for emphasis on exercise programs to strengthen backs, less on braces, less on trigger point injection, although it's still used. He'd have been treated differently now, but that's 40 years of hindsight.

      One of the reasons it's said that the records were released to you and Bob Dallek was that there was some feeling that this would demonstrate what a heroic thing this was, not that he had deceived the public by giving a false impression of health, but that it was just pretty hard to be John F. Kennedy day after day. After looking at everything that you looked at, which impression did you come away with?


      That was my impression. It's funny, I mean, the lesson that I got out of it was that this guy had a real disability, I mean, he was living with a disability which probably would get him federal disability or retirement if he was around today, and it was known. He was on enough pain medications to disable him. And he survived through it. He came out of it, and he performed at the highest level

      Post Kennedy Years

      In the period following the Kennedy administration, presidents have gradually adapted to high-risk high-reward nature of the on the record press conference. For Presidents Nixon and Reagan, they cut back the number of press conferences they held to approximately one every two months. At the same time, the press conferences they did hold differed from those of their predecessors by holding them at night in prime time in the East Room. That way, the president did indeed get to the public. Before Nixon, no president had held a prime time press conference. Gradually, news organizations were less willing to give over their profitable entertainment time to the news division for ad-free time for presidential news conferences.

      Since the Reagan years, presidents have searched for ways they can respond to reporters' queries but do so in environments that suit their own strengths. President George H. W. Bush brought in a variation of the presidential press conference that suited the diplomatic and personal needs of chief executives. President Bush established the joint press conference, most often with foreign leaders. When heads of state made an official visit to Washington, the two leaders held a joint news conference. With a limited number of questions asked two for each side in this administration, the joint news conference is seen as of limited value to reporters but an important diplomatic tool for presidents.

      It is the solo news conference reporters want to take part in. With solo sessions less frequent than in Kennedy's era, White House officials gradually added in short question and answer sessions where the president answered a few questions between press conferences on current events. With press conferences held relatively frequently in Kennedy's time, there was little need for the exchanges with reporters that presidents have today. Recent presidents have also added in interviews with individual reporters or groups of reporters. Instead of holding a standard press conference, presidents today can choose from among the type of press session where they feel most comfortable responding to reporters.

      One can see the variation among the presidents in the forums they choose to answer reporters' questions. Looking at the last four presidents at the two-year mark, we see the choices presidents now have in the venues where they meet reporters. With live television a presidential resource, presidents have increased their contacts with reporters. But they do so on their own terms.

      In his first two years, President Obama held 21 solo conferences, President George W. Bush 7, President Clinton 29, and George H.W. Bush 56 solo sessions. They had real variety in their use of the sessions. With technology constantly developing to bring the president even closer to the public, President Obama can choose to answer reporters in venues of his choice. Just as long as he holds press conferences from time to time. For President Obama who prefers answering questions in depth with one interviewer, his choice is to respond to reporters' queries in interview sessions, particularly televised ones. In his first two years, he held 269 such sessions compared with far fewer for his predecessors. There were 83 for President George W. Bush, 136 for President Clinton, and 87 for President George H. W. Bush. At the same time, President Obama has met relatively infrequently with reporters to give answers in short question and answer sessions. He answered a question or two on unfolding events and in response to other points on reporters' minds on 75 occasions while President George W. Bush held 243 and President Clinton 390.

      What this brief history shows is that the presidency is an institution making use of the latest technology to benefit the president. For President Kennedy, that meant answering questions from reporters' in a press conference setting while gradually that changed so that presidents developed other forums and have favored those that personally work well for them. The live solo press conference suited President Kennedy just right. He demonstrated his command of the facts of policy, his ability to explain them as well as doing so with a sense of humor and a strong leadership style.

      A list of JFK assassination-related TV shows — with our TV critic’s recommendations

      JFK: ONE PM CENTRAL STANDARD TIME-- Re-enactment of the CBS Newsroom in New York on the day President Kennedy was assassinated. (Joseph Sinnott)

      Here’s a quick viewing guide to some of the Kennedy-related TV documentaries and specials airing this month, with Post TV critic Hank Stuever’s recommendations denoted by a “★.”

      Friday, Nov. 8 at 8 p.m., National Geographic Channel

      Narrated by Bill Paxton, an intriguing replay of Jack and Jackie’s trip to Texas, featuring several interviews with people who met them and also a lot of memories from Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent assigned to guard the first lady.

      Fox News Reporting: 50 Years of Questions — The JFK Assassination

      Saturday, Nov. 9 at 9 p.m., Fox News Channel

      Discussion hosted by Bill Hemmer.

      Sunday, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m., National Geographic Channel

      Dull and clunky. Saved by Will Rothhaar’s nervy performance as Lee Harvey Oswald — a poor man’s Ryan Gosling!

      ★ American Experience: JFK

      In two parts — Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 11 and 12 at 9 p.m., WETA and MPT

      The big kahuna of this year’s Kennedy documentaries — a full biography and examination of his presidency. Lots of footage you’ve seen before some you haven’t. A good start for those born after 1980 or so a reverent review for those who remember it all vividly.

      Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 10 p.m., Military Channel

      Looks at the fast scramble by Dallas police officers and feds to find the Kennedy assassin (and cop-killer). Interviews, recollections and the whole tick-tock account.

      Wednesday, Nov. 13, 9 p.m., WETA and MPT

      Father-son ballistics experts run experiments in the desert to see whether the Warren Commission’s findings pass their plausibility tests.

      ★ JFK: One P.M. Central Standard Time >

      Wednesday, Nov. 13, 10 p.m., WETA and MPT

      News junkies will dig this “Secrets of the Dead” episode, narrated by George Clooney, about how the news from Dealey Plaza and Parkland Hospital was broken and confirmed by reporters in Dallas and New York — up to and including CBS anchor Walter Cronkite’s live announcement that Kennedy had died.

      ★Marching On: 1963 Army-Navy Remembered

      Thursday, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network

      Recounts the somber but healing football game — postponed after Kennedy’s assassination — that helped coax a nation back to normalcy.

      JFK: A President Betrayed

      On-demand beginning Nov. 14, DirecTV

      Narrated by Morgan Freeman, a look at Kennedy’s efforts to avoid armed conflict and reign in the nuclear-arms race, while fending off the hawks around him who wanted to drop bombs. This one’s for those with DirecTV who can never hear enough about the Cold War.

      Kennedy’s Suicide Bomber

      Sunday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m., Smithsonian Channel

      Here’s a weird one most everyone forgot: A man drove to Palm Beach hoping to kill president-elect Kennedy in December 1960 with a car bomb.

      Sunday, Nov. 17 at 9 p.m., Smithsonian Channel

      A thorough examination of routes, schedules, trajectories, eerie details and Zapruder close-ups.

      Sunday, Nov. 17 at 9 p.m., TLC

      Tenderly examines a handful of the 800,000 condolence letters the first lady received in the days after the assassination, read aloud by celebrities.

      Thursday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m., Discovery

      Features some new audio recordings and testimonies from those who saw it happen in Dallas.

      JFK Assassination: The Definitive Guide

      Friday, Nov. 22, at 8 p.m., History

      Whodunit? (Besides Oswald.) A roundup and breakdown of all the theories and unsolved mysteries of what happened at Dealey Plaza and then, two days later, when Jack Ruby shot Oswald. A survey reveals what Americans today think most likely happened, based on their, uh, vast expertise.

      Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live

      Friday, Nov. 22 at 10 p.m., History

      We still don’t know what made Oswald do it, but we sure know a lot about his last two days alive.

      A Profile in Courage

      In December 1998, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and the members of its Profile in Courage Award Committee presented a special John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to eight political leaders of Northern Ireland and one American. The award recognized the extraordinary political courage they demonstrated in negotiating the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement.

      The recipients were Nobel Peace Prize winners John Hume of the Social Democratic and Labour Party and David Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party as well as Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein John Alderdice, Alliance Party of Northern Ireland David Ervine, Progressive Unionist Party Monica McWilliams, Northern Ireland Women's Coalition Gary McMichael, Ulster Democratic Party Malachi Curran, Northern Ireland Labour Party and former US Senator George Mitchell, the American chairman of the peace talks. The presentation of the Profile in Courage Award to citizens of a foreign nation was unprecedented.

      The award presentation was made by Caroline Kennedy, president of the Kennedy Library Foundation Senator Edward M. Kennedy and US Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith at a formal ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston.

      The Federal Government Takes on Physical Fitness

      After World War II, many Americans worried that US citizens, especially the young, were growing overweight and out of shape. The nation's economy had changed dramatically, and with it the nature of work and recreation changed. Mechanization had taken many farmers out of the fields and much of the physical labor out of farm work. Fewer factory jobs demanded heavy labor. Television required watching rather than doing. Americans were beginning to confront a new image of themselves and their country, and they did not always like what they saw.

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