Rob Horowitz: Kennedy: A Vision of What We Can Do Together
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Historians continue to vigorously debate the pluses and minuses of the Kennedy Presidency, a definitive verdict remaining elusive largely due to the presidency's abrupt end after only 1,000 days. I tend to side with Richard Reeves, the author of an excellent Kennedy biography, President Kennedy: Profile in Power, who argues that we don’t pay Presidents by the hour; we pay them to be right about key and important decisions. And the decisions Kennedy made were mainly good ones.
But no matter where one comes down on the performance of President Kennedy in office, it is undeniable that his muscular, patriotic, optimistic, and public spirited vision of the big things Americans could accomplish together struck a highly responsive chord with the American public. Kennedy’s average job approval rating in the Gallup Poll during his time in office was an impressive 70%. By the fall of 1963, just before his death, his job approval had declined some, but was still at 58%--an approval rating most modern Presidents would covet.
Unity and common ground
Kennedy represented generational change as the World War II veterans and their cohorts moved into positions of power and authority. His 1960 campaign pledge to get the country moving again after what many people at the time felt was the drift and listlessness of the Eisenhower years was well received. This sense of movement embodied in the apt phrase ‘New Frontier’ was not simply about economic improvement and individual advancement; it encompassed a broad sense of large public goals—ones that would take all of us participating to achieve.
When Kennedy said in his inaugural address: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country”, he really meant it and backed it up with concrete specifics Kennedy founded and launched the Peace Corps sending idealistic and committed young Americans to advance Democracy and provide real on the ground assistance to people in the world’s emerging nations He also energized our Space Program committing the nation to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s—a goal that was realized when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969.
President Kennedy expertly used the bully pulpit to truly be the President of all the people, repeatedly reminding the nation of what unites us. He inspired many Americans to turn their idealism into action for the public good by appealing in the words of President Lincoln at Gettysburg to the ‘better angels of our nature.” That is his lasting legacy and a significant contribution to the nation he served and loved.
Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.
Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s Most and Least Popular Politicians
The statewide poll conducted by the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University in October 2013 is the latest public opinion survey by the Ivy League institution.
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