The Kennedy family is still a strong presence in the American psyche. In the last decade, Ted Kennedy (1932-2009) was a commanding presence in both the Senate and Democratic politics. And just this summer, daughter Caroline Kennedy was nominated by President Barack Obama to be ambassador to Japan.
But even without those current Kennedy stories, our memories are strong---we recall President Kennedy's speech where he reminded Americans, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." And there was his beautiful wife, Jackie, who won over the people of France and worked hard for preservation. We also have strong images of his adorable children in the White House -- the press just couldn't get enough of them.
When it came to politics, most Americans would probably know of the Kennedy-Nixon debates and might vaguely remember Kennedy was the first Catholic to be elected a U.S. president. There was the showdown with Soviet Union over the Cuban Missile Crisis. And long after the fact, we read endlessly about Kennedy's womanizing.
"And for people of a certain age, November 22, 1963 is a date that will always be etched in our minds and our hearts," says Professor Larry J. Sabato, who is also founder and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
JFK's Presidential Goals?
But what goals had Kennedy set for his first term? What legislative groundwork had he laid? We often hear that vice president Lyndon Johnson's ascent to the presidency meant that Kennedy's legislation got pushed through. How much of the Civil Rights Act was Kennedy's idea and how much was Johnson's? What other governmental steps had Kennedy put in motion before his life was ended so abruptly?
And this is where Professor Sabato steps in. "One of our continuing efforts at the Center for Politics has been to interest people in politics based on events that are half-century old, and the Kennedy presidency fits that perfectly."
For the past five years he has been working on a book about this era, The Kennedy Half Century (Bloomsbury, October 15). He writes of Kennedy's "short time in the White House and his assassination." He notes: "The bulk of the book shows how JFK's nine successors in the White House have used his words and deeds to accomplish their own agendas."
The Center for Politics also has a PBS documentary about this topic airing this fall, and to complement these items, Sabato has put together a free online course (massive open online course) through Coursera.
The four-week online course, "The Kennedy Half Century," will begin on Oct. 21, and is open to all who register. Each week two hours of new video instruction will be posted by Professor Sabato. A trailer for the "The Kennedy Half Century" class is available here.
To register for the course, visit www.coursera.org/course/kennedy.
Sabato reports that he has uncovered research that will show Kennedy's presidency in a new light, and he has new theories about the assassination that he will introduce in the book, the documentary, and in the course.
Students who complete the course do not receive university credit, but they will receive a statement of accomplishment if they signify completion of the course by taking a final quiz.
For more information please visit www.thekennedyhalfcentury.com.
To read more about America's story, including a story of the Kennedy pets at the White House, please visit www.americacomsealive.com
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