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A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House Written By One Of Our Foremost Historians And Published In , A Thousand Days Is Still Considered The Most Complete And Definitive Portrait Of John F Kennedy And His Administration Handpicked By Kennedy To Serve As Special Assistant To The President, Historian And Harvard Professor Arthur M Schlesinger, Jr Witnessed Firsthand The Politics And Personalities That Influenced Some Of The Most Important And Dramatic Events In Modern History The Hundreds Of Photographs And Documents Included Here Have Been Gleaned From Such Sources As The John F Kennedy Library, The Library Of Congress, The Associated Press, Life Magazine, And The Photos Capture Private Meetings With The President, The Bay Of Pigs, The Civil Rights Movement, And The Cuban Missile Crisis, As Well As Official White House Memoranda, Public Speeches, Social Occasions, And Private Moments With The Kennedy Family These Powerful Images Add A New Dimension To The Award Winning Text And Introduce A New Generation To Some Of The Most Important And Visually Iconic Moments In Our Recent Past

10 thoughts on “A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House

  1. says:

    Schlesinger Jr s A Thousand Days John F Kennedy in the White House was published in 1965 and received a Pulitzer Prize the following year Schlesinger was a prominent historian and social critic who served as Special Assistant to President Kennedy He was also a prolific author whose works include a Pulitzer Prize winning book on Andrew Jackson and a series on Franklin D Roosevelt Schlesinger died in 2007 at the age of 89.Written by an insider with a unique window into events, A Thousand Days is widely considered an invaluable, if selective, review of the three year Kennedy presidency Weighing in at a hefty 1,031 pages, this tome is part autobiography, part biography, and part interpretive history.Schlesinger begins by reviewing JFK s 1960 nomination for the presidency before proceeding carefully through Kennedy s presidency up to his death There are few interruptions along the way only a brief examination of his early life, a review of his near nomination as Adlai Stevenson s 1956 running mate and some thematic diversions toward the end of the book interrupt what is otherwise a generally chronological flow.Despite its intimidating length there is much to recommend in this classic Schlesinger s review of the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles was extraordinarily fascinating as was his account of discussions between Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the Vienna summit in 1961.The author provides an engaging if too brief discussion of Secretary McNamara s efforts to reorganize and streamline the Department of Defense and a particularly interesting examination of the decline of the Department of State following World War II And, in general, Schlesinger is able to provide interesting and often unique insight into nearly everything he witnessed first hand.Unfortunately, despite Schlesinger s skill as a historian and writer, this book will not provide a consistently engaging or carefree journey for many readers A Thousand Days is frequently dry and dense and is geared toward a political philosopher or history graduate student than a fan of colorful presidential biographies.By design the reader is exposed to very little of Kennedy s pre presidency and even less of his family or personal life The best material in this book derives from Schlesinger s personal observations but this only offers a partial view of Kennedy and his administration Schlesinger fills in the gaps by reporting history he did not directly observe this is when the book morphs from memoir to biography to history text.But while some topics are discussed in heroic detail, others receive scant attention And the extraordinary level of detail Schlesinger sometimes provides usually fails to translate into a lucid understanding of events The Bay of Pigs fiasco, for example, absorbs about seventy pages But with this level of detail the episode is almost unrecognizable the reader is flown so close to the ground that there is no feel for the bigger picture And yet there is hardly any mention of Kennedy s effort to land Americans on the moon and virtually no discussion of farm policy or other domestic challenges.Finally, Schlesinger is clearly an unabashed fan of his subject he shows a nearly unbridled enthusiasm for Kennedy The reader almost always sees JFK at his very best his most charming, his most eloquent, his most perceptive and astute Never do we observe directly or indirectly Kennedy s notorious indiscretions and flaws Although Schlesinger s is a valuable public perspective, it is decidedly one sided and exceedingly generous.Overall, Arthur Schlesinger s A Thousand Days is unique, insightful and revealing but it is also weighty, uneven, occasionally tedious and often obsequious For readers with patience and persistence it provides an exceptional window into the Kennedy presidency from the perspective of a perceptive and articulate insider But as an efficient and balanced account of Kennedy s presidency it proves highly imperfect.Overall rating 3 stars

  2. says:

    I am still actually reading this book I am about halfway through It is about 1000 pages So I want to record what I can remember now, because by the time I finish I ll probably have forgotten it all Well, Schlesinger is clearly brilliant His prose is superb This book is so valuable because it s an insider s account, but he has obviously done a lot of additional research to supplement his own experiences and memories He has a gift for politics for analyzing the situation trenchantly, including all the personalities and egos involved but also a sense of irony about it It seems the same was true of Kennedy The parallels between Kennedy and Obama are striking I know it s almost a cliche, but as I read Schlesinger s descriptions of Kennedy s character, it was uncanny He was intellectual yet pragmatic, young and handsome His campaign promised change and his administration excited hope throughout the country and the world The story of the Democratic Convention was dramatic and taught me a lot I hadn t known It all happened very differently then The nominee was chosen at the convention by the delegates Johnson was running for president too Adlai Stevenson wasn t running, but he had a lot of support and apparently could have been nominated anyway But ultimately Kennedy prevailed And then, exhausted by this process, he had to choose his running mate immediately Within a day or two, I think He offered it to Johnson on the assumption that he d say no LBJ was already extremely powerful as the Senate majority leader, and the vice presidency was not seen as especially desirable The liberals didn t want him on the ticket Kennedy didn t particularly want him on the ticket, but felt he had to make the offer to appease him Schlesinger speculates that Johnson accepted because he was getting tired of his job, and because he felt a responsibility to keep the South in the Democratic party I also learned about the Bay of Pigs I will write on this later I know this review is long and probably boring, but I m writing it for myself to refresh my memory later More soon OK, so there was this nebulous plan developed under the Eisenhower administration to train Cuban dissidents in the mountains of Nicaragua to overthrow the Castro regime The aim of this training was just to keep the option open, not necessarily to execute the plan But, as Schlesinger points out, these things develop their own momentum that can be hard to stop The dissidents themselves, having invested all this time and energy under difficult circumstances, wanted to go through with the plot They were also isolated and developed a group think mentality, convincing themselves the task would be easier than it really would The Americans specifically the CIA were susceptible to similar logic And in the White House, there was intense pressure to accept the arguments of these experts There was also pressure to seem tough it was always harder to argue for diplomacy and soft power than to go with the military option Schlesinger was against it, and wrote a memo to that effect, but nearly everyone else was for it Kennedy was adamant that the US could not contribute any forces this would be an operation conducted by Cubans, in the name of the revolution which the Americans and these dissidents believed Castro had betrayed The fantasy was that once the invasion made some progress, all the other anti Castro Cubans would spontaneously join them and overcome Castro s forces The result was a fiasco In addition to the major miscalculations underestimating both the strength of Castro s forces and his popular support there were myriad minor errors, as trivial but crucial as forgetting about the time difference between Cuba and Nicaragua There had also been serious miscommunication, with the Cubans expecting the American military to intervene and help them if things didn t go well but Kennedy did not want it to turn into an American coup Actually, I wish Schesinger had provided specifics on what happened to the Cubans He doesn t say how many were killed He implies that a lot of them rotted in prison Kennedy felt terrible, but learned important lessons he would apply in the future, especially in the Cuban Missile Crisis More soon

  3. says:

    Written by someone close the Kennedys and shortly after JFK s death It is close to the events and mindset of Camelot It doesn t contain the lurid details of JFK s sex life or much in the way of secrets of the office It is a history of the times Almost all of it is devoted to Kennedy s foreign policy, which granted was JFK s major focus but the treatment seems lopsided in that direction There is some material on JFK s civil rights record which isn t bad but Johnson would do a lot in his administration then again Johnson was all about domestic policy which is probably why he was so wayward about Vietnam Interesting to see a historical assessment close to events The things that seemed important at the time were not considered as important later as other things It is usually the case that news of the moment does not always have the same focus as later accounts So it is with JFK.

  4. says:

    A great in depth look into the politics and policies of the Kennedy administration by a respected historian who had a front row seat as a special advisor to the President.JFK didn t have a lot of time in office, but he accomplished a lot First and foremost he cooled the Cold War By 1960, the U.S and the Soviet Union were playing a game of chicken with the existence of the human race This was called nuclear diplomacy In essence, each told the other side, Do anything antagonistic, and we will respond with an all out nuclear strike Conventional forces were all but abandoned in favor of brandishing this big threat Kennedy and his advisors realized this was an unplayable and dangerous game The world was complex and required the freedom to respond to aggression in varied ways, rather than threatening to pull one big lever The U.S., having had the bomb longer, had had time to think through all of its implications The Soviet Union had not So when Khrushchev began surreptitiously shipping nuclear missiles to Cuba and building launching platforms, he probably didn t realize the utter recklessness of this move Kennedy did His cool, firm, measured response to this move is why we are still here today And Kennedy built our conventional forces back up, so that we could respond to crises in flexible ways.In foreign policy, he was largely successful in having the U.S lead by example, rather than by fomenting coups and propping up dictators, although with his absence, the U.S went back to its former ways Kennedy made a lot of headway in developing trust with the nations of Latin America and Africa, although these gains were later squandered.Many pages in this book are devoted to what is now called the Deep State Particularly in the State Department, Kennedy had a lot to contend with, as his foreign policy ideas were opposed by many in State, who would often ignore directives But as we see in the time of Donald Trump, the sword of the Deep State cuts both ways, and can act as a damper on a reckless, foolish Chief Executive.Economically, his method was to cut taxes, yet continue to spend at a deficit I m no economist Frankly, the subject flummoxes me I need to drag myself through a volume of Keynes some day.In civil rights, he made a good start His brother Bobby, the Attorney General, aggressively pursued civil rights matters, and school integration standoffs in Alabama resolved with the governors of those states finally backing down At the time of Kennedy s death, civil rights legislation was waiting in the wings, ready for LBJ s arm twisting skills to bring it to fruition.JFK was cool headed, intellectual, witty, and pragmatic He was the model of what a President should be I was too young to remember him, but we were lucky enough to have a similar personality in the White House, Barack Obama, for eight years.

  5. says:

    Read in the fall of 1969, when I was a high school sopho in Mississippi.

  6. says:

    Monumental account of John F Kennedy s presidency, written by someone who had inside access to the Kennedy White House Arthur Schlesinger, Jr was already a famous historian by 1960, having won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1945 work The Age of Jackson He had worked on Adlai Stevenson s losing presidential campaigns in the 1950s, and eventually became acquainted with the Kennedys His primary role in the Kennedy White House was as a Special Assistant to the President, and occasional speechwriter Kennedy typically used him concerning Latin American affairs, but also in other miscellaneous areas Schlesinger was a great writer Despite the book s length 1,031 pages , it read quickly for the most part At times, he got carried away with naming who was appointed to what post This was especially true of the Department of State, where we are treated to an endless succession of who was appointed Under Secretary of African Affairs as an example There is far too much of this in the book, and coupled with his decision to go deep into the background on many foreign affairs situations it bogged down the narrative heavily at times He also, despite being a historian, was certainly biased in his presentation of the Kennedys The ruthlessness of RFK is seldom seen, and any of JFK s failings are either not mentioned at all his impatience at meetings, and his womanizing Schlesinger says in the Forward to this updated 2002 version that he never saw anything like that in the White House , or they are quickly dismissed his pattern of not utilizing Lyndon Johnson with the Congress I wish he had balanced the book out with focus on domestic concerns I realize the Kennedy himself was primarily interested and concerned with foreign policy For example, he does not delve deeply into the Civil Rights crises that Kennedy had to contend with, and even when he does write about them, it is not until very late in the book He also continually makes derogatory references to the Eisenhower years as being a time of poor policies benefitting only the rich While there is some truth to some of his criticisms, after awhile I tired of reading it over and over again Despite those flaws, the book is a must read for any presidential history lover, or anyone who has an interest in the Kennedys or the 1960s There are many vivid personalities throughout the book Jacqueline, Charles de Gaulle, McNamara, Nixon, Eisenhower, Dean Rusk whom the reader can tell that Schlesinger did not care for at all , RFK, LBJ, Khrushchev, Castro Schlesinger was witnessing history as it happened, and his first person narrative of meetings with Kennedy cannot be dismissed I found the two strongest parts of the book to be the narrative about the 1960 Democratic convention in LA, and the final incredibly sad chapter dealing with the assassination Over fifty years later, reading what he wrote leading up to the fateful day in Dallas still gave me a distinct feeling of dread This is the eighth Schlesinger book that I have read the ending talking about his emotions upon being informed of JFK s assassination might be his best writing that I have read It was very similar to how he concluded his biography of RFK another one with a tragic ending Grade B

  7. says:

    It all began, as it ended, in the cold And we were left without our hero and on our ownlike sheep without their shepardWhy did you leave us, why did you die

  8. says:

    The insider story is always an interesting one From my few experiences reading books written by presidential aides, the one thing I ve noticed is the tendency for the author to write about themselves instead of the subject readers are interested in case in point Sidney Blumenthal s The Clinton Wars Schlesinger does not fall into this prose His subject is clear and thorough, beginning with the nominating process selecting Kennedy as the presidential candidate in Los Angeles, 1960 The long and short of it is that Schlesinger is a member of the Kennedy staff and simultaneously also a historian Given this characterization his work can be seen as a piece that protects the Kennedy memory for the public Considering the president s death in 1963, the book was written very quickly, a feat that is all the remarkable given the depth and detail Schlesinger assigns to some choice events This book is a good, straightforward introduction to the JFK White House albeit a forgiving and generous depiction.

  9. says:

    Possibly the best book about Kennedy s White House years Also see Kennedy by Ted Sorensen.

  10. says:

    Arthur M Schlessinger, Jr s book on the Kennedy Presidency is of interest to the historian of foreign policy and diplomacy if for no other reason than the fact that he was close enough to the internal workings of the American presidency that he could write a book of personal reminiscences which would qualify as a history As one of a general outpouring of reminiscences in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination it has surprisingly retained its utility.1 Looking back in retrospect nearly 30 years after its publication, The Thousand Days still affords a valuable insider s account Obviously written for the general educated public, the book has the additional advantage of historical writing has lost in the last several decades.The U.S Soviet Cold War dominates much of Schlessinger s account Schlessinger shared as well as shaped the American Cold War consensus ideology during the years covered in this account Within the context of this consensus he characterizes Kennedy as a consummate statesman, able to find the correct balance between diplomacy and the recourse to military force and perhaps most importantly able to learn from his mistakes This memoir of the Kennedy Presidency, full of first hand accounts of diplomacy at the highest levels of government, also represents an attempt to draw lessons from American history This book bears testimony to Schlessinger s important assumption about the Cold War, which simply put is that the Munich analogy applies to U.S Soviet relations.Though it would be unfair to characterize the book as Kennedy worship pure and simple, there is a great deal to James MacGregor Burns claim that Kennedy was astute enough to choose his own biographer The Bay of Pigs, for instance, was Kennedy s ordeal by fire in which he learned the lessons vlhich allowed him to emerge successful from the Cuban missile crisis Even from the jaws of defeat, Schlessinger allows his hero to snatch victory and perhaps vindicate his own performance as author of the famous white paper on Cuba the prototypical statesman is the account of the Berlin Crisis of 1961 During the crisis Kennedy sought the advice of subordinates, yet maintained control over policy formulation at all times in contrast to Eisenhower, who Schlessinger implies gave a free reign to John Foster Dulles As tensions over Berlin mounted in the aftermath of the Kennedy Khrushchev meeting in Vienna, Dean Acheson recommended sending an Army division along the corridor to West Berlin to demonstrate American resolve Schlessinger and Kissinger stressed the need for extensive attempts at diplomacy Kennedy took a middle course, calling up the reserves but threatening no military action when the East Germans erected the wall JFK also eschcalated hastily beginning negotiations with the Soviets In the section entitled Coda, with which Schlessinger concludes the chapter Trial in Berlin, Schlessinger stresses the continuing process of education which Kennedy underwent in his attempt to combine high ideals with a realistic assessment of geopolitics The Berlin crisis of 1961 represented a further step beyond Laos in the education of the President in the controlled employment of force in the use of peace One never knows, of course, what would have happened if Kennedy had ordered full mobilization, or if he had rushed straight into negotiation but either extreme might well have invited Soviet miscalculation and ended in war Instead he applied power and diplomacy in a combination and sequence which enabled him to guard the vital interests of the west and hold off the holocaust p 404 According to Schlessinger, Kennedy struck just the right balance in his relationship with the Soviets over Berlin.

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