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Dale Banham

Student Question: JFK's Reputation

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My Year 10 (aged 14-15) are now starting on a piece of coursework: 'Why is JFK remembered so positively?'. I have attached the questions they came up with in groups. Answers and different views from experts would be great for when we start back in September or for pupils to look at over the Summer.

Question: How do people in America today view JFK? Is he seen as a hero? Is his reputation growing/declining? Why?

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Question: How do people in America today view JFK? Is he seen as a hero? Is his reputation growing/declining? Why?

There's no unified view, though he's generally well-regarded, I think. The conservatives appear to be very upset by that, in fact, and delight in bashing the Kennedys. This could become awkward, as California's Republican actor-governor is married to one. Fox New Network has done a lot of Kennedy-bashing. The affairs, of course, have gotten a lot of attention, and conservatives would, it seems, die before admitting that he might have been planning a withdrawal from Viet Nam. I think, however, that after a period of flux, his reputation is again growing.

Martin Shackelford

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I would agree. Most people still have a more favorable view of JFK than not. Alot of this comes from the mystique of "Camelot" which leads us to Jackie. Let us not forget that she was mysterious, and didn't spend much time in Washington D.C. Additionaly, they were the first really young President and first lady. This gave them an aura of glamor. I really believe that the people put them together and judge them together. We also need to look at the fact that he brought in "the best and the brightest." People saw Harvard professors, the President of Ford Motor Company, and the president of the Rockefeller foundation.

Now, JFK's reputation may be falling because of the Marilyn Monroe affair. However you view it, in America people tend to look down on those in power who have an affair. The conservatives who are still angry about JFK's popularity who are really trying to push the possibility that JFK had Marilyn killed.

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He is, I believe, regarded by the public as our greatest President. This judgment is partly based on the tragic circumstances of his assassination, on the glamor he and his family exuded and on the fact that he inspired the youth of the world in sharp contrast to the impact of George W. Bush. Many historians, I believe most, feel that his public reputation is not validated by the facts and that his durable achievements are few. His reputation was on the rise when I last looked at opinion polls 2 or 3 years back. I don't know whether this trend has continued or not.

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