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Biography of John F. Kennedy: 5 Lessons For The Younger Generation

Image: Biography of John F. Kennedy: 5 Lessons For The Younger Generation
President-elect John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline pose with their son John on December 20, 1960. (AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 22 May 2015 03:10 PM

John F. Kennedy was a young president but in a relatively short political career, he spawned numerous biographies that looked at the impact he had on the United States.

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His words and actions in running the country provide useful lessons for the younger generation even today:

1. Turn negatives into positives.
Alex Birkett, writing on the website for “The Roosevelts” TV show, talked about Kennedy dealing with President Truman’s criticisms of him, including his age, lack of experience, and powerful backers who pressured votes. Kennedy went on live television and used his age as an advantage, to paint himself as an energetic young man with a fresh idea “representing the emerging generation, his ‘new frontier.’”

2. Bring something to the table.
Your value is in what you can contribute. Too often, people who say “somebody ought to do something” fail to realize they’re “somebody” too. Or as Kennedy put it in his inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

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3. Be flexible.
Kennedy’s vision for his “New Frontier” included not only the Peace Corps but the Green Berets – and even going to the moon, John Barnes noted in “John F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Lessons and Legacy of a President.” The lesson is to create goals, and accommodate new ideas.

4. Tell the truth when things are going badly.
Barnes noted that Kennedy, taking a page from Winston Churchill, didn’t believe in “telling them all is well, when he (and they) know darn well it isn’t really. Kennedy, like Churchill, realized that people can feel good about themselves if they see their sacrifice as serving a higher, more worthy goal than their own comfort.”

5. Look ahead, 
Kennedy’s inaugural speech listed a series of goals for science, human rights, and peace, and they would not be accomplished quickly – but nothing would happen at all if the first steps weren’t taken. “All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days,” he said. “Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”

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John F. Kennedy was a young president but in a relatively short political career, he spawned numerous biographies that looked at the impact he had on the United States.
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2015-10-22
Friday, 22 May 2015 03:10 PM
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