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November 21, 1973 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1973-11-21

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Poge Four










IlitllA I I II I I IP PIgy11 IPMIPP li 4.

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of
the assassination of President John Ken-
nedy. Presented here are three perspee-
tives on the impact of Kennedy, the man
and the President.
Co-Editor Christopher Parks reminis-
ces about the Ann Arbor visit of a young
senator, hot on the Presidential cam-
paign trail, inspired by the enthusiasm
of young people, and having the com-
mon touch.
Sports Editor Dan Borus revisits Came-
lot and finds that, while the castle is
gorgeous, it is made of papier mache and
a good press image.
Editorial Page Editor Chuck Wilbur
analyzes Kennedy's amplification of
American post-war foreign policy, trac-
ing a spiral from the Alliance for Pro-
gress and the Bay of Pigs to the Vienna
Summit and the Green Berets in Indo-
The time for eulogies is long past. It1
is now appropriate to examine the objec-
tive historic rniche occupied by one of
the most charismatic pubic figures in
recent American history. That examina-
tio iis all the more critical since most
Americans feel themselves to be apart
f rom history.

Stting th e stage for activism

sionist historians these days to
debunk t h e Kennedy "Camelot"
myths. And well they should. Ken-
nedy's Presidency was not particular-
ly progressive. In point of fact, JFK's
administration touched upon some of
the most conservative trends in Amer-
ican life.
Kennedy's civil right programs
were minimal and had to be forced
upon him. His foreign policy was
steeped in the macho anti-commu-
nism of the late forties and fifties.
Major legislation was not his forte.
Nor were the everyday practicalities
of government.
Those program he did pass through
Congress had a very short life span.
The Peace Corps is abandoned. The
Alliance for Progress, that latter-day
Dollar Diplomacy, has been forgotten.
It should be further noted that
Kennedy was not above using the Jus-

A Michigan wh~l
By CHRISTOPHER PARKS third of the student body is here

Ann Arbor early in the morning
of October 14, 1960, he was tired and
wanted to go to bed. He had just come
from a televised debate with Vice
President Richard Nixon and was
scheduled to arise at dawn for a fre-
netic 11-hour, nine-city whistle-stop
tour of Michigan to kick off the final
three-week stretch of the Presidential
He had not intended to give a
speech in Ann Arbor that night-
just a few words of encouragement
to the faithful, and then straight to
bed. But when his motorcade arrived
at the Union, Kennedy saw some-
thing which changed his mind-
thousands of wildly cheering students
who had waited for three hours in
the mid-autumn cold and damp to
see him. He would later tell then
University President Harlan Hatcher
that it was their enthusiasm which
inspired him to issue the call for vol-
unteer service which historians now
credit as the birth of the Peace Corps
For an event which was to acquire
historical significance, Kennedy's
stay in Ann Arbor began inauspicu-
ously enough.
HOURS BEFORE his arrival, the
Senator's advance men had sought to
secure the comfortable Ingalls House
--the University's official guest resi-
dence-as headquarters for his over-
night stay. University officials balked
at the idea, fearing that granting
such a request would have political
So it was decided to put Kennedy
and his party in the Union, but even
there the hassles did not end. The
Kennedy people wanted the use of
Anderson Room as a press center-
a move which was opposed by the
Union management.
David Pollack, then an employe of
University Information Services and
liaison to the Kennedy party, says
that Union management also feared
that special favors for Kennedy
would smack of playing political fav-
orites. "He was a political figure and
they didn't want to do anything spe-
cial for him," Pollack remembers.
"The PR position was that he was
a national figure accompanied by a
large party of reporters who wanted
accommodations. We said, If you
want to play in the Big Time you have
to respond (to such requests),"' Pol-
lack recalls.
THE "PR POSITION" eventually
won out and for the duration An-
derson Room was taken over by some
50 ladies and gentlemen of the press
and filled with the sound of chatter-
ing teletypes and typewriters.
Kennedy was due to arrive in the
city at 11 p.m. But he didn't even
make it to Willow Run airport out-
side Ypsilanti until after midnight.
There he was met by Governor G.
Mennen "Soapy" Williams, Lt. Gov.
John Swainson, the Democratic can-
didate for governor, and a crowd of
several thousand students.
He told them it was the responsi-
bility of every citizen "to make the

EN ROUTE FROM Willow Run to
Ann Arbor knots of cheering sup-
porters forced Kennedy's motorcade
to make three unscheduled stops -
two of them in Ypsilanti to speak to
Eastern Michigan University students.
Despite this, the Senator and his
party were hardly prepared for what
they saw when they finally reached
Ann Arbor. At quarter to two in the
morning a crowd of over 10,000 stu-
dents was gathered in front of the
Union to meet him. They had been
standing around talking and listening
to music over loudspeakers for hours.
Some of them had been waiting since
10 p.m.
Ann Arbor Police Chief Walter
Krasny, who headed up the security
detail that night, remembers the
riotous scene. "There were 12 to 15
thousand people there," he says.
"They covered the front lawn of the
Union and had completely blocked
State St. to traffic. We were very con-
cerned with how to get the motorcade
through the crowd."
THE SECURITY detail made plans
to rope off the area around the
Union's north side and bring Kennedy
through the side door. But the Ken-
nedy people, particularly the Sena-
tor himself, wouldn't have it.
"He thought our precautions were-
n't necessary," Krasny recalls. "He
wanted to be with the people. He felt
he was Dart of the group (in front of
the Union) and was perfectly safe."
So Kennedy entered the way he
wanted to enter-through the front.
-"We brought him right up the front
steps," Krasny says. "We had to phys-

S Itie stop
moments-the right crdwd, the right
time, the right mood. Inspired by the
intense emotion of the scene, Ken-
nedy gave a fervently idealistic-
even patriotic - speech, and wound
up asking a now-famous question:
"How many of you who are going
to be doctors are willing to spend
your days in Ghana? Engineers and
technicians? . . On your willingness
to do that . . . on your willingness to
contribute part of your life to this
country, I think depends the answer
to whether a free society can com-
pete. I think it can."
A ND THEN, KENNEDY directly chal-
lenged the middle class syndrome
of education and job security, offer-
ing an alternative to success and
comfortable suburban apathy. He be-
gan it with a characteristic piece of
self-deprecatory wit.
"This university-this is the long-
est short speech I've ever made-this
university is not maintained by, its
alumni, by the state, merely to help
its graduates have an economic ad-
vantage in the life struggle. There is
certainly a greater purnose. And I'm
sure you recognize it. Therefore I do
not come here tonight asking for your
support for this campaign. I come
asking your support for this country
over the next decade. Thank you."
The senator finally got to bed
around 2:30, waking up five hours
later to prepare for a grueling swing
throiupgh the state.
the scene in Kennedy's suite
when he visited him on that early
October morning: "He (Kennedy)
talked to us in his suite while his
breakfast was getting cold. He didn't

tice Department to "get Jimmy Hof-
fa" or truculent steel executives.
BUT THE KENNDY Presidency was
not without its major contribu-
tion to American history. The con-
tribution comes from the personality
of the man who held the job. Ken-
nedy through his own actions (and
the greatest political press image in
American history) transmitted a
spirit of efficacy to the nation.
Kennedy convinced Americans
that they could act and their ac-
tions could count. After all he was
the Navy lieutenant who had single-
handedly saved a PT boat crew. He
was the man who had faced death
and become the President.
Kennedy was the activist President
who didn't act. He did, and this is
probably just as important, give the
appearance of acting. In doing so he
created a climate that allowed the
turbulent sixties to follow his death.
Civil rights, the war protests, the
radical critiques of society followed
logically from a hero President who
was impatient. Kennedy was a man
who wanted the future now and all
the subsequent movements share in
common that trait, even if their fu-
tures were not coincidental with
THIS MARKED a departure in style
f r o m the Eisenhower years.
Bland, uneventful, conformist, they
serve as the prelude to the storm.
Eisenhower is, these days, termed
a national "father figure." The term
is misapplied. A father figure must
discipline, instruct, and correct when
the situation calls for such actions.
Eisenhowever never did. He allowed
the Little Rock School crisis to pass
before the nation without much com-
ment. He allowed the witch .hunts
and the blind China policy. Eisen-
hower may have been kindly, but he
was a grandfather, accepting none
of the resoonsihility for the govern-
ance of the nation.
Such a laisez - faire policy, spur-
red by visions of a President blasting
from sand-traps in his free time,
soured the country. America in the
late fifties was a nation in spiritual
A nation is not constructed on
bricks and welfare programs alone. It
needs myths, normative beliefs to jus-
tify existing institutions. Myths dur-
ing the Eisenhower years were hard
to come by.
BUT KENNEDY was a man of myths.
His inaugural address, no matter

how trite it reads as printed word, is
stirring when spoken. "Ask not what
your country can do for you. Ask
what you can do for your country,"
is exactly the activist myth America
needed after the Eisenhower stagna-
tion. It is true that not much was
done for the country, but Americans
believed something was.
Kennedy was chief proof of the
non-pragmatic American postulate
that some critics forget-what mat-
ters is not originality, but timing and
style. While loveable old Ike played
golf, Jack had Pablo Casals at the
White House. Kennedy made Ameri-
cans proud to be Americans-and
after the doldrums of the fifties, a
feeling of national unity, of com-
munity was an achievement.
But this accomplishment by the
last of the true American heroes had
its unfortunate effects. Vietnam, the
stain on American conscience, is a
manifestation of this belief that
Americans can do things that count.

Armed with the wrong ideology, led
by men who believed the myth of
"doing," Americans trudged to the
greatest atrocities of the post-war
FUELED BY THE belief that people
can change history and that
Americans were the ones to tackle
that task, the nation willingly fol-
lowed a course that has transformed
America from that charming West-
ern democracy to a leading interna-
tional villain.
Domestically, this myth has led to
a false belief in consensus rather
than diversity.
The Camelotians speak glowingly
of the second term, of the changes
Kennedy would have wrought. The
talk is moot and probably untrue. His
main contribution, the vitalization
of American life, was already accom-
plished. When the shots rang out in
Dallas his deed was done. It has tak-
en us ten years to realize a combina-
tion of action and a "can-do" spirit
is not a cure-all.

AP Photo

Imperialism an d aggression

marred the 'Camelot'


IN THE CURRENT spate of re-
trospective on the Presidency
of John F. Kennedy, numerous
comparisons are made between
the United States in the early
sixties and the nation today.
Many of these comparisons will
find the former period more at-
tractive, especially in light of
the rule of deception and com-
mon thuggery that now seems
to prevail in Washington.
It is probably true that t h e
Kennedy Administration deser-
vedly enjoyed far more popular
faith and respect thandoesthe
current government. What is
equally true is that neither this
popular public image nor a fav-
orable comparison with the scan-
dal-ridden Nixon Administration
offers significant insight into the
meaning of the three years of
the Kennedy presidency.
The first years after the as-
sassination produced precious lit-
tle critical analysis of Kennedy's
term, while the events of the in-
tervening years have cast an
air of virtue upon his administra-
tion which it hardly deserves.
have captured the p u b I i c
imagination, it was the style
of his leadership rather than the
content of his policies that did
so. No where is this dichotomy
of form and content more appar-
ent than in the Kennedy foreign
While much of Kennedy's at-
tention in foreign policy was fo-
cused on confrontation with the
Soviets in Europe and cracks in
the Western alliance, the young
President underscored the im-
nortance of nolicv in the Third

the Kennedy administration set
out to renovate the military es-
tablishment for the task at hand.
The Eisenhower-Dulles policy of
massive retaliation was abandon-
ed in favor of a flexible-response
approach that would be aole to
combat a variety of situations,
including wars of ai tional liber-
ation in the backvrds of the
terations were the ; reation

policy wedded to' oligarchic re-
gimes was thought to be do med.
As Administration ideologue Ar-
thur Schlesinger put it, "the
only question was the shape of
the future." Kennedy's Alliance
then was designed to make sure
that whatever that future miglit
be, American interests in Latin
America would not be seriously
The long term effects of te
Alliance for Progress may wvel

"Kennedy is said to have felt that 'the Third
World had become the battleground between
democracy and communism.' His responses to
this situation constitute the most significant and
long-lasting aspects of his foreign policy."

tion on the missiles. Fortunatejy
for humanity, Soviet leader
Khruschev had, the wisdom to
withdraw the missile in exchange
for a firm American pledge
against any further interventioa
in Cuba.
OF ALL THE areas of Ken-
nedy's foreign policy, his
role in the Vietnam conflict is
the most widely debated. Repub-
licans, notably President Nixon,
have tried to use Kennedy's m-
volvement to wash the blood from
their own hands while liberals
have assured us the Kennedy
would never have gone as far in
Vietnam as either Johnson or
Nixon. Both these views try to
fit the Kennedy legacy into a
mold formed by the political real-
ites of the present.
Kennedy in fact say Vietnan
as a crucial battlefield in the,
world wide struggle against soc-
ialism. After his summit w i t h
Khruschev at Vienna, Kennedy
told James Reston, "We have a
problem making our power look
credible. And Vietnam looks like
the place."
Apparently concern for the
people of- Vietnam was to be sub-
ordinated to the American need
for an arena in which to flex its
muscles. The continuation of this
line of thinking could well have
led to long American entangle-
ment in Indochina.
THE KENNEDY foreign policy
then, was hardly as sterling
then as we are sometimes led to
believe. It wo>>ld be a mniAimke,
h 'wever, to attribute these unde-
sirable policies to Kennedy as an
individlal. His foreign policy

of the elite Green Berets and
other counter-insurgency forces.
Combined with Kennned' 3 anti-
communism, these new forces
gave the liberal administration
both the ideological motivation
and the military muscle for in-
tervention in the Third World.
Soon after taking office Ken-
nedy underwent his first c o n-
frontation with the forces of re-
volution in the underdeveloped
world at the Bay of Pigs. While
the plans to invade Cuba with
CIA trained and directed refu-
gees had been a product of the
Eisenhower Administration, Ken-
nedy failed to challen -e either
the fallacious assumptions or the
questionable means of the ill-
fated venture. The miserable
failure of the invasion only led to
the belief that "we just hav: to
try harder the next time."

have been negligible, and it cer-
tainly had no effect whatsoever
on the continued existence of a
government in Cuba allied to the
nations of the Socialist b) ;. In-
deed Cuba was to provide the
seeing for what to date has been
the most serious clash between
the nuclear superpowers.
often looked upon as Ken-
nedy's finest hour, perhaps be-
cause it is believed he stood up
to Soviet power. This view ig-
nores the fact that the blockade
of Cuba and the threatened w-
vasion violated both internation-
al law and this nation's world-
wide defense posture. Perhaps
Soviet missiles in Cuba did con-
stitute a threat to this nation's
security, but surely no more
than the presence of American

ically fight our way through the
crowd. "We got Kennedy and Wil-
liams through okay, but Swainson
had considerable difficulty because
of his physical problem (Swainson
lost both his legs in the Korean
TVEN LISTENING to scratchy old
tanes of the event. I could feel

seem very interested in it. I remem-
ber the charm with which that busy
and harassed young man treated us.
It was as though we were the only en-
gagement he had all day. We talked
about the idealism of our young peo-
ple-especially college people. He
was very moved by the response he
had gotten."


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