JFK: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE MAN AND THE IMAGE
Hackworth, Sandra Renee
Johnson, Ronald M.
Nearly fifty years after the assassination a majority of Americans continue to respond favorably towards President Kennedy's conduct in office despite revelations of his serial philandering and the cover-up of his serious health problems. This thesis examines the dominant images of the Kennedy presidency for some of the possible causes of the disparities between perception and reality.Kennedy was the nation's first president to understand the power of imagery. He harnessed the power of media and television to cultivate favorable images and sustain popular appeal. Kennedy and others in the White House consciously worked to create positive images which portrayed the president's youthful appearance and his wholesome appeal as a faithful husband and loving father. Many people identified with idealized images of Kennedy who seemed like a picture of robust health and an ideal family man. Behind the scenes though, a different image has emerged over time of an enigmatic, complex man--a human being who was capable of both selfless and selfish motives and actions. This study assesses both the positive and negative dimensions of the Kennedy legacy in order to provide a fresh perspective.This thesis will survey John F. Kennedy's life and highlight some of the images associated with his rise to the presidency. It will summarize Kennedy's popular image to understand why some Americans embraced or rejected the President's image. The final chapter will discuss the impact of assassination and emergence of the Camelot myth, and the legacy of the Kennedy presidency.Based on an examination of historic, sociological, scholarly documents, and a lifelong interest in reading about the Kennedys, this thesis concludes that many Americans projected many positive values onto President Kennedy, but failed to account fully for the reality of his complexities and weaknesses.
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