Kennedy’s Diplomacy & Legacy at 50 Years

Kennedy's Legacy of Inspiration - NYTimes.com

On the 50th commemoration of his tragic and conspiracy-inviting assassination–a “Homeric myth”-inspiring tale according to historian Robert Caro— does JFK deserve the accolades for accomplishing important things in his short presidency?

Others note that Kennedy had other achievements. Robert Dallek makes the case that Kennedy’s greatest contribution was his negotiations that averted a global thermonuclear war:

Most notably, he saved the world from a nuclear war with his astute diplomacy during the October 1962 confrontation with the Soviet Union over Cuba. As he privately said at the time, the military leadership wanted to bomb and invade, but no one alive then would survive to tell them they were wrong.

And while critics focus on the minutiae of those 13 days, Kennedy’s real success was what came after.

via Kennedy’s Legacy of Inspiration – NYTimes.com.

The young president waxed idealistic–a charge some say created unrealistic expectations not only for future successors but for the body politic. But even if this is true, he certainly scores points for inspiring oratory:

“What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war, not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace — the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living — and the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women — not merely peace in our time but peace in all time,” Kennedy said with the Cuban Missile Crisis behind him, the nuclear threat of the Cold War still casting a shadow on the geo-political landscape and the fateful intervention in Vietnam looming on the horizon.

That speech captured the heart and soul of Kennedy as well as any other, a speech about what he called “a more practical, more attainable peace.” It was a new approach to the world and solving its problems, and one that would greatly inform this moment in American history.

via GlobalPost – Hearing JFK’s message of peace in John Kerry’s diplomacy

This, from the president who said: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”  Diplomacy may not always work–but it is a far better alternative to open conflict, even if it must be leveraged with hard power and coercion to be effective.

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5 thoughts on “Kennedy’s Diplomacy & Legacy at 50 Years

  1. […] Kennedy’s Diplomacy & Legacy at 50 Years (globaldiplomacy.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Joshua Dennis says:

    I feel that despite his short term in office, and the possibility that he has been remembered more fondly than he would have been because of his assassination, Kennedy did leave a strong legacy of accomplishments. As the article suggests, his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis alone had cemented an accolade worthy legacy. I feel that the idealistic tendencies of the man were needed at the time, and politicians today would do well to try to follow in his idealistic footsteps.

  3. The Cuban Missile Crisis simulation that we did in class was a real eyeopener to me. I have never studied the details of the crisis, but after approaching the event I learned what a difference JFK made. Thank goodness he was the man he was in this situation. Otherwise, who knows what would have happened.

    I wonder sometimes how the US would have been different, and if it would have been so, had JFK not been assassinated.

  4. jbs4395 says:

    I really appreciated this article’s efforts to reinforce Kennedy’s character and the accomplishments he was able to achieve while in office. I think it is easy for us to look at anyone or anything and immediately pick out its flaws and frailties, but while no one and nothing is entirely perfect, we ought to more readily appreciate the best in them. Certainly, Kennedy as a man and a president was not perfect. He met with difficulty during his presidency, but I believe, as the article states, that he left a lasting impression upon the nation as a president who was able to fulfill “the presidency’s central role: to inspire and encourage the country to move forward.” Even Abraham Lincoln met with imperfection during his presidency, but the legacy of good that a president brings the nation should be respected and honored. Most especially, Kennedy’s legacy of saving the world from an all-out nuclear war through successful negotiations is something that ought always to be gratitude-generating. I agree with Mihai, above, when he said the simulation that we did at our retreat was “a real eyeopener” to realizing how serious of an impact Kennedy had on the world through his negotiations. While he certainly had his flaws, I think it is important that we honor Kennedy for the good he inspired in this nation and in throughout the world

  5. cassidyhansen says:

    There is no doubt that Kennedy deserves awards and accolades that have been given to him. In a sense, he is the modern Lincoln. A man who saved the US in a time of crisis and died for his country. While many of us focus on his diplomacy in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy had several other skills that made him a great president. One of these things is his persona. Kennedy had a specific charm about him that Americans loved–which is why he was elected at such a young age and received support from significant political leaders, such as Eleanor Roosevelt. Overarchingly, Kennedy is an ideal diplomat whose goals of reaching high standards of peace steered the country our of danger, which calls for many rewards.

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