Why The Kennedy Legacy Endures

Why does the Kennedy legacy endure – indeed, seem to grow stronger – a half-century after his assassination? A recent Gallup poll of Americans finds that almost three quarters of respondents judge Kennedy to be an “outstanding” or “above average” president. That places JFK above all the post-FDR “modern” presidents, including Reagan, LBJ and Ike, in terms of public support. …

Kennedy’s average ranking among scholars places him among the “good” but not “great” presidents. That he does not rank higher reflects, in part, scholars’ collective judgment that Kennedy’s presidency lacks enduring substantive accomplishments. …

So what explains his enduring popularity, if not a record of sterling accomplishments? The answer, I think is a function of three related factors. CONT.

Matthew Dickinson, Middlebury College