Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.'s A THOUSAND DAYS: John F. Kennedy in the White House
has a very special meaning for me. In 1960, I was in the crowd on 39th St. and Broadway, in
The Garment Center in New York City, when Kennedy, his voice hoarse from relentless campaigning, addressed the crowd about his vision of a new America and a new generation taking charge.
As an important member of the Kennedy circle, a man who had Kennedy's ear, Schlesinger draws an unforgettable portrait of the man who captured the imagination and the hopes of people, not just in America, but all over the world. Standing in that crowd on 39th St., it was easy for me to believe that this man, seasoned by his experiences in World War II, his vision shaped by a knowledge of history and America's place in it, would not be beholden to the customs and beliefs of the leaders born in earlier generations.
Schlesinger makes this point emphatically. Kennedy was born later then Adlai Stevenson and later then Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy really believed, and communicated this belief eloquently, that men and women of his generation could really make a difference. Schlesinger's focus in A THOUSAND DAYS is the Kennedy Administration's role in foreign affairs. Even with that focus, what emerges is Kennedy's refreshing escape from the conventions of previous politicians. Kennedy's choice of Douglas Dillon as Secretary of the Treasury, was a choice that Schlesinger himself originally opposed. Kennedy chose Dillon because he thought he was the best man for the job, not because of his particular political persuasion. Shlesinger remarks that Nixon might have made Dillon his appointment had he won the election.
Kennedy's confrontations with Khrushchev, The Cuban Missile Crisis, the South American venture, the Alliance for Progress are presented clearly and convincingly.
We will never know what direction this country, or the world would have taken, had John Kennedy been granted another term in office. Surely, he would have learned from his mistakes, which Schlesinger reveals. The Kennedy imagination, intellect, and belief that his administration could really do something to make the world a better place will live with all of us as long as we live.
Another important record of this moment in history is David Halberstam's THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST, available in a Fawcett Columbine paperback edition.
George Davidson, Director of Production, The Ballantine Publishing Group
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.