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A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House Paperback – June 3, 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

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.

From the Inside Flap

"Of all the Kennedy books . . . this is the best." Time Magazine
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, this is the classic study of the presidency of John F. Kennedy as told by a master historian who had the advantage of personally witnessing the great and tragic events of which he writes. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1120 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (June 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618219277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618219278
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The value of A Thousand Days is self-apparent to anyone who has ever attempted to seriously examine the Kennedy administration.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr., with an undeniably skilled pen and an exhaustive eye for detail, compiled one of the most thorough accounts of the Kennedy administration. I don't see how it could be that surprising, at this point in time, that participants in an administration generally tend to write books that view their president in a favorable light. Is anyone really that shocked?

Did he take an interest in JFK's love life or other prurient topics? No. Did he seek to write a definitive evaluation of the president? No. Schlesinger is honest - he is writing by and large as a participant and an observer and the value of this account is that it captures the outlook and motivations of the administration. He left it to other authors to write more critical accounts - the value his book holds comes from the personal observations he makes throughout it.

You don't have to like Kennedy to find this book valuable. Plenty of people critical of the Kennedy administration have studied this book carefully. Its value as a firsthand account of the administration is self-apparent. If it happens to challenge the Limbaugh right's view of JFK . . . well, oh well. The rest of us can approach this book with care and real interest, allow for natural instances of human bias, and still come away better informed for the effort.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Mr. Schlesinger treats the Kennedy Administration in a time before Kennedy bashing was fashionable. He is certainly biased in the other direction; however, with all the negative information coming out recently, this is a good counterweight. There is much information and much insight, despite a slant. The inner workings of the Administartion become clear, and we are spared the stifling obsession with the President's personal life we often face in more recent accounts. We hear from a man who was intimately involved with the events he describes. Mr. Schlesinger does tend to see the positive side of events, but this does not prevent him from admitting his and others' mistakes. This is the definitive Kennedy history.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book has won a Pullitzer and National Book Award for good reason. Unlike most political biographers, Schlesinger provides a detailed and interesting analysis of his subject's policy decisions. We don't get a detailed accounting of what Kennedy has for breakfast, but we do get an understanding of Kennedy's decision making process and how it related to the numerous issues with which he was confronted.
Many of the customer reviewers criticized Schlesinger for his bias in Thousand Days. It is true that nothing that Kennedy does in Thousand Days is wrong, and nothing that Eisenhower did was right. In the 1030 pages of Thousand Days, the reader is hardpressed to find a single critical comment about Kennedy. There are certainly plenty of excuses, as well as repetitive references to the "seeds" of legislative programs sown by Kennedy that would inevitably (as implied by Schlesinger) revolutionized the US. However, Schlesinger did not attempt to hide this bias -- he was obviously star struck by the Kennedys and did not purport to give the Republican perspective on the Kennedy administration. In essence, the "bias" is so obvious it is easy to single it out and focus on what Schlesinger has to offer -- a studied and very inspiring first hand account of a presidential term from one of this country's leading historians.
I have read several dozen presidential biographies and can say that none have provided so much insight into presidential decision making. In a word, this book is "dense", full of ideas, theories and speculation about the workings of the executive branch when confronted with some of the greatest challenges of our time -- including the cold war, the Cuban missile crises, Bay of Pigs, civil rights and Vietnam. What's more, it was an absorbing and thought provoking read.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) may well qualify as the most prominent American historian of the GI generation. The son of a famous Harvard historian, Schlesinger became a two-time pulitzer-prize winning biographer of liberal Democratic politicians and Presidents. Yet for all of his skills as a historian, Schlesinger wasn't satisfied with merely writing about history - he wanted to make it as well. A diehard, old-fashioned New Deal Democrat, Schlesinger wrote glowingly about Franklin D. Roosevelt and liberal Democrats and criticized their conservative opponents. In 1960 Schlesinger, to the anger of his liberal friends and allies, supported John F. Kennedy (whom many liberals regarded with skepticism) against his old boss, Adlai Stevenson (the Democratic presidential candidate in 1952 and '56, and the great hero of liberal Northern Democrats). He was rewarded when President Kennedy made him the White House's first "historian-in-residence". As such Schlesinger got to attend most White House meetings and conferences, send memos (usually ignored) to President Kennedy offering advice on the issues of the day, and being a general gadabout. In the process Schlesinger became little more than an employee of the Kennedys, a fact which earned him much criticism from not only conservatives, but also from many younger liberals who came to see him as a hypocrite and elitist who was willing to "sell out" his liberal ideals for power and prestige.

When JFK was assassinated Schlesinger (who loathed Lyndon Johnson) left the White House and wrote his "memoir/history" of the Kennedy Presidency - entitled "A Thousand Days.
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