Monday, May 04, 2009

An Unfinished Life

I finished reading the John F. Kennedy biography, An Unfinished Life. I was six years old when Kennedy as assassinated. I can remember walking down a hallway at Woodrow Wilson Elementary and hearing two teachers talking about Kennedy being killed; I would have been in first grade. Reading this book and the Joe Kennedy biography Sins of the Father, I realize that my knowledge of the both the Kennedy family in general and JFK in particular was pretty superficial.

In just three years of the JFK presidency, an amazing amount of things happened. Some of the events included: the Bay of Pigs; the Berlin Crisis with the erection of the Berlin Wall; a crisis in Laos; an increase in the number of American military personnel in South Vietnam to 16,000, up from Eisenhower's 900 advisors; the overthrow and assassination of South Vietnamese Premier Ngo Dinh Diem; formation of the Peace Crops; the first Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; the Cuban Missile Crisis; setting a course for a moon landing before the end of the decade, a battle with steel producers over price increases and a number of civil rights crises including Birmingham and the Freedom Riders. Due to the opportunities provided by his father's position and wealth, JFK was in some ways uniquely qualified to deal with many of the international issues that he faced.

I never realized the number of health problems that John Kennedy faced over the course of his life. Conversely, I was aware of JFK's reputation as a womanizer. It is amazing that his sex life was largely unreported by the mainstream press.

Although it is not the best biography I have read, I recommend the book. From my perspective, the book's weakness is that it tends to get bogged down in detail in some sections. The book adds to my desire to find a biography on J. Edgar Hoover and peaks my interest in reading more about Robert Kennedy.

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