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Episode 78: The Enduring Legacy of JFK with Fredrik Logevall

podcast Jan 14, 2022

In this episode, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Harvard historian Fredrik Logevall joins Sharon to discuss the life and career of the 35th President, John F. Kennedy. Professor Logevall shares expertise and research from his latest book, JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, which captures the glamor and beauty of the Kennedy family, as well as the moments of hesitation and growth. Kennedy struggled with health issues for much of his life, but did not let it deter him from pursuing his interests, most notably, international and world affairs. Brush up on your knowledge of one of America’s favorite presidents as Logevall articulates JFK’s trajectory from a slacking schoolboy to a wildly popular world leader.

Links to Full Episode:

This Episode Will Teach You:

  • Who Fredrik Logevall is
  • Why JFK is so popular with people and historians alike
  • JFK’s inspirational messaging and enduring legacy
  • Jack’s childhood, education, and military career
  • His deep interest in international politics and world affairs
  • How his illnesses informed his politics
  • JFK’s PT109 war story
  • Balancing judgement of historical figures to today’s standards
  • The JFK assassination
  • How Catholicism influenced his political decisions

3 Biggest Takeaways:

  • JFK may have been a flawed figure, known as a playboy, and glamorized by the media, but his true greatness as an American leader is based, in part, on his enduring inspirational messaging and beliefs about democracy. His popularity was global, with an entire generation growing up inspired by his view on what politics could accomplish for democratic nations, and the world as a whole.
  • JFK–Jack–grew up as the second-born. His older brother, Joe Jr. was the golden child who was slated for great things by his family. Jack, on the other hand, was sickly as a boy and grew up in his brother’s shadow. As Jack grows up, he gets deeply interested in the world around him and serves in the military in WWII. When his brother is killed during the war, Jack carries the family responsibility to step into greatness, specifically political through a career in politics.
  • When JFK leaves the military after the war, he feels that the United States must be a leader on the stage of world affairs. This plays a large role in his political career. Sharon asks Logevall about the JFK assassination–who killed the president and if it was a conspiracy. While it is generally speculated that Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger, historians have long tried to piece together the motives of the assassination, by Oswald or others who may have orchestrated the event. 

 About the Guest:

Fredrik Logevall is the Laurence D. Belfer Professor of International Affairs and Professor of History at Harvard University. He is the author or editor of ten books, most recently JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century (Random House, 2020), which won the Elizabeth Longford Prize. His book Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam (Random House, 2012), won the Pulitzer Prize for History and the Francis Parkman Prize, among other awards. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Times (UK), The Wall Street Journal, Politico, Daily Beast, the London Review of Books, and Foreign Affairs, among other publications. A native of Stockholm, Sweden, he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

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