In what is historically but a brief span of years, the life and times of John Fitzgerald Kennedy have taken on legendary proportions. His presidency began with something less than an overwhelming mandate from the American people, but he brought to the White House an inspiration, an elegance, a style of leadership that began to offer great promise of things to come. That leadership, halted so abruptly in 1963, has acquired an image larger than life, so that it is sometimes difficult to separate Kennedy the man, the politician, the president, from Kennedy the center of Camelot.
There was substance to Kennedy's leadership as well as style. There were successes and failures, as well as that promise of what the future might hold. There was the calm and deliberate leadership that met the Cuban missile crisis; and there was the Bay of Pigs. There was the Peace Corps, the Alliance for Progress, a nuclear test ban treaty; and there was deepening involvement in Vietnam. There was his concern with "the other America," which sowed the seeds that blossomed into his successor's attack on poverty in the Great Society; and there was a less-than-forceful leadership on civil rights until toward the end. There was the president masterful in his relations with the press, who indeed mesmerized people around the world; and there was the president who had no easy time of it with a solidly Democratic congress.
He captured the imagination of the nation. People responded to his call to "do for your country" more widely and enthusiastically than for any president since then. He brought bright and dedicated people into his administration and made intelligent, measured use of their advice. Evidence of the tenacity of his hold on the imagination is the way in which he remains the president most admired by today's youth, though most were not yet born at the time of his White House tenure.