John F. Kennedy: The Promise Revisited

By Paul Harper; Joann P. Krieg | Go to book overview

Director's Message

THIS CONFERENCE ON JOHN F. KENNEDY is the fourth in Hofstra's annual presidential conferences, begun in 1982 with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, both to commemorate and to submit to scholarly analysis those Presidents who have served during the fifty years of Hofstra's existence. In John Kennedy, we celebrate a man whose legacy has taken on legendary proportions. But our gathering of scholars of today and leaders of the Kennedy era also allows us to review and evaluate the man, his presidency and the myth.

We wanted to include two types of discussions. One would be of papers presented by Kennedy scholars. Our call for papers was answered by more than twice as many as those included in this program. Our faculty committee had an arduous task in selecting which were to be included; regrettably, no place could be found for many solid works of scholarship. Relying as we did upon the voluntary response of scholars, it was inevitable that consideration of some major policies and questions of the Kennedy presidency would be neglected. Thus we have no papers or panels focusing explicitly on, for example, the Peace Corps or The Alliance for Progress or the assassination. While it was not an easy price to pay, it does allow our writers to explore their own scholarly interests in the Kennedy era. And we may hope that comments and discussion will bring up these missing themes in the course of the Conference.

The second type of discussion we wanted was a series of forums, whose participants would be persons active in and out of government during the Kennedy presidency. These people would be able to reflect upon their own experiences to heighten our understanding--and perhaps their own--of those years. And the opportunity for Kennedy scholars and other conference participants to question and exchange ideas with them would, we thought, be of great value.

We have been extraordinarily fortunate, I believe, in the response to our invitations to participate in these forums. On the opening evening some of President Kennedy's closest advisors will take part in a forum on staff recollections. Forums on science and space, civil rights, and the media all mix key figures in these fields from the Kennedy administration and from outside the government to provide perspectives on the era. Personal reminiscences will undoubtedly be a very appealing part of these forums, but they will also be taking a good hard look at the successes and the not-so-successful moments of those days. Two other forums round out the program. In one, members of Hofstra's Law faculty discuss the legal initiatives of the Kennedy administration. In the other, some noted Kennedy biographers look at the man and his presidency.

A highlight of the Conference will certainly be an address by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the President's youngest brother and an outstanding leader of today, during the noon hour on Friday, March 29th. The general public is invited to join the conference participants and the University community for the Senator's talk on "Past Lessons and Future Directions."

Let me urge all who attend the Conference to visit the John F. Kennedy Exhibit on the 9th floor of the Hofstra Library. There is an extensive selection of books on President Kennedy. The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston has been most generous in lending us documents, photographs, cartoons, letters, campaign literature and memorabilia, busts, a rocking chair, a replica of P-T 109, and numerous other items including a traveling exhibit of the life and times of John Kennedy. I want also to thank Christopher Hearn, Paulette and Robert Greene, Stanley Tretick, Burton Berinsky and Gimbels Famous Stamp Department for the contributions from their collections of political arTifacts, personal items of the Kennedy family, photographs and John F. Kennedy stamps. The exhibit has been arranged by the Hofstra Library's Special Collections staff.

Also opening during the Conference will be an exhibit on "Artists of the Kennedy Era." This exhibit is in the Emily Lowe Gallery on the south campus and will run through April 2.

I cannot even begin to acknowledge all those who have helped in putting together this Conference. But a special note of gratitude is owed to the staff of the Hofstra University Cultural Center, tucked away in the attic of the old Hofstra home. They did the real work.

For today's students, aware of the events great and small of America's Camelot, but most of them as yet unborn during John Kennedy's day, I trust this conference will enhance their understanding of the era as well as the man. Certainly the papers and the participants in the conference should add a special flavor to their knowledge of our history.

But for many of us, personal memories of those years remain sharp: the words at the inauguration and in Berlin; the glimpses of Caroline and young John; the grace and charm of Jacqueline as she led the nation, through its television sets, on a tour of her home; the wit, the mastery of phrase, that Boston tongue of the President at his press conferences; and, ultimately, the riderless horse.

As we return again during these three days to those years of promise, vibrancy and inspiration, I hope that scholarship and memory will be served equally well.


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