Beginning the Political Journey:
Being Worthy of Your Times
The war was my experience. John F. Kennedy
In 1945, John F. Kennedy entered public life in a postwar America embarked on a new mandate of international leadership. At the age of twenty-eight, the newly discharged naval lieutenant had acquired firsthand experience with the international themes that would identify his generation. As he entered public life, he positioned himself to understand and assimilate the domestic issues and their place in the larger political landscape.
Kennedy's political apprenticeship began when he sought the nomination for the Eleventh Congressional District in the Democratic Party primary of Massachusetts. His boyish tousle of chestnut hair, his handsome face, gaunt from malaria and repeated medications, and his demeanor--a mix of New England reserve and collegiate good humor and wit--would become familiar hallmarks of the political journey that would lead ultimately to the Presidency of the United States. The campaign was also the start of his long internship as a public speaker, always the major venue for public officials.
Kennedy was the antithesis of the oratorical, hail-fellow-well-met Boston politician typical of the mid-nineteen-forties. He was naturally reserved and somewhat ill-at-ease among strangers. On the local scene he was known as the "Ambassador's son" or "Joe Kennedy's boy." Locally and nationally, he was known as a hero. In January, 1944, the Boston Globe had published a front-page article about his heroism in the South Pacific with his PT 109 crew. 1 Nationally he became known as a hero of World War II from a Readers' Digest story excerpted from John Hersey's account of his heroism which originally appeared in The New Yorker. He also enjoyed a respectable reputation for his book, Why England Slept, published in 1940.