Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy was scheduled to visit the Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee, on March 23, 1960. Media reports at the time indicate he skipped it, for legislative business in Washington.
If media reports were wrong and you were at the JCC in 1960 and saw Kennedy speak, please contact the Chronicle!
Kennedy won the Wisconsin primary 13 days after his scheduled JCC visit. The planned visit was part of a campaign tour, as Kennedy was seeking the Democratic nomination for president, a nomination he would win.
Kennedy was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1961; his premature death was on Nov. 22, 1963. Much has been written about Kennedy, the great orator, the charmer, and the first president truly ready for television. Historians tell us he was also a level-headed leader during the Cuban Missile Crisis and a man who sought to improve civil rights and health care.
In these pre-presidential notes associated with his planned 1960 JCC speech – obtained courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, with assistance from the archives of Jewish Museum Milwaukee – you may notice words that are not so different from what some political figures are saying today. Quotes from the notes include:
- “Voting rights guaranteed almost a hundred years ago are being questioned …. The inequality is not unreal.”
- “For in the words of Justice Brandeis, ‘Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.’”
- “… No citizen of this nation should ever have fear that his school or home or meeting-place can be destroyed by terrorists.”
As part of our Chronicle 100-year anniversary celebration – we were born in 1921 – we bring you these excerpts from Kennedy’s JCC speech notes. The entirety of the notes are available online from the John F. Kennedy library.