What Made JFK So Compelling?

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Despite assuming the presidency from the 20th century’s narrowest election victory, John F. Kennedy captivated the American public’s imagination, even before his untimely death. What was it that made JFK so compelling in his own time, and continues to contribute to his enduring appeal today?

We dive into the answer to that question by unpacking some of Kennedy’s personal qualities and complexities with Mark Updegrove, author ofIncomparable Grace: JFK in the Presidency. We begin our conversation with how JFK’s upbringing and war experience shaped him. We talk about his leadership style while in office, how he intentionally cultivated his cool and appealing image, and what his wife Jackie added to that image. Mark explains what was behind Kennedy’s infamous affairs, and how JFK championed physical fitness despite being in tremendous physical pain himself. We end our conversation with the traits that worked both for and against JFK’s success as president.

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