Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kennedy. Theodore C. Sorenson (14)

Special Counsel to the Late President. New York: Bantam Books. 1966.

Why read it? To understand Kennedy’s philosophy of the Presidency. His humor. His wisdom. He could think on his feet. His ability to own up to his mistakes and to learn from them. To appreciate the vast range of responsibilities faced by the President. His style. You won’t learn any of the details of his extra-marital affairs in this book. It focuses on John Kennedy, an American who was elected President by one of the narrowest margins in history. He instilled a spirit of confidence in the American people, and his assassination destroyed that spirit.

“His administration had made clear that this country is not officially Catholic, Protestant or even Christian, but a democratic republic in which neither religion in general nor any church in particular can be either established or curbed by public act.” p. 408. ………. “Happiness, he often said, paraphrasing Aristotle, is the full use of one’s faculties along lines of excellence, and to him the Presidency offered the ideal opportunity to pursue excellence.” p. 410. ………. [The Presidency]: “…represents a chance to exercise your judgment on matters of importance.” p. 411. ………. “He still took his problems seriously but never himself.” p. 414. ………. “He never self-consciously thought of himself as ‘courageous,’ but he lived by the Hemingway definition with which he had opened Profiles: ‘grace under pressure.’ ” p. 415.

“So the more people I can see, or the wider I can expose [my mind] to different ideas, the more effective I can be as President.” p. 416. ………. “He kept his own comments to a minimum and often cut short others, no matter how important or friendly, who were dealing with generalities or repeating the obvious.” p. 417. ………. “…remarkable ability to absorb detail while keeping in view the larger picture.” p. 417. ………. Jackie Kennedy: “He lived at such a pace because he wished to know it all.” p. 418. ………. “When he was not working, he and Jacqueline liked having people around who were cheerful, amusing, energetic, informed and informal.” p. 624. ………. “This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.” p. 430. ………. JFK: “This is the most extraordinary collection of talent [American Nobel Prize winners]…that has ever been gathered together at the White House—with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” p. 430.

To be continued.

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