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Remembering JFK

May 29th, 2008 by Travis McCann

President John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, would have turned 91 today. On his way to the Oval Office, Kennedy and Richard Nixon faced off in the first televised presidential debates in U.S. history. Now considered a milestone in American political history, these debates mark the point at which television began to play a dominant role in national politics. Kennedy — who appeared relaxed in front of the camera while Nixon looked tense and uncomfortable with an injured leg — gained momentum following the debates, going on to defeat Vice President Nixon in one of the closest elections in American history.

Of course, Kennedy was no stranger to the TV camera by the time he stepped up to that podium. The following NBC News Time Capsule highlights rare interviews from the NBC archives, spanning most of Kennedy’s political career:

With the aid of TV distribution, President Kennedy’s inspiring and optimistic rhetoric made politics more accessible to a much wider audience. I, for one, was raised on his words by my parents, whose lifelong political obsessions were inspired by them.

With candidates on MySpace, bloggers offering independent political commentary and grassroots fundraising taking place online this year, the landscape has changed dramatically even since Kennedy’s time. What else does this year’s election have in store? You can catch the latest from America’s Election HQ as November 4th approaches.

Hulu Political Correspondent

Last comment: May 8th 2015 1 Comment
  • steve parker says:

    Hey folks!

    I watched the Kennedy/Nixon debate (singular; there was just one, I think, because Nixon’s people didn’t want to see him get blown-out by JFK…again)on live TV … I must have six years old.

    “Injured leg” or not, what killed Nixon was the easily-seen sweat on his upper lip, and his constantly wiping it off … NOT very attractive!

    Interestingly, people who HEARD the debate on live radio thought Nixon had actually WON …

    I’ve been lucky enough to have shaken hands with Robert F. Kennedy at age 12 and spend an entire day with JFK, Jr,. about a decade ago when he sought-out my help on buying a Pontiac GTO … It’s a long story …

    But Nixon was certainly the single-most tragic figure in 20th century American politics, Shakespearean in his life and death.

    A friend of mine went to his funeral as an invited guest in Orange County years ago and stayed there until the casket was put in the ground. When I asked “Why?”, he said, “I wanted to make sure he didn’t get out before they put him 6 feet under”.