Remembering JFK: Law Alone Cannot Make Men See Right

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Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy.

This anniversary means a lot to me, because I’ve always felt a particular interest in John F. Kennedy—and much more so, after I wrote his biography, Forty Ways to Look at JFK. Surprisingly, perhaps, I didn’t feel particularly enthusiastic about Kennedy; I was fascinated by him.

More than 40,ooo books have been published about JFK, and I couldn’t resist adding one myself.

I wanted to study his life, and I wanted to find a way to capture its complexity—with all his strengths and weaknesses, his virtues and vices, his particular history, and most of all, I wanted to try to understand the mystery of his enduring appeal. What has made Kennedy such a dazzling, unforgettable figure?

It took me a whole book to express exactly what I wanted to say about John Kennedy.

Here is the quotation from Herman Melville which I weave throughout the book and place on the final page:

Not seldom in this life, when, on the right side, fortune’s favorites sail by us, we, though all adroop before, catch somewhat of the rushing breeze, and joyfully feel our bagging sails fill out.

My favorite Kennedy speech, the Civil Rights announcement of June 11, 1963. My favorite line, which gives me a thrill every time: “Law alone cannot make men see right.

I also wrote a biography of Winston Churchill, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill. What a life! Oh, what a joy it was to write these biographies. I never forget how fortunate I’ve been to have the opportunity to study these tremendous figures.

From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.

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