JFK@100: The Kennedy Presidency and the Kennedy Myth
Exhibition Opening / Free admission
For better or worse, the international view of the U.S. has been shaped by the country’s presidents. This is not necessarily based on their actual politics or the quality of their leadership. Also, presidents can be more popular abroad than at home, partly because they might be projections of what people all over the world want the U.S. to be.
John F. Kennedy was arguably the most popular postwar president. He had the highest job approval rating during his time in office, and today even more Americans view his 1036 days in office positively. Millions of people in Germany and Mexico cheered him in the streets during state visits. Generations born after his tragic death are still fascinated by the First Family, which occupied the White House from 1961 till 1963. Historians, however, have often given JFK only average “grades.”
During his brief time in the White House, JFK dealt with some of the most serious crises of the Cold War in Cuba and Berlin, and he also struggled with the demands of an ever more powerful civil rights movement. The Kennedy years brought a spirit of innovation, and especially young people were inspired by him. Already during his lifetime, John F. Kennedy together with his wife Jackie became objects of popular culture. The media loved them, and they knew how to use it. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas in November 1963 and what came then – the escalation of the Vietnam War, race riots, Watergate – helped to popularize the problematic myth that the Kennedy presidency had been like the legendary Camelot, and that with JFK's death, America had lost its “innocence.”
On the occasion of Kennedy's 100th birthday (May 29, 1917), the special exhibit takes a new look at Kennedy's political career, his presidency, and the Kennedy myth. It was curated by students of the Amerika-Institut of LMU under the direction of the historian Prof. Dr. Andreas Etges, a leading expert on the Kennedy presidency.
Welcome: Dr. Meike Zwingenberger, Bavarian Center for Transatlantic Relations
Introduction: Prof. Dr. Andreas Etges, LMU München
Organizers: Bavarian American Academy, Bavarian Center for Transatlantic Relations, Lasky Center for Transatlantic Studies, Lehre@LMU
Kindly supported by Amerikahaus Verein
(Photo ©John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston)