A Young President

An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek

First– we have a new president-elect! Without getting all partisan about it, I’ll say simply: champagne toasts have occurred.

So, let’s celebrate with a book about another young senator who became president– and how also inspired a new generation in an unprecedented way…

In An Unfinished Life, we get a glimpse of JFK as we never knew him before. From this book, I gained an appreciation of Kennedy’s humanity and his ability to learn from his mistakes. For example, following the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he was devastated by his error in judgment and ceased his unquestioning reliance on the advice of his military advisors. Dallek, professor of history at Boston University and author/narrator of a terrific audio series called American Presidency (part of the Modern Scholar series), reveals new information about the seriousness of Kennedy’s illnesses and the extent to which he was medicated while president, his rampant infidelity (including flings with White House staffers, including– gasp!– an intern), and his innate fatalism. And still I adore JFK; this is vaguely unsettling. This is a large book, and it needed to be lengthy in order to do justice to the man whose complex life it describes. Dallek masterfully circumvents the legend and gives us the man.