FYS 101  JFK: Famine to New Frontier

John F. Kennedy's life weaves together the history of religious outsiderism and political ambition in the American Century. Kennedy was not only the product of a changing American religious and political landscape, but one of the significant engines behind that change. He was the first and only Catholic president in the nation’s history and along with the “other John” (Pope John XXIII) he initiated a new relationship between Catholicism and the modern era.

This class will examine the threads of JFK's life from his ancestors’ Irish famine origins to the mystery surrounding his assassination. We will look closely at JFK’s family and where their experiences intersect with the major events in American history as well as JFK’s political rise culminating in his successful run for the presidency in 1960. JFK’s presidency will offer us an opportunity to examine his record on domestic issues such as the Civil Rights Movement and his early pronouncements on the War on Poverty as well as JFK’s brief though active foreign affairs initiatives. In particular, we will pay close attention to his interactions with the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Vietnam. Finally, we will consider the political legacy Kennedy left behind and what his presidency has taught us about presidential leadership.