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Written by one of our foremost historians and published in 1965, A Thousand Days is still considered the most complete and definitive portrait of John F. Kennedy and his administration. Handpicked by Kennedy to serve as special assistant to the president, historian and Harvard professor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. witnessed firsthand the politics and personalities that infl Written by one of our foremost historians and published in 1965, A Thousand Days is still considered the most complete and definitive portrait of John F. Kennedy and his administration. Handpicked by Kennedy to serve as special assistant to the president, historian and Harvard professor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. witnessed firsthand the politics and personalities that influenced some of the most important and dramatic events in modern history. The hundreds of photographs and documents included here have been gleaned from such sources as the John F. Kennedy Library, the Library of Congress, the Associated Press, Life magazine, and more. The photos capture private meetings with the president, the Bay of Pigs, the Civil Rights movement, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as official White House memoranda, public speeches, social occasions, and private moments with the Kennedy family. These powerful images add a new dimension to the award-winning text and introduce a new generation to some of the most important and visually iconic moments in our recent past.


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Written by one of our foremost historians and published in 1965, A Thousand Days is still considered the most complete and definitive portrait of John F. Kennedy and his administration. Handpicked by Kennedy to serve as special assistant to the president, historian and Harvard professor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. witnessed firsthand the politics and personalities that infl Written by one of our foremost historians and published in 1965, A Thousand Days is still considered the most complete and definitive portrait of John F. Kennedy and his administration. Handpicked by Kennedy to serve as special assistant to the president, historian and Harvard professor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. witnessed firsthand the politics and personalities that influenced some of the most important and dramatic events in modern history. The hundreds of photographs and documents included here have been gleaned from such sources as the John F. Kennedy Library, the Library of Congress, the Associated Press, Life magazine, and more. The photos capture private meetings with the president, the Bay of Pigs, the Civil Rights movement, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as official White House memoranda, public speeches, social occasions, and private moments with the Kennedy family. These powerful images add a new dimension to the award-winning text and introduce a new generation to some of the most important and visually iconic moments in our recent past.

30 review for A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    A Thousand Days garnered Schlesinger the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1965. Schlesinger had a front row seat to one of the most extraordinary periods in America’s history. He was the Special Assistant to President John F Kennedy and already had won a Pulitzer Prize for History. This book stands out for its excellent coverage of the numerous foreign policy issues and crises that confronted the administration from 1961-1963. Below are the major events that arose during Kennedy's tenure that were A Thousand Days garnered Schlesinger the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1965. Schlesinger had a front row seat to one of the most extraordinary periods in America’s history. He was the Special Assistant to President John F Kennedy and already had won a Pulitzer Prize for History. This book stands out for its excellent coverage of the numerous foreign policy issues and crises that confronted the administration from 1961-1963. Below are the major events that arose during Kennedy's tenure that were covered by Schlesinger in some depth in this book.   1. Campaign.  The latter days of the Kennedy campaign in 1960.  Some interesting and dramatic material on the Democratic convention in Los Angeles where Kennedy squeaked out the nomination and chose LBJ as his running mate.  Then on to the General Election where Kennedy won the presidency. Theodore White's book on The Making of a President 1960 covered this campaign period much better in my opinion. 2. The President-elect period.  This is when Schlesinger came on board. This was the most personal part of the book detailing the period when Schlesinger was recruited by Kennedy.  He spent many days with JFK and Jackie and others in Hyannis Port .  The immediate urge envy was how to fill the thousands of vacancies in the government and prep for the transition.I would have liked to see more coverage around the Inauguration. 3. Bay of Pigs Invasion.  The first major crisis of the Kennedy administration resulted in an embarrassing defeat 4. Laos. Perhaps the most surprising portion of the book. Laos was in the midst of a civil war in 1961 and was viewed as a key pathway for Communists to get men and supplies to Vietnam and Thailand.  Southeast Asia was a major concern of the U.S. to stem the spread of communism.  But Kennedy and Kruschev each agreed to not intervene materially. 5. Berlin Airlift. Another moment of tension for the new administration when the Soviets ordered the wall to be built and shoot any who attempted to escape to West Berlin. 6. Vietnam. Less coverage of Vietnam than I was expecting. JFK takes no credit for the Diem assassination. 7. Peace Corps to the rescue. Attwood persuaded the President to send Sargent Shriver to Guinea in June. Shriver and Touré hit it off immediately. Guinea, which had been attacking the Peace Corps as a CIA subsidiary, now invited it into the country; the government radio stopped reviling the United States; and personal relations between Guineans and Americans began to improve. 8. Congo The previous administration, especially Dulles’ CIA strategies, made a mess of many nations around Africa. Of all the African problems, the one that most commanded the President’s attention was the Congo. Independence had descended like a hurricane on the unprepared country in July 1960. In a few days the new state was in chaos: the Force Publique had mutinied; Katanga and other provinces were proclaiming their independence; Belgian paratroopers were coming back to restore order. In desperation Prime Minister Lumumba appealed to the United Nations. 9. South Africa JFK was quite appalled at the Apartheid situation in South Africa . The American President’s gallant leadership in the civil rights fight sealed the vast regard and affection for him in African hearts. 10. Peace Corps continued Kennedy began the Peace Corps to help the third world countries. He had a genuine antipathy towards colonialism. KENNEDY’S THIRD WORLD POLICY—the policy of helping the new nations to strength and independence—involved more than a change in American attitudes toward colonialism and non-alignment. Eisenhower called the Peace Corps a “juvenile experiment,” and Nixon, with customary taste, observed solemnly that Kennedy “proposed to send as America’s representatives to other nations young men whom he calls volunteers but who in truth in many instances would be trying to escape the draft.” 11. The Cuban Missile Crisis. The granddaddy of all the crises. What worried Kennedy particularly was the inconceivable way each superpower had lost hold of the reality of the other: the United States absolutely persuaded that the Soviet Union would never put nuclear missiles into Cuba; the Soviet Union absolutely persuaded that it could do so and the United States would not respond. Remembering Barbara Tuchman’s enumeration in The Guns of August of the misjudgments which caused the First World War, he used to say that there should be a sequel entitled “The Missiles of October.” 12. de Gaulle. In late 1962 a flood of European problems blindsided the administration and at the top of the list was the Charles deGaulle problem. if Cuba were to be followed by a détente, de Gaulle wanted to be in on the peacemaking; he could never forget Yalta when in his absence non-Europeans (by his definition) imposed what he considered a wicked settlement on Europe. Moreover, if Western Europe were irrevocably tied to the Atlantic, the division of Europe would become permanent, and de Gaulle’s dream of rebuilding “Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals” would be forever frustrated. And within the Common Market Britain was steadily acquiring the votes for admission—a result which, if achieved, would end French primacy in the Economic Community. 13. European tour. In another chapter Kennedy decided it was a good time to shore up America’s allies in Europe. From Ireland and Britain to West Germany and Italy Kennedy he received enormous turnout and fanfare. It was through this goodwill mission that many Europeans became convinced in America’s commitment to democracy in Europe. 14. Bobby. As far as domestic issues, Schlesinger had positive things to say about Robert Kennedy the Attorney General. Of course Bobby was still alive when this book was written. In the Washington judgment, he turned out to be the best Attorney General since Francis Biddle twenty years earlier. But this was a lesser part of his services to the President. When he first decided to appoint his brother to the cabinet, I do not know how much John Kennedy expected Robert to do besides run the Department of Justice and be available for private advice and commiseration. The Bay of Pigs, however, changed all that. Thereafter the President wanted Bobby at every crucial meeting. 15. Civil Rights This section contained the only real criticism lodged by Schlesinger against JFK in the book. While JFK genuinely wanted Civil Rights to move forward he often appeared irritated by Martin Luther King and the many protests. JFK was quite concerned about the controversy over James Meredith’s enrollment at Ole Miss which required Bobby and JFK to order troops to protect Meredith. Essentially JFK wanted it all to proceed on his terms. Despite his earlier misgivings, in June 1963 JFK spoke passionately about Civil Rights. It was one of the great speeches by an American President and Dr. King was elated. Of course it ultimately would be LBJ who loyally carried the torch regarding JFK’s vision for a more diverse America and in 1965 got the votes to pass the Civil Rights Bill. The book ends with the assassination in November of 1963. 1000 Days was a much better history book than I envisioned and it has held up reasonably well over the past fifty years. Because it was written so soon after the assassination, it does not have the benefit of deep analysis. I found Dallek's book  An Unfinished Life: to be the best biography covering JFK the person. Dallek’s book and Schlesinger’s book are actually quite complimentary. Several other excellent books also helped me round out the Kennedy story: Theodore White's book Making of the President 1960 on the campaign, Robert Caro's book The Passage of Power on the brooding LBJ as JFK's vice president, David Halberstam's The Best and Brightest about the Kennedy whiz kids who mismanaged the Vietnam conflict, and finally Vincent Bugliosi's book Parkland about the JFK assassination.    4.5 stars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2017... Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s “A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House” was published in 1965 and received a Pulitzer Prize the following year. Schlesinger was a prominent historian and social critic who served as Special Assistant to President Kennedy. He was also a prolific author whose works include a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on Andrew Jackson and a series on Franklin D. Roosevelt. Schlesinger died in 2007 at the age of 89. Written by an inside https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2017... Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s “A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House” was published in 1965 and received a Pulitzer Prize the following year. Schlesinger was a prominent historian and social critic who served as Special Assistant to President Kennedy. He was also a prolific author whose works include a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on Andrew Jackson and a series on Franklin D. Roosevelt. Schlesinger died in 2007 at the age of 89. Written by an insider with a unique window into events, “A Thousand Days” is widely considered an invaluable, if selective, review of the three-year Kennedy presidency. Weighing in at a hefty 1,031 pages, this tome is part autobiography, part biography, and part interpretive history. Schlesinger begins by reviewing JFK’s 1960 nomination for the presidency before proceeding carefully through Kennedy’s presidency up to his death. There are few interruptions along the way; only a brief examination of his early life, a review of his near-nomination as Adlai Stevenson’s 1956 running mate and some thematic diversions toward the end of the book interrupt what is otherwise a generally chronological flow. Despite its intimidating length there is much to recommend in this classic. Schlesinger’s review of the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles was extraordinarily fascinating as was his account of discussions between Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the Vienna summit in 1961. The author provides an engaging (if too brief) discussion of Secretary McNamara’s efforts to reorganize and streamline the Department of Defense and a particularly interesting examination of the decline of the Department of State following World War II. And, in general, Schlesinger is able to provide interesting (and often unique) insight into nearly everything he witnessed first-hand. Unfortunately, despite Schlesinger’s skill as a historian and writer, this book will not provide a consistently engaging or carefree journey for many readers. “A Thousand Days” is frequently dry and dense and is more geared toward a political philosopher or history graduate student than a fan of colorful presidential biographies. By design the reader is exposed to very little of Kennedy’s pre-presidency and even less of his family or personal life. The best material in this book derives from Schlesinger’s personal observations – but this only offers a partial view of Kennedy and his administration. Schlesinger “fills in the gaps” by reporting history he did not directly observe; this is when the book morphs from memoir to biography to history text. But while some topics are discussed in heroic detail, others receive scant attention. And the extraordinary level of detail Schlesinger sometimes provides usually fails to translate into a lucid understanding of events. The Bay of Pigs fiasco, for example, absorbs about seventy pages. But with this level of detail the episode is almost unrecognizable – the reader is flown so close to the ground that there is no feel for the bigger picture. And yet there is hardly any mention of Kennedy’s effort to land Americans on the moon and virtually no discussion of farm policy or other domestic challenges. Finally, Schlesinger is clearly an unabashed fan of his subject; he shows a nearly unbridled enthusiasm for Kennedy. The reader almost always sees JFK at his very best: his most charming, his most eloquent, his most perceptive and astute. Never do we observe (directly or indirectly) Kennedy’s notorious indiscretions and flaws. Although Schlesinger’s is a valuable public perspective, it is decidedly one-sided and exceedingly generous. Overall, Arthur Schlesinger’s “A Thousand Days” is unique, insightful and revealing… but it is also weighty, uneven, occasionally tedious and often obsequious. For readers with patience and persistence it provides an exceptional window into the Kennedy presidency from the perspective of a perceptive and articulate insider. But as an efficient and balanced account of Kennedy’s presidency it proves highly imperfect. Overall rating: 3 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I am still actually reading this book. I am about halfway through. It is about 1000 pages. So I want to record what I can remember now, because by the time I finish I'll probably have forgotten it all. Well, Schlesinger is clearly brilliant. His prose is superb. This book is so valuable because it's an insider's account, but he has obviously done a lot of additional research to supplement his own experiences and memories. He has a gift for politics--for analyzing the situation trenchantly, inclu I am still actually reading this book. I am about halfway through. It is about 1000 pages. So I want to record what I can remember now, because by the time I finish I'll probably have forgotten it all. Well, Schlesinger is clearly brilliant. His prose is superb. This book is so valuable because it's an insider's account, but he has obviously done a lot of additional research to supplement his own experiences and memories. He has a gift for politics--for analyzing the situation trenchantly, including all the personalities and egos involved--but also a sense of irony about it. It seems the same was true of Kennedy. The parallels between Kennedy and Obama are striking. I know it's almost a cliche, but as I read Schlesinger's descriptions of Kennedy's character, it was uncanny. He was intellectual yet pragmatic, young and handsome. His campaign promised change and his administration excited hope throughout the country and the world. The story of the Democratic Convention was dramatic and taught me a lot I hadn't known. It all happened very differently then. The nominee was chosen at the convention by the delegates. Johnson was running for president too. Adlai Stevenson wasn't running, but he had a lot of support and apparently could have been nominated anyway. But ultimately Kennedy prevailed. And then, exhausted by this process, he had to choose his running mate immediately! Within a day or two, I think. He offered it to Johnson on the assumption that he'd say no. LBJ was already extremely powerful as the Senate majority leader, and the vice presidency was not seen as especially desirable. The liberals didn't want him on the ticket. Kennedy didn't particularly want him on the ticket, but felt he had to make the offer to appease him. Schlesinger speculates that Johnson accepted because he was getting tired of his job, and because he felt a responsibility to keep the South in the Democratic party. I also learned about the Bay of Pigs. I will write more on this later. I know this review is long and probably boring, but I'm writing it for myself to refresh my memory later. More soon... OK, so there was this nebulous plan developed under the Eisenhower administration to train Cuban dissidents in the mountains of Nicaragua to overthrow the Castro regime. The aim of this training was just to keep the option open, not necessarily to execute the plan. But, as Schlesinger points out, these things develop their own momentum that can be hard to stop. The dissidents themselves, having invested all this time and energy under difficult circumstances, wanted to go through with the plot. They were also isolated and developed a group-think mentality, convincing themselves the task would be easier than it really would. The Americans--specifically the CIA--were susceptible to similar logic. And in the White House, there was intense pressure to accept the arguments of these experts. There was also pressure to seem tough; it was always harder to argue for diplomacy and "soft" power than to go with the military option. Schlesinger was against it, and wrote a memo to that effect, but nearly everyone else was for it. Kennedy was adamant that the US could not contribute any forces; this would be an operation conducted by Cubans, in the name of the revolution (which the Americans and these dissidents believed Castro had betrayed). The fantasy was that once the invasion made some progress, all the other anti-Castro Cubans would spontaneously join them and overcome Castro's forces. The result was a fiasco. In addition to the major miscalculations--underestimating both the strength of Castro's forces and his popular support--there were myriad minor errors, as trivial but crucial as forgetting about the time difference between Cuba and Nicaragua. There had also been serious miscommunication, with the Cubans expecting the American military to intervene and help them if things didn't go well--but Kennedy did not want it to turn into an American coup. Actually, I wish Schesinger had provided more specifics on what happened to the Cubans. He doesn't say how many were killed. He implies that a lot of them rotted in prison. Kennedy felt terrible, but learned important lessons he would apply in the future, especially in the Cuban Missile Crisis. More soon...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    A great in-depth look into the politics and policies of the Kennedy administration by a respected historian who had a front row seat as a special advisor to the President. JFK didn't have a lot of time in office, but he accomplished a lot. First and foremost he cooled the Cold War. By 1960, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were playing a game of chicken with the existence of the human race. This was called "nuclear diplomacy". In essence, each told the other side, "Do anything antagonistic, and we w A great in-depth look into the politics and policies of the Kennedy administration by a respected historian who had a front row seat as a special advisor to the President. JFK didn't have a lot of time in office, but he accomplished a lot. First and foremost he cooled the Cold War. By 1960, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were playing a game of chicken with the existence of the human race. This was called "nuclear diplomacy". In essence, each told the other side, "Do anything antagonistic, and we will respond with an all-out nuclear strike." Conventional forces were all but abandoned in favor of brandishing this big threat. Kennedy and his advisors realized this was an unplayable and dangerous game. The world was complex and required the freedom to respond to aggression in varied ways, rather than threatening to pull one big lever. The U.S., having had the bomb longer, had had more time to think through all of its implications. The Soviet Union had not. So when Khrushchev began surreptitiously shipping nuclear missiles to Cuba and building launching platforms, he probably didn't realize the utter recklessness of this move. Kennedy did. His cool, firm, measured response to this move is why we are still here today. And Kennedy built our conventional forces back up, so that we could respond to crises in flexible ways. In foreign policy, he was largely successful in having the U.S. lead by example, rather than by fomenting coups and propping up dictators, although with his absence, the U.S. went back to its former ways. Kennedy made a lot of headway in developing trust with the nations of Latin America and Africa, although these gains were later squandered. Many pages in this book are devoted to what is now called the "Deep State". Particularly in the State Department, Kennedy had a lot to contend with, as his foreign policy ideas were opposed by many in State, who would often ignore directives. But as we see in the time of Donald Trump, the sword of the Deep State cuts both ways, and can act as a damper on a reckless, foolish Chief Executive. Economically, his method was to cut taxes, yet continue to spend at a deficit. I'm no economist. Frankly, the subject flummoxes me. I need to drag myself through a volume of Keynes some day. In civil rights, he made a good start. His brother Bobby, the Attorney General, aggressively pursued civil rights matters, and school integration standoffs in Alabama resolved with the governors of those states finally backing down. At the time of Kennedy's death, civil rights legislation was waiting in the wings, ready for LBJ's arm-twisting skills to bring it to fruition. JFK was cool headed, intellectual, witty, and pragmatic. He was the model of what a President should be. I was too young to remember him, but we were lucky enough to have a similar personality in the White House, Barack Obama, for eight years.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Garry Wilmore

    Read in the fall of 1969, when I was a high-school sophomore in Mississippi.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was the Special Assistant and Court Historian to President Kennedy. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1966 for this book which chronicles Kennedy's presidential nomination in 1960 to his assassination November 23, 1963. The book is over 1,000 pages but is worth the journey as you get a behind the scenes glimpse into President Kennedy's thoughts about the key decisions he made as president. You will also better understand Kennedy's intellect, optimism, sense of humor and focus o Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was the Special Assistant and Court Historian to President Kennedy. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1966 for this book which chronicles Kennedy's presidential nomination in 1960 to his assassination November 23, 1963. The book is over 1,000 pages but is worth the journey as you get a behind the scenes glimpse into President Kennedy's thoughts about the key decisions he made as president. You will also better understand Kennedy's intellect, optimism, sense of humor and focus on racial equality. Ironically, many of the issues President Kennedy dealt with were the same as we have today including China, Russia, foreign aid, racial equality & economic prosperity to name a few. I give this book 5 stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    Monumental account of John F. Kennedy's presidency, written by someone who had inside access to the Kennedy White House. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. was already a famous historian by 1960, having won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1945 work The Age of Jackson. He had worked on Adlai Stevenson's losing presidential campaigns in the 1950s, and eventually became acquainted with the Kennedys. His primary role in the Kennedy White House was as a Special Assistant to the President, and occasional speechwriter. Monumental account of John F. Kennedy's presidency, written by someone who had inside access to the Kennedy White House. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. was already a famous historian by 1960, having won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1945 work The Age of Jackson. He had worked on Adlai Stevenson's losing presidential campaigns in the 1950s, and eventually became acquainted with the Kennedys. His primary role in the Kennedy White House was as a Special Assistant to the President, and occasional speechwriter. Kennedy typically used him concerning Latin American affairs, but also in other miscellaneous areas. Schlesinger was a great writer. Despite the book's length (1,031 pages), it read quickly for the most part. At times, he got carried away with naming who was appointed to what post. This was especially true of the Department of State, where we are treated to an endless succession of who was appointed Under Secretary of African Affairs (as an example). There is far too much of this in the book, and - coupled with his decision to go deep into the background on many foreign affairs situations - it bogged down the narrative heavily at times. He also, despite being a historian, was certainly biased in his presentation of the Kennedys. The ruthlessness of RFK is seldom seen, and any of JFK's failings are either not mentioned at all (his impatience at meetings, and his womanizing (Schlesinger says in the Forward to this updated 2002 version that he never saw anything like that in the White House)), or they are quickly dismissed (his pattern of not utilizing Lyndon Johnson with the Congress). I wish he had balanced the book out with more focus on domestic concerns (I realize the Kennedy himself was primarily interested and concerned with foreign policy). For example, he does not delve deeply into the Civil Rights crises that Kennedy had to contend with, and even when he does write about them, it is not until very late in the book. He also continually makes derogatory references to "the Eisenhower years" as being a time of poor policies benefitting only the rich. While there is some truth to some of his criticisms, after awhile I tired of reading it over and over again. Despite those flaws, the book is a must-read for any presidential history lover, or anyone who has an interest in the Kennedys or the 1960s. There are many vivid personalities throughout the book (Jacqueline, Charles de Gaulle, McNamara, Nixon, Eisenhower, Dean Rusk (whom the reader can tell that Schlesinger did not care for at all), RFK, LBJ, Khrushchev, Castro). Schlesinger was witnessing history as it happened, and his first-person narrative of meetings with Kennedy cannot be dismissed. I found the two strongest parts of the book to be the narrative about the 1960 Democratic convention in LA, and the final (incredibly sad) chapter dealing with the assassination. Over fifty years later, reading what he wrote leading up to the fateful day in Dallas still gave me a distinct feeling of dread. This is the eighth Schlesinger book that I have read; the ending talking about his emotions upon being informed of JFK's assassination might be his best writing that I have read. It was very similar to how he concluded his biography of RFK - another one with a tragic ending. Grade: B-

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gordon Francisco

    It all began, as it ended, in the cold. And we were left without our hero and on our own...like sheep without their shepard...Why did you leave us, why did you die?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    A massive, detailed account of Kennedy’s time in office. Perhaps too detailed at some points; the book definitely gets into the policy weeds. Interesting if you find that level of detail interesting. Also does well to establish the state of the world in relation to each of the policies of the administration. So it’s a wonderful look at the state of national and world affairs at that time. Since it was published in 1965, it’s a nice contemporary look at the world during his presidency that’s not A massive, detailed account of Kennedy’s time in office. Perhaps too detailed at some points; the book definitely gets into the policy weeds. Interesting if you find that level of detail interesting. Also does well to establish the state of the world in relation to each of the policies of the administration. So it’s a wonderful look at the state of national and world affairs at that time. Since it was published in 1965, it’s a nice contemporary look at the world during his presidency that’s not tarnished with current politics or hindsight you’d find in something written about that period today.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elizete Nicolini

    Definitely the book is a complete and definitive portrait of John F. Kennedy and his administration. Besides that interesting details of political behind the scenes show how decisions are made, great learning of politics.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    The "insider" story is always an interesting one. From my few experiences reading books written by presidential aides, the one thing I've noticed is the tendency for the author to write about themselves instead of the subject readers are more interested in (case in point Sidney Blumenthal's "The Clinton Wars.") Schlesinger does not fall into this prose. His subject is clear and thorough, beginning with the nominating process selecting Kennedy as the presidential candidate in Los Angeles, 1960. T The "insider" story is always an interesting one. From my few experiences reading books written by presidential aides, the one thing I've noticed is the tendency for the author to write about themselves instead of the subject readers are more interested in (case in point Sidney Blumenthal's "The Clinton Wars.") Schlesinger does not fall into this prose. His subject is clear and thorough, beginning with the nominating process selecting Kennedy as the presidential candidate in Los Angeles, 1960. The long and short of it is that Schlesinger is a member of the Kennedy staff and simultaneously also a historian. Given this characterization his work can be seen as a piece that protects the Kennedy memory for the public. Considering the president's death in 1963, the book was written very quickly, a feat that is all the more remarkable given the depth and detail Schlesinger assigns to some choice events. This book is a good, straightforward introduction to the JFK White House albeit a forgiving and generous depiction.

  12. 5 out of 5

    JwW White

    Possibly the best book about Kennedy's White House years. Also see "Kennedy" by Ted Sorensen. Possibly the best book about Kennedy's White House years. Also see "Kennedy" by Ted Sorensen.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Arthur M. Schlessinger, Jr.'s book on the Kennedy Presidency is of interest to the historian of foreign policy and diplomacy if for no other reason than the fact that he was close enough to the internal workings of the American presidency that he could write a book of personal reminiscences which would qualify as a history. As one of a general outpouring of reminiscences in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination it has surprisingly retained its utility.1 Looking back in retrospect nearly 30 Arthur M. Schlessinger, Jr.'s book on the Kennedy Presidency is of interest to the historian of foreign policy and diplomacy if for no other reason than the fact that he was close enough to the internal workings of the American presidency that he could write a book of personal reminiscences which would qualify as a history. As one of a general outpouring of reminiscences in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination it has surprisingly retained its utility.1 Looking back in retrospect nearly 30 years after its publication, The Thousand Days still affords a valuable insider's account. Obviously written for the general educated public, the book has the additional advantage of historical writing has lost in the last several decades. The U.S.-Soviet Cold War dominates much of Schlessinger's account. Schlessinger shared (as well as shaped) the American Cold War consensus ideology during the years covered in this account. Within the context of this consensus he characterizes Kennedy as a consummate statesman, able to find the correct balance between diplomacy and the recourse to military force and - perhaps most importantly - able to learn from his mistakes. This "memoir" of the Kennedy Presidency, full of first hand accounts of diplomacy at the highest levels of government, also represents an attempt to draw "lessons" from American history. This book bears testimony to Schlessinger's important assumption about the Cold War, which - simply put - is that the Munich analogy applies to U.S.-Soviet relations. Though it would be unfair to characterize the book as Kennedy-worship pure and simple, there is a great deal to James MacGregor Burns' claim that Kennedy was astute enough to choose his own biographer. The Bay of Pigs, for instance, was Kennedy's "ordeal by fire" in which he learned the lessons vlhich allowed him to emerge successful from the Cuban missile crisis. Even from the jaws of defeat, Schlessinger allows his "hero" to snatch victory (and perhaps vindicate his own performance as author of the famous white paper on Cuba?). the prototypical statesman is the account of the Berlin Crisis of 1961. During the crisis Kennedy sought the advice of subordinates, yet maintained control over policy formulation at all times (in contrast to Eisenhower, who Schlessinger implies gave a free reign to John Foster Dulles). As tensions over Berlin mounted in the aftermath of the Kennedy-Khrushchev meeting in Vienna, Dean Acheson recommended sending an Army division along the corridor to West Berlin to demonstrate American resolve. Schlessinger and Kissinger stressed the need for more extensive attempts at diplomacy. Kennedy took a middle course, calling up the reserves but threatening no military action when the East Germans erected the wall. JFK also eschcalated hastily beginning negotiations with the Soviets. In the section entitled "Coda," with which Schlessinger concludes the chapter "Trial in Berlin," Schlessinger stresses the continuing process of education which Kennedy underwent in his attempt to combine high ideals with a "realistic" assessment of geopolitics. "The Berlin crisis of 1961 represented a further step beyond Laos in the education of the President in the controlled employment of force in the use of peace. One never knows, of course, what would have happened if Kennedy had ordered full mobilization, or if he had rushed straight into negotiation; but either extreme might well have invited Soviet miscalculation and ended in war. Instead he applied power and diplomacy in a combination and sequence which enabled him to guard the vital interests of the west and hold off the holocaust." (p. 404) According to Schlessinger, Kennedy struck just the right balance in his relationship with the Soviets over Berlin.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Val

    A valuable firsthand (mostly) account of JFK’s presidency. The title is somewhat of a misnomer, in that the author, a historian and advisor to JFK, did not limit his book to the thousand-days in the White House. The first 200+ pages contain a biographical sketch of JFK as well as an account of the 1960 presidential campaign, Democratic National Convention, the election, and the transition period leading up to the January 1961 inauguration. The almost book-length lead-in to JFK’s actual time in t A valuable firsthand (mostly) account of JFK’s presidency. The title is somewhat of a misnomer, in that the author, a historian and advisor to JFK, did not limit his book to the thousand-days in the White House. The first 200+ pages contain a biographical sketch of JFK as well as an account of the 1960 presidential campaign, Democratic National Convention, the election, and the transition period leading up to the January 1961 inauguration. The almost book-length lead-in to JFK’s actual time in the White House may be helpful for readers unfamiliar with JFK’s life before the White House, but his life to that point is covered in much greater detail in other biographies. The author bogs the reader down in these 200+ pages with overly-detailed explanations for each person JFK decided to appoint to transition team positions and later to various administrative and policy-making positions throughout too many government agencies. Most readers will not care about those appointments and few of the names, aside from key Cabinet members, became important to the history of JFK’s presidency. The most interesting aspect of the presidential transition period was Schlesinger’s comparisons of the Federal government under Eisenhower for 8 years with what the incoming administration wanted to achieve. This may seem like a strange start to a review of a book I rated 5 stars, but I did not deduct any stars for how Schlesinger chose to set the stage for the actual thousand days. The greatest value of this book is not really in those first 200+ pages anyway, and I wanted readers to know what to expect so they don’t give up and miss all of the detailed firsthand history that Schlesinger provides for JFK’s presidency. Schlesinger helped JFK craft many of his most defining speeches and policy decisions. Some chapters are better than others, and your enjoyment of each will depend greatly on your interest level for the chapter topics. Schlesinger takes a global view, detailing what was happening in hot-spots around the world and how these affected the new President’s thinking and decisions. Revolutions against colonialism in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia get detailed treatment, as each area played large roles in JFK’s foreign policy decisions relating to Communist expansion. The JFK administration took a different view of the Soviet Union and China than Eisenhower, and changed course in some Cold War policies. Schlesinger explains these in detail in the context of world politics, and whether you agree or disagree with his views, it is helpful to keep in mind that his thinking was representative in most cases of JFK’s views. Schlesinger does point out areas where JFK held views that surprised even some of his advisors, who adjusted their own thinking after implementing new policies and seeing the results. The best sections of this book are the detailed accounts of the Bay of Pigs, The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights fight, and how the US role in Vietnam escalated incrementally over time. Another interesting section is the account of how JFK’s assassination affected people and leaders in the USA and in many countries around the world. The author was not in Dallas on that fateful day, he was in D.C. working on speeches and topic briefings JFK would need in upcoming meetings and public appearances. However, the author met Air Force One for its somber return to Andrews AFB. His memories of that day and the funeral were poignant, and the book ends, like JFK’s life and presidency, abruptly. Firsthand accounts are valuable historical treasures, and Schlesinger left the world with this insightful tribute to JFK’s accomplishments and unfulfilled vision for the nation he served as a Sailor, Senator, and President.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shane

    I'd started and failed to finish this book years ago. I picked it up again, re-reading where I'd gotten to and continuing on, now in a time of a new president and a different Washington. In the end, this book is an imperfect lens for comparing then to now, but it is still fascinating. I was struck by the ways that civility and circumstance was so very different then. There were, of course, still bitter political disagreements, widely varying opinions, crises galore during the Kennedy years. But I'd started and failed to finish this book years ago. I picked it up again, re-reading where I'd gotten to and continuing on, now in a time of a new president and a different Washington. In the end, this book is an imperfect lens for comparing then to now, but it is still fascinating. I was struck by the ways that civility and circumstance was so very different then. There were, of course, still bitter political disagreements, widely varying opinions, crises galore during the Kennedy years. But the fundamental disrespect of the parties for each other was largely absent. Also, the anti-intellectualism, while endemic to American politics since the very beginning, was not so in evidence as it is today. On these pages, President Kennedy comes across as a thoughtful intellectual, and the argument is made that appearing so helped him politically. Altogether it was a different time. So many problems from the 1960s are still with us today - poverty, race relations and attacks on the system from the far left and far right (many of each were Democrats back then, believe it or not) at home; nuclear standoffs, strained relationships and a troubling balance of payments abroad. So much seems so very applicable to today. In brief, if you have an interest in the Kennedy years and haven't read this book you really need to. If you are wondering "What would JFK do?" there too this book can be a useful tool. You come away feeling like you know him better, albeit in an unfailingly positive light. (The author was a "New Frontiersman" serving in the administration and a strong admirer of Kennedy and his aims.) Despite the age of the book, the proximity to the end of the Kennedy years curtailing any real perspective and analysis, and this being further complicated by the very sympathetic author, this is a book worth the time of anyone interested in the period.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pete daPixie

    'Kennedy' from Sorensen and 'A Thousand Days' by Schlesinger were both published in 1965 and both must remain today as the most intimate and erudite treatments of John F. Kennedy's tenure in the White House. 'A Thousand Days' consumes almost a thousand pages which I have spent the past week or so fully engrossed in, and causing my Goodreads reading challenge to fall further behind schedule. Both Schlesinger and Sorensen, who were both close and impassioned collaborators in JFK's presidency, could 'Kennedy' from Sorensen and 'A Thousand Days' by Schlesinger were both published in 1965 and both must remain today as the most intimate and erudite treatments of John F. Kennedy's tenure in the White House. 'A Thousand Days' consumes almost a thousand pages which I have spent the past week or so fully engrossed in, and causing my Goodreads reading challenge to fall further behind schedule. Both Schlesinger and Sorensen, who were both close and impassioned collaborators in JFK's presidency, could be burdened with the liability of not offering a truly objective treatise. Both works were published in the immediate period after Kennedy's first term in office ended in tragedy and therefore these seasoned scholars wrote fresh and touching political biographies. If Schlesinger's personal memoir of his times spent close to the Oval Office are viewed with the benefit of the passing decades, with their revelations and disclosures, (see 'An Unfinished Life' by Robert Dallek) there are many issues missing from this learned historians account.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This was the longest and one of the best books I have read in quite some time. This was a biography of Kennedy and his years as President written by his advisor Arthur Schlesinger Jr. This was a very detailed book that focused mostly on foreign affairs but did mix in a few chapters on domestic issues. My favorite chapters and passages dealt with how Kennedy lived his day to day life in the White House and about his intellect and intellectual curiosity. The book was definitely biased in favor of This was the longest and one of the best books I have read in quite some time. This was a biography of Kennedy and his years as President written by his advisor Arthur Schlesinger Jr. This was a very detailed book that focused mostly on foreign affairs but did mix in a few chapters on domestic issues. My favorite chapters and passages dealt with how Kennedy lived his day to day life in the White House and about his intellect and intellectual curiosity. The book was definitely biased in favor of Kennedy, but at least in terms of his actions, there were some criticisms in places. However, overall Schlesinger loved just about everything about Kennedy and defends him in almost all cases. Highly recommended read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Not for the casual historical reader. Exhaustively thorough, expecially in areas of the presidency one tends to forget about or gloss over. The recurring theme for getting things done is timing. A president has to look at his support and especially his oppostion in choosing when, how much and even if proposing legislation or departmental realignments will have any chance of going through. No photos in this volume. At over 1000 pages, it's also by no means a quick read. But it is a rewarding one. Not for the casual historical reader. Exhaustively thorough, expecially in areas of the presidency one tends to forget about or gloss over. The recurring theme for getting things done is timing. A president has to look at his support and especially his oppostion in choosing when, how much and even if proposing legislation or departmental realignments will have any chance of going through. No photos in this volume. At over 1000 pages, it's also by no means a quick read. But it is a rewarding one.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Patricio Ramos

    A detailed and personal account of John F. Kennedy's presidency from a man deeply trusted and considered a close friend by the President. JFK was indubitably the last truly great President of the United States, and the country (and perhaps the world) awaits someone with his energy, moral strength, and excellence. One wonders how much would be different had his life not been cut so short. His death is still grieved by many, his presence and leadership missed even by those Americans (including mys A detailed and personal account of John F. Kennedy's presidency from a man deeply trusted and considered a close friend by the President. JFK was indubitably the last truly great President of the United States, and the country (and perhaps the world) awaits someone with his energy, moral strength, and excellence. One wonders how much would be different had his life not been cut so short. His death is still grieved by many, his presence and leadership missed even by those Americans (including myself) who were not then alive.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This is pretty good, but it’s 1000+ so put on your adult pants and saddle up. Despite being tightly involved in the Kennedy administration, he takes JFK to task for a number of miscues and debacles from the Bay of Pigs to playing politics with civil rights. No huge “take downs” but nothing is swept under the rug. This covers everything though: Latin America, Cuba, Russia, nuclear treaties, civil rights, Laos, Vietnam, tax cuts, his nomination and more.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rex

    Highly recommended. I like to read history, and reading about something in my life time seems so much more Germane and fascinating. I was undecided about kennedy but had never really studied him. I went to his library last week and got this on Kindle there after. I started with the Vietnam war because I wanted to figure out his thought process. Then went to Cuba. And I enjoyed it so much I went back to the beginning and started over. It is fantastic.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bob Koelle

    Way too much in the day-to-day weeds for anyone unless you're doing in-depth reasearch on how decisions were made for almost everything that happened during the 1960 campaign and the consequent administration. Do you want to know which advisors went into which hotel room to talk to and persuade someone to talk to someone else to get them to make a phone call and speak with.... Like that. Way too much in the day-to-day weeds for anyone unless you're doing in-depth reasearch on how decisions were made for almost everything that happened during the 1960 campaign and the consequent administration. Do you want to know which advisors went into which hotel room to talk to and persuade someone to talk to someone else to get them to make a phone call and speak with.... Like that.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    NPR discussion about some of the first political tell all books. This one came into criticism immediately since it came out so soon after his death http://www.wbur.org/npr/640793624/wha... NPR discussion about some of the first political tell all books. This one came into criticism immediately since it came out so soon after his death http://www.wbur.org/npr/640793624/wha...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    Exhaustive in its detail, Schlesinger recounts the Kennedy presidency from his personal memories in the White House. Would highly recommend for any Kennedy enthusiasts or any person who would like an up close detailing of the political landscape of the early 1960's. Exhaustive in its detail, Schlesinger recounts the Kennedy presidency from his personal memories in the White House. Would highly recommend for any Kennedy enthusiasts or any person who would like an up close detailing of the political landscape of the early 1960's.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mckochan

    3.5 really. Really bogs down in spots describing every single person he's ever met, but also really interesting first hand accounts. Lots of foreign policy, not as much domestic. 3.5 really. Really bogs down in spots describing every single person he's ever met, but also really interesting first hand accounts. Lots of foreign policy, not as much domestic.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    A classic - just going through my library and adding books I read long before Goodreads.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robert Hedges

    He makes history come alive and he was an insider in JFK administration.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Janie A. Hutchison

    Very enlightening. Debunked several issues taken for granted regarding President Kennedy. This book was written for serious Historians as well as Political intellectuals. There is no gossip here.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jim Swike

    A great read from a primary source. Great source for reference. I will always wonder "What If...". Enjoy! A great read from a primary source. Great source for reference. I will always wonder "What If...". Enjoy!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Den

    Way too deep and all over the place. I had really hoped that I would like this book, but had to give up.

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