Kennedy campaign issues remain

By Stephanie Danner

President John F. Kennedy is often remembered for his service to his country, and although his time was cut short, members of the SIU community are working to bring his legacy to light.

The “Remembering JFK” kickoff event took place Thursday night, and was the first in a series to honor what Kennedy did and look to the future of the country in light of his legacy. The events lead up to Nov. 22, the 50-year anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas. The Undergraduate Student Government at SIU co-sponsored the events with the Graduate and Professional Student Council, the Students for Peace and Democracy and the Southern Illinoisan.

Kennedy’s values and goals eased the growing tension among American citizens during his term as president and demonstrated his active and optimistic dream for peace, Carbondale Mayor Joel Fritzler said Thursday.


“Kennedy’s dream for peace, along with his civic spirit, really touched me growing up,” Friztler said.

Thursday was also the anniversary of Kennedy’s 1960 visit to SIU. As part of his 1960 presidential campaign, Kennedy gave the SIU community ideas about his solution to the problems many Americans were facing.

In Kennedy’s speech, he proposed challenges that Americans continue to face today, said John Stewart, a graduate student in historical studies from Chicago and GPSC vice president for Graduate School Affairs.

Stewart stressed the importance of remembering Kennedy’s original solution, especially now.

“At the time of Kennedy’s speech, America was in the middle of a cold war with Russia and the civil rights movement was in full steam which was forcing America to face a long-standing inequality because of the color of one’s skin,” he said. “Today we also find ourselves dealing with similar issues. The threat comes to us in the form of terrorism rather than communism. The civil rights now includes conversations about one’s sexual preference, and unemployment remains a major concern as we pull ourselves out of our own recession.”

Kennedy also spoke of unemployment rates in his 1960 speech. He believed the U.S. needed all its members working because the nation was fighting communism. He said if every member of society could function, it would make American stronger against the communist forces.

“We need the full-time services of all our people. It is ridiculous that a nation which is in a race for its life with Russia cannot find full-time use for the talents and energies of seven million people,” Kennedy said in his 1960 speech.


SIU Chancellor Rita Cheng said Kennedy’s desire for a full workforce promoted a more active society.

“I have great, great memories of the John F. Kennedy legacy,” Cheng said. “Mostly because of the impression that I had from the emotion that my parents felt because of him being elected president.”

Stewart said people should still have the opportunity for full-time employment, adding that it is just as important today as it was 53 years ago. The American people need to be strong and active in community so they can stand the fight against terrorism such as in Kennedy’s day, he said.

For example, Kennedy believed if people were in union with the government then they could do great things for their country and overcome challenges posed by a war against communism.

“I think something must be done about it (unemployment) by the government. The United States has a vital stake in the strength and productivity of every region.” Kennedy said in his speech. “This region’s richest resource is its people. And what they want is a chance to participate fully in our great national effort.”

Stewart said it is just as important now for the government and the people to work together to solve the unemployment problems of today, and it is time for people to get involved in their government as SIU President Glenn Poshard did in the 1960s.

From 1962 to 1965, Poshard served in the U.S. Army, acting as a specialist in Korea.

“So for whatever reason in that electric election in 1960, I was involved. I wanted to be involved. And later as I was walking guard duty in Korea in the middle of the night, I would be reciting Kennedy’s speeches to myself,” Poshard said. “And I want to share with you some of the excitement we felt as a young generation. We were implored to change the world in which we lived.”

Poshard said he can still recall listening to every dinner conversation between his mother and father about how Kennedy’s election saved them and enabled them to raise their family.

Kennedy’s impact also related to civil rights, especially the 1960s strife between blacks and whites. Adrian Miller, Undergraduate Student Government president, discussed Kennedy’s attempt to abolish the inequality within the United States.

Miller said today some of the same inequality is seen among people seeking a sexual lifestyle alternative to heterosexuality. He pointed to a suggestion that Kennedy offered to inequality that is relevant to today’s issues.

“If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity,” Kennedy said in his speech.

Other events will include an Oct. 26 presentation by film historian Joseph McBride, author of “Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J.D. Tippit.” The presentation will take place at 7 p.m. in the Student Center Auditorium. There will also be a “Who Killed JFK?” debate at 7 p.m. on Nov. 12 in the Student Center Auditorium.

For more information, please visit the “Remembering JFK” Facebook page, available at

Stephanie Danner can be reached at [email protected] 

or 536-3311 ext. 256