President Kennedy's image in popular culture and the classroom.

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Taylor, Charles
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Middle Tennessee State University
The purpose of this research is to examine an enduring Kennedy mystique and develop a teaching strategy that helps people to understand a powerful mythology that holds John Kennedy as an exalted national hero. Surveys consistently rank Kennedy as the most popular President among the general public, and President Kennedy remains prominent in the media, literature, and popular culture while the memory of many other presidents has faded into obscurity.
The thesis of this research is that despite critical assessment of John Kennedy's presidency offered by many historians, a powerful mythology holds President Kennedy as an exalted national hero. The popular mythology originated in the conscious use of modern media and by Kennedy's assassination. By becoming more aware of mythic dimensions of JFK's image, students can however develop a more historical understanding of the Kennedy presidency.
This study relied on diverse primary sources such as The New York Times, Dallas Morning News, U.S. News and World Report, while also utilizing comments of tourists at The Sixth Floor Museum, in Dallas, Texas, photographs of President Kennedy and his family, and the motion picture, JFK. Major secondary sources include Kennedy biographers Thomas Reeves, Richard Reeves, Theodore White, and William Manchester.
JFK and his associates carefully laid the seeds of a powerful popular image. Kennedy manipulated the print media through rewards and punishments and skillfully used television, projecting himself as a heroic, poised, likeable, and intelligent figure. President Kennedy's TV acumen made him into more of a celebrity and less of a traditional politician.
Kennedy's assassination and symbolic actions during the civil rights movement added to JFK's existing heroic persona. Photographs with blacks and emotionally compelling messages made President Kennedy appear as a paternalistic liberator to African Americans. Moreover, his slaying evoked a sympathy that circumvented a more critical analysis of John Kennedy's death, further promoting him as a martyr and great man.
The teaching model in this research focuses on factors that promoted JFK's heroic persona. Moreover, various pedagogical methods in this study help people to understand the nature of Kennedy's heroism and what this heroic persona suggests about contemporary politics.