Mayo Clinic Proceedings Home

Young John F. Kennedy Visits Rochester, Minn

      To the Editor: The recent untimely deaths of John F. Kennedy, Jr, his wife, and his sister-in-law have produced an outpouring of sentiment regarding the tragic events connected with the Kennedy family. Scattered among these recollections have been stories about John's father, former President John F. Kennedy. A poignant, relatively unknown story relates to a visit he made to Rochester, Minn, in August 1940.
      At that time, Kennedy had just published his first book, Why England Slept
      • Kennedy JF
      . During the next 2 decades, the volume became a best seller, and 6 editions were published. Interestingly, in the foreword of the 1961 edition, Henry R. Luce opined that the small volume's message was as vital then as it was when it was first printed.
      Kennedy's 1940 visit to Rochester was documented in an evening interview broadcast by a local radio station on August 13. Review of a disk recording of the event reveals some interesting insights into the thoughts of the 23-year-old Kennedy, whose father was then the ambassador to the Court of St. James's. Young John Kennedy had just finished his studies at Harvard, and the book was the thesis that earned him graduation honors in international relations. For the next 3 years, Kennedy planned to study law at Yale University.
      In the radio interview, Kennedy was asked about any lessons that could be learned from England's slow awakening to the Nazi threat. In response, he stressed that we must always keep our armaments equal to our commitments and that any bluff will certainly be called.
      Early in the interview, Kennedy was asked what his plans were for the future. He answered prophetically: “Well, I don't know exactly yet. I am interested more or less in working some time in my life for the government, but I haven't really decided as yet.”

      Uncited Reference

        • Kennedy JF
        Why England Slept. Wilfred Funk, New York, NY1940