May 22, 2013
JFK GAVE VIEWS ON CIVIL RIGHTS, CORPORAL PUNISHMENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES 50 YEARS AGO TODAY
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) In his news conference at the State Department here in the Nation's Capital 50 years ago, May 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy gave his views on civil rights, corporal punishment and potential Republican presidential candidates in 1964.
President John F. Kennedy
State Department Auditorium
January 15, 1962
JFK Library Photo
The first question he was asked was...
"How do you regard the Alabama Governor's...intention to block the integration of the University of Alabama?"
The President said he was hopeful that Governor George Wallace and the state of Alabama would follow the example of "every other state in the country" which had already "integrated their state university."
President Kennedy reminded the reporter that the University of Alabama Board of Trustees had indicated their willingness to abide by orders of the Court in the matter of integration.
"I am obligated to carry out the court order. I would hope the Governor's (decision)...to carry out our dispute in the courts indicates he will accept the judgment of the court."
Another question came from a reporter who wanted to know what the President's views were on corporal punishment in the schools of the District of Columbia.
"We have to think about our own children, and we are rather reluctant...to have other people administering punishment to our...children (but)...it puts a special obligation upon us (as parents)...to send children out from our homes who accept the idea of discipline."
And he added...
"So I would not be for corporal punishment in the school, but I would be for very strong discipline at home."
With the 1964 presidential campaign looming on the horizon, a reporter asked the President if he thought Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, Governor George Romney of Michigan and Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona "looked like (potential presidential) candidates" and what his own plans were in that regard.
President Kennedy responded...
"If the spirit of the party comes to them, they will answer the call and I would say that is about my position too."
The White House press corps erupted in laughter.
"Kennedy and the Press: The News Conferences," edited and annotated by Harold W. Chase and Allen H. Lerman, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1965.
In an oral history interview at the JFK Library, Press Secretary Pierre Salinger says...
"When President Kennedy started televised press conferences there were only 3 or 4 newspapers...that carried a full transcript. Therefore, what people read was a distillation. We thought they should have the opportunity to see it in full."
John F. Kennedy held 64 news conferences during his tenure as President of the United States, one every sixteen days.