Thursday, October 30, 2014



Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Today we continue our review of Benjamin C. Bradlee's* article "He Had That Special Grace" from Newsweek's Special Section in its issue dated December 2, 1963.

The section of Mr. Bradlee's article that we will discuss today is titled An Appetite for Life.

It begins...

"John Kennedy was a hungry man, ravenous sometimes for the nourishment he found in the life he led and the people he loved.  This was both literally and figuratively true."

Bradlee tells us that JFK could down 10 bowls of his favorite dish, fish chowder, "without indigestion or embarrassment,"  and while, unlike FDR or IKE, the President did not smoke cigarettes, he could..."chain-smoke three cigars when the spirit moved him."

As many of us know and Mr. Bradlee points out, his good friend had a legendary ability to "devour the written word."   

JFK had taken a speed reading course years before he became president and if I recall correctly could read up to a thousand words per minute.  Newsman Sander Vanocur once said that a newspaper or magazine was "not safe" to be left lying around Air Force One.

Bradlee continues...

"John Kennedy was a graceful man, his movements---walking, swimming, or swinging a golf club--and had that special grace of the intellect that is taste."

JFK, who has been rated as the best golfer of all the presidents, loved playing the game.  Newsweek included a photograph of his "sweet swing" with the article.

Bradlee adds that while JFK was a man of great humor, "he could not bring himself to be 'corny' at a time when 'corniness' (was) a hallmark of American politics."

This is where the contrast between Kennedy and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, is the greatest.  LBJ reveled in "corniness."  So much so that JFK's assistants sometimes referred to Vice-President Johnson and his wife Lady Bird as "Colonel Cornpone and his Little Pork Chop."

Believe me, JFK would have NEVER shown the press a scar on his chest left from surgery or held his dog up by the ears for the world to see.

Mr. Bradlee concludes this section by writing that Senator Kennedy used the expression "Jackie and I" only once during the 1960 campaign and "that was enough to embarrass him."

"(JFK) was a student of graceful expression, and had been since he started collecting rhetoric in a small, black leather book before the war."

The Bradlees and The Kennedys
Newport Country Club
Photo by Robert Knudsen
JFK Library Image

We will continue our look at "He Had That Special Grace" in tomorrow's post.


"He Had That Special Grace...," by Benjamin Bradlee, Newsweek Magazine, December 2, 1963.

Benjamin C. Bradlee
by Miguel Ariel Contreras