Volume 30, Issue 1/2, 2018
The American Experiment: A Republic, If You Can Keep It
Michael E. Meagher
Democracy on Trial
John F. Kennedy’s Political Thought
A remarkable political figure, John F. Kennedy contributed also to political theory focusing on community, sacrifice, and effective national leadership. Coming of age in the build-up to World War II, Kennedy’s early views were framed by the inability of Western democracies to meet totalitarian challenges. As his political career developed, JFK maintained a stance favorable to strong national leadership as a way of overcoming the individualism and self-centered aspects of modern life. A keen believer in service, community, and sacrifice, his famous “Ask not” moment of his 1961 Inaugural Address was informed by a concern with renewing American democracy. With a weakening of the social contract and increased political dysfunctionality in the twenty-first century, the political thought of the thirty-fifth president still speaks to us with its emphasis on courage, leadership, civil society, and the quest for national unity.