The New Kennedy: Barack Obama

Mia Becker

Picture this: a presidential debate. The Democratic candidate: bright, young, charismatic; confident and poised with his statements, but not arrogant. He speaks of great hope about the future. The other candidate: a Republican, much older than his opponent, tense and nervous, whose comments demonstrate a great disconnect towards the current issues.
Such topics in the debates were a war, the economy, and future education of the American people. The public wondered “Which candidate, and which party, can meet the problems the United States is going to face?”

Any of this sound familiar? These statements and observations come directly from the John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon debates in 1960, but such things can also be clearly recalled from the presidential debates between Barack Obama and John McCain. Comparisons between John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama have been mentioned frequently throughout the race to the White House. Comedian Chris Rock mentions Obama in his new HBO special, Kill the Messenger.” Barack is so calm and cool, sometimes I think he doesn’t even realize he’s the black Kennedy!”

So why all the comparisons? Well, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama have many things in common.

Without turning this article into a full essay, here are just a few key points.

John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States of America, is the youngest elected president at the age of 43. Barack Obama is quite young himself at 47.

They both attended Harvard University; Kennedy enrolled in Harvard’s undergraduate program, and Obama attended Harvard Law.

Obama and Kennedy are both published authors; John F. Kennedy wrote Profiles in Courage (1956), and Barack Obama published two best sellers: Dreams from My Father (1995), and The Audacity of Hope (2006).

Most notably, both Kennedy and Obama have been figures in America’s pop culture, almost emitting a rock star-like quality about them. To be said of the Kennedys, “Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, were younger in comparison to presidents and first ladies that preceded them, and both were popular in ways more common to pop singers and movie stars than politicians, influencing fashion trends and becoming the subjects of numerous photo spreads in popular magazines.” The media is present in everyday events now more than ever. Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, and their two young children have been in photo spreads for Rolling Stone, Ok! Magazine, and People Magazine. Barack Obama has been featured on popular TV shows like Saturday Night Live, David Letterman, Conan O’ Brien, Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Colbert Report.

Similarities between Kennedy and Obama reach across the gender divide. It’s been said that behind every great man is a great woman. This statement certainly holds true for Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama. Kennedy was praised for being a timeless fashion icon, social figure, young woman, and mother of two young children (Caroline and JFK Jr.). This year, Michelle Obama was voted one of the ”Best Dressed” women by People Magazine’s 2008 poll. What does Michelle Obama think of the comparison to Jackie Kennedy? “Well, that’s very flattering.” In addition, only a few moments after Obama’s victory, comments were circulating about Michelle’s dress: “it’s actually fun to see what Michelle Obama is going to wear. You can tell she really loves clothes,” said Jennifer Romolini of Shine, “I predict that, along with a very charismatic president, we’re in for four years of impeccable, interesting style from our first lady the likes of which haven’t been seen since Jackie Kennedy.”

Besides fashion trends, the common family bonds between The Kennedys and The Obamas are strong. The dedication of Michelle Obama to her and Barack’s two young children (daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7) is very apparent. “The campaign repeatedly said she never spent more than a night away from her children, and they never missed school or a soccer game because mom was helping dad run for president,” said Martha T. Moore of USA Today.

Amongst facts and figures, the most important aspect of this year’s General Election is the high level of participation by American voters. Numbers like these (about a 67%) haven’t been seen since Kennedy ran against Nixon in 1960. USA Today reported, “Voting experts said turnout could match or exceed the high-water mark set in 1960, when Democrat John Kennedy faced Republican Richard Nixon and nearly 64% of eligible citizens voted.” The power of the people is what made the election possible. Barack Obama spoke to an elated crowd in downtown Chicago in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Nov. 5: “To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done. But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you.” About the American Dream he stated, “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

A time where many questioned whether a young, passionate Democrat was too inexperienced, whether this would be the right direction for our country, the famous words of John F. Kennedy still radiate today: “We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning–signifying renewal, as well as change.. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty…The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” The answer? Barack Obama.

Electing Barack Obama is what we did for our country. Forty years later, the United States of America is proud to welcome home the new American family, the elected first family, and the new Kennedy: the forty-fourth President-elect Mr. Barack Obama. Change has finally come to America.