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The role of cultural context in making John Kennedy an American icon

Farrell, Jill (2022) The role of cultural context in making John Kennedy an American icon. Masters thesis, York St John University.

Text (MA by Research thesis)
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President John Kennedy is an American icon whose popularity defies critical opinion of his achievements whilst in office. Kennedy has come to symbolise more than his politics, he represents a moment in time when the United States was full of hope and Americans felt good about themselves. To understand how Kennedy came to be the ‘man of the hour’, this thesis explores the cultural context of Kennedy’s evolution as a politician, his impact on that
culture, and how subsequent cultural changes have served to enhance his memory. Insight into Kennedy’s personal and political life are provided by oral histories, records and
personal papers at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Contemporary magazines, newspapers, television programmes and newsreel furnish the cultural background and reveal the impact Kennedy had on society. The key influences on Kennedy were his family dynamics, and a need to win and appear tough. His father’s wealth and understanding of the value of image ensured that Kennedy was politically marketed to suit a new post-war electorate. Within the emerging consumer culture of 1950s America, Kennedy presented an aspirational and inspirational figure. His style generated a unique and eventful presidency, during which he was portrayed as the hero. Following his death, the postKennedy decade reveals a country consumed by the Vietnam war and a counter-culture movement that challenged American values, making the Kennedy years seem a halcyon time. This exploration of the cultural context allows us to understand why and how Kennedy resonated with the American electorate. It goes beyond policy and political crises to examine why Kennedy continues to be American icon.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Status: Published
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General)
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/7398

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