On Tuesday, September 9, Dr. Edmund Wehrle, professor of history, delivered the keynote address at the opening reception for Booth Library’s fall semester exhibition and event series, “Revolutionary Decade: Reflections on the 1960s.”
Professor Wehrle’s talk, “No Problem of Human Destiny is Beyond Human Beings”: John F. Kennedy and the Spirit of the 1960s,” addressed how although President John F. Kennedy remains synonymous with the youthful, activist spirit of the global 1960s, most historians view the 35th president as an aggressive, cold warrior who endangered the world and as a conservative Democrat who proved painfully slow to respond to the challenge of the civil rights movement. Dr. Wehrle noted how in truth, Kennedy was barely a liberal and certainly no radical. International communism, Kennedy believed, presented a grave, existential threat, and he showed little real interest in domestic reform. Nevertheless, Professor Wehrle pointed out how Kennedy’s rhetoric and carefully cultivated image inspired many — especially young people around the world — and in that sense helped inspire the tumult and even the revolutionary spirit of the 1960s.