Earliest JFK Recording Hints at What Was to Come

Harvard releases short speech from a class in 1937
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2017 7:40 AM CDT
Updated May 12, 2017 8:00 AM CDT

John F. Kennedy the president may have had a Boston accent, but John F. Kennedy the student had an even thicker one. Harvard has a released a 1937 recording of Kennedy as a 20-year-old in a public-speaking class, and the 90-second clip is believed to be the earliest recording of the future president, reports WBUR. "My name is John F. Kennedy," he begins, and then goes on to discuss FDR's appointment of Hugo Black to the Supreme Court. The pick became controversial over allegations that Black had ties to the Ku Klux Klan. "We all know the circumstances surrounding Mr. Black's appointment to the Supreme Court," Kennedy says.

The New York Times offers a critique: Kennedy starts strong but then stumbles and stammers a bit. So maybe not scintillating oratory, but he differentiated himself from the rest of his classmates, who chose more frivolous topics such as baking sourdough bread. "That is what struck us," the university archivist says. "At this point, he was probably thinking of government as a major." The Times adds an interesting footnote: The man who would go on to instruct Americans to ask not what their country could do for them got the course average: C+. (President Trump has a big decision to make regarding secret JFK files.)

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