A 2014 biography written by esteemed author, Andrew Cohen, details two days in June 1963 that made US history. Many people have not heard this amazing story about the most iconic modern-day President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Although President Kennedy only served just over 1,000 days in the White House over 40,000 books and novels have been written about him.
This biography is different than them all. Author Andrew Cohen details the story of two days in June 1963. On these days President Kennedy delivered the most compelling and important speeches of his presidency, about the two most important issues of the decade: racism and nuclear arms control.
The speech that Kennedy gave on June 10th, 1963 changed America for the better. He asked his fellow Americans to view the Russians as “human beings”. Kennedy goes on to say that he wants peace with the Russians. He says that the Soviets are yearning for peace just as much as Americans. He details peace and calls out the Soviet Premier to discuss a treaty that would end nuclear arms testing. Just 6 weeks after this influential and amazing speech is given at American University, the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963 is signed. This is the kind of strength that speeches have. Speeches are not just words. They are a call to action.
The speech that the 35th POTUS gave the very next day would have a different impact. Just earlier in the day, Alabama Governor George Wallace attempted to block two African American students to enroll at the University of Alabama for the Class of 1967. Kennedy and his staff became enraged at Wallace. Back in Washington, the decision to address the nation from the most iconic office in the world was floated and discussed. All but one of Kennedy’s advisors had advised him to address the nation that night. The one person was his own brother and Attorney General, Robert Kennedy. Kennedy believed that it was necessary for him to address the nation that night.
His speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen, only had two hours to write the speech. Little did he know that the very speech that he was scrambling to write would make history. Nevertheless, Kennedy addressed the nation that night about race issues. In the speech, Kennedy told the American people that freedom belonged to everyone, regardless of whether they are black, white, Hispanic, or Asian. Kennedy pressed for equality of the races and freedom for all. The speech received praise from civil rights advocate, Martin Luther King jr. King had criticized Kennedy for his inability to discuss the pressing issue. This speech transformed the movement for equality and was called by many as “the most important speech of JFK’s presidency”.
Two Days in June provides phenomenal insight into the extraordinary mind of the 35th POTUS during these pressing 48 hours. These two speeches changed American history for the better. Many say that actions speak louder than words. They are right. However, words lead to action. Without words, there is no action.