A comparison of John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama

Seminar Paper, 2013

18 Pages, Grade: noch nicht bekannt



1. Introduction

2. Principal part
2.1 CVs of both men
2.1.1 Kennedy’s Life
2.1.2 Obama’s Life
2.1.3 The comparison of both CVs
2.2. The different social backgrounds
2.2.1 Kennedy’s social background
2.2.2 Obama’s social background
2.2.3 Comparison of both social backgrounds
2.3.1 Historical Background of Kennedy
2.3.2 Historical Background of Barack Obama
2.3.3 Comparison of the historical backgrounds
2.4 Expectations on both politicians
2.5. The political careers
2.5.1 The political career of Kennedy
2.5.2 The political career of Obama
2.5.3 Comparison of both careers

3. Conclusion.

1. Introduction

Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy, what do they have in common?

In 2008 a promise of hope and change, especially for Americans, but also for all others went around the world. “Yes, We Can” was a synonym for the “American Dream”. It was first said by a candidate of the Democratic Party, who wanted to become the first African American president. But Obama was not the first politician, who wanted to follow the citizen’s wish for improvement of an old system and more humanity. Fourty six years before, another man told all Americans, that “We Can Do Better”. The meaning and choice of words is quite similar. Both talked about solidarity, a wind of change and equality of all people, because “We” means everybody without exceptions.

But is it only the slogan, which shows similarities of both or do they have more in common than this? And why is research and knowledge about it necessary?

In my opinion we should have a constant awareness and knowledge about failures and procedures in the past, also in foreign affairs, in view of their influence on our current and future situation. As the biggest economic and military power, the United States of America have had huge influence on Europe and the rest of the world.

To understand and analyse America’s policy, it is best to focus on its head of state, the president.

So, I concentrate on the current democratic president Barack Obama by comparing him to the former democratic president John F. Kennedy. Often Barack Obama is called the black Kennedy, as a person on whom hopes are focused like on Kennedy in the past. To analyse more deeply, biographies made by their companions and contemporary journalists are needed. Internet platforms and blogs give also interesting insights and points of criticism, which are partly sabotaged by public authorities or by the Kennedy Clan. By enquiry on the current president a very low amount of information about his private life and his background is officially known.

Initially, I will focus on the CV’s of both politicians and compare them by important criteria like school career as well as personal situation, e.g. marriage and political career. Subsequently, their charismatic abilities and appearance will be analysed and demonstrated by examples in order to compare differences and similarities. Expectations on Kennedy and Obama and their reaction to this challenge will also be shown. Additionally, I will illustrate what citizens thought of their presidents after some times of their government. I would also like to elucidate Kennedy’s and Obama’s response to criticism. Due to this their character will be analysed. All reactions and political actions are consequences of the memory of a person. So the different social classes and historic reviews of both politicians will be determined and compared to get deeper into the state of mind of both men. Moreover, in the fifth point of argumentation the family backgrounds are compared, which are quite contrary. In the last point, I will compare their political career and approach of Kennedy and Obama in detail.

Last but not least, a resume will follow, with a brief conclusion of differences and similarities between Kennedy and Obama. The politic activity of Kennedy and the current influence on global political system of Obama will be set in relation.

2. Principal part

The principal part of my work is structured as follows. Primarily I will inform in detail about Kennedy then followed by Obama. Subsequently there will be a conclusion of each headword that will be summarised according to the preceding information.

To begin with the principal part, it is the best to get a short overview of John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama, before going more deeply into their states of mind.

2.1 CVs of both men

In order to first gain an extensive insight of both men, the following passage will concentrate on the lives of both politicians in general. Therefore I will illustrate their lives separately with focus on childhood, schools, university studies and their latter career in the Democratic Party.

2.1.1 Kennedy’s Life

First of all I will give an overview of Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America and the first and last catholic one until today. On May 29th 1917 John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts as a child of the banker and entrepreneur Joseph Patrick and his wife Rose Kennedy. He graduated from high school. After six years at the London School of Economics and the Princeton University/USA, he quit his studies due to his poor physical condition. Later he registered at the Harvard University, where he finished his studies of politic society with an examination about the “Münchner Abkommen” in 1938. He assumed that the Allies had waited too long at military upgrading and expected the “Appeasement” policy as a try to delay the Second World War. In 1940 the essay “Why England Slept” was published and became best seller. Due to his poor health condition and insufficient military abilities, he started his military career with the help of some of his father’s friends. Due to a love affair with a suspected German spy, he was fired. Again with the help of his father, he had been assigned to the command of a speedboat (PT 109) in 1943. After the boat was captured by a Japanese vessel, he rescued his team with help of natives. Kennedy guided his men to an island and contacted rescue services. Later he was assigned as a “Hero” and was honoured by the military administration. After his military career he worked as a correspondent for Hearst-Press until 1946. Again he had to stop this work, due to his illness. Eventually he started his political career and was elected to the Senate, where he was responsible for law employment and foreign affairs. (taken from Ronald D. Gerste; JFK 100 questions – 100 answers) In September 1953, Kennedy married Jaqueline Bouvier, with whom he had 3 children. They had been seen as a perfect couple. Due to his outstanding charisma he won the presidential election against Richard Nixon and became the first catholic president in January 1961. Even though, there were discrepancies with poll votes, Nixon had abandoned new polls. As a result of the Cold War the biggest arms programme in the history of America had been initiated during Kennedy’s presidential term. In order to demonstrate strength, federal authorities for development aid and military disarmament were introduced. Furthermore Kennedy had to deal with many conflicts abroad as well as in America. The Cuba Crisis in 1962, America’s attendance in the Vietnam-War in 1963 and the African-American Civil Rights Movement, which started in 1955, had been big historic events demanding decisions from the president. On 22th November 1963 Kennedy was shot while driving through Dallas in a convertible car. Rumours say that Kennedy was killed by the C.I.A in order to stop his destructive and uneconomic policy. (taken from Jim Garrison; On the Trail of the Assassins)

2.1.2 Obama’s Life

Secondly I will go on with Barack Obama, the 44th President and the first African-American President of the USA. On 4th of August 1961 Barack Obama was born in Honolulu/Hawaii as a child of the Kenyan Barack Obama Senior and Ann Dunham, an American anthropologist. Since he was 3 years old, his parents had been divorced and Barack and his mother moved to Indonesia because of a new man of his mother. After he had lived there for several years and had attended several local schools, he went back to his Hawaii in 1971, where he was further educated by his grandparents. When he was older, he went to New York and graduated school. Obama started to study law at Harvard Law School, where he became the first African American President of “Harvard Law Review”, a law newspaper. Obama started to study law at Harvard Law School, where he became the first African American President of the “Harvard Law Review”, a law newspaper. Later on Obama left University to work in a commercial concern for two years to get practical experiences in his subject. In contrast to this, he became a volunteer civil rights lawyer and an organiser in municipality, where he gained great respect. In 1992 Barack Obama married his wife Michelle with whom he had two children. For five years he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago until he became a member of the Illinois’ State Senate in 1997. Five years later he was assigned as a Democratic senator to the U.S. Senate, where he was responsible for social issues, health care and working life questions. Additionally Barack Obama was involved in foreign affairs. From 2005 to 2006 he was a member of an ecologic committee.

In January 2009 he became the first African American president after a successful presidential campaign against his republican rival John McCain. Later to his first four years presidential term with big political ups and downs, he could win the elections again by defeating the Republican contender Mitt Romney this time. Furthermore, he ordered the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, which had also been a big target of George Bush Jun. (taken from Merkur-online, Barack Hussein Obama)

2.1.3 The comparison of both CVs

If we compare Obama to Kennedy, we can clearly see some similarities in school career, personal situation and political career.

Kennedy and Obama both studied at Harvard University and worked several years before they became President. They had written articles in newspapers and books on social questions and morality. Another significant point they have in common is their marriage to a beautiful woman. America has always been a very conservative country and hence perfect marriages with gorgeous woman and lovely children boosted political careers. In addition both men belonged to marginalised groups and were more or less confronted with bullying, so that they were able to emphasise to those in their terms of service.


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A comparison of John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama
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Natascha Drews (Author), 2013, A comparison of John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/264790


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