A Thousand Days, in so many words

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A Thousand Days, in so many words Any writer presented with the daunting task of chronicling such an emotional figure as John F. Kennedy, while being personally and professionally involved in his administration is bound to either fail miserably or succeed brilliantly. Schlesinger seems to have done both. While setting out to impart the happenings, demeanors, exchanges, and truths regarding the period Kennedy was in office, Schlesinger alternates between objective analysis and outright apology (Document, 55). This lends the book’s attempt to report and editorialize the events of Kennedy’s administration through personal observations to become overly sympathetic and occasionally lends a sense of personal catharsis to the work. In fact, Schlesinger himself notes as such in the opening pages “This work is not a comprehensive history of the Kennedy presidency. It is a memoir by one who served in the White House during the Kennedy year” (ix). However, in the opinion of Graber this was seen as one of the best analyses of the Kennedy White House of the 90 or so which came out after the assassination in Dallas (1). This fact that the author was an integral piece of the events he is recording allows for much direct quotation of the subject and those around him. Likewise he depends upon memory, interviews, or conjecture to complete some dialogue or moments where he was not present. While not unusual in the research of a chronicle, several critics found that this inability of Schlesinger to remove himself from his subject leads to a tendency to “…magnify his own role in the shaping of policies and the making of decisions” (Graber, 55). However, this is not to say that the author does not use primary examples of the president’s statements to support his account. In dealing with the Berlin imbalance Kruschev was causing the administration, Kennedy is quoted as saying, “I think we need to smile less and be tougher” lending credibility to the remainder of the account and Kennedy’s role in it (406). This use of direct quotes lends an air of presence to the text that might otherwise be lacking as well as allowing a more solid character reference to be built in the mind of the reader, and for that the book gains strength.

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