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"It's possible my natural level is in the Senate," John F. Kennedy said—but then he won the 1960 election. As president, he and his wife hosted Ben and Tony Bradlee (left and third from left) at the White House. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

Kennedy After Dark: A Dinner Party About Politics and Power

In this exclusive transcript from the JFK library, hear what he had to say just days after announcing his candidacy for the presidency

On January 5, 1960, just three days after announcing that he would run for president, Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, held a small dinner party in Washington, D.C. Their guests included Ben Bradlee, then Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief, and his then-wife, Tony, and Newsweek correspondent James M. Cannon. Cannon taped the conversation for research on a book he was writing. After he died, in September 2011, the tapes became part of the collection of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston; a transcript is published for the first time in the new book Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy, edited by Ted Widmer. In this exclusive excerpt, the candidate muses on the sources and purpose of power.

JFK: This is on? Can it get me from there?

Bradlee: [unclear] How come? Was it Joe’s death that started the . . . ?

Cannon: Why did you get started in politics? Why were you ever interested in it?

JFK: In the thirties, when I was home from school, the conversation was always about politics. Want a cigar?

Cannon: It’s all right. Talk loud.

JFK: Not in the sense of sort of being emotionally stirred about great issues, but really, just about the whole interest of my father was [unclear] in politics, in the Roosevelt administration.

Cannon: . . . When did you take your first step? What year was that?

JFK: January ’46, with the election in June.

Cannon: This was for a seat in . . . ?

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