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

"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)
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Bradlee: Then when was the moment that you absolutely were bitten with it?

JFK: Once I started, I worked damn hard, and I did the same thing in ’52 as I am now doing, which may not be successful nationally. Start early. Try to get the support of nonprofessionals, in a sense, who are much more ready to commit themselves early, and then it’s just long, long, long labor. Early.

Cannon: Why?

JFK: Why do it?

Cannon: Why do you do it now? Why do you go to all this effort? Obviously you’re a well-to-do guy, who could live off the fat of the land. Why do you go in for politics?

JFK: I think the rewards are, first, infinite.

Cannon: What are they?

JFK: Well, look now, if you went to law school, and I’d gotten out, which I was going to do [unclear] and then I go and become a member of a big firm, and I’m dealing with some dead, deceased man’s estate, or I’m perhaps fighting in a divorce case, even a case of one kind or another, or some fellow got in an accident, can you compare that, or let’s say more serious work, when you’re participating in a case against the DuPont Company in a general antitrust case, which takes two or three years, can you tell me that that compares in interest with being a member of Congress in trying to write a labor bill, or trying to make a speech on foreign policy? I just think that there’s no comparison.

Toni Bradlee: Can I ask a question?

JFK: Sure.


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