Thursday, January 25, 2018

JFK's First Press Conference

President John F. Kennedy held his first press conference on January 25, 1961, five days after taking office.  He demonstrated what would become commonplace for his subsequent press conferences:  open, witty, articulate, and well-prepared responses to the media.   These sessions  attracted many reporters; this one had 418 people in attendance.  

He held sixty-four press conferences during his 1,036-day presidency.  The usual venue was a large auditorium in the State Department building.  Broadcast live, they attracted widespread interest.  Years later when I worked in the State Department building, I would attend meetings or simply wander by what became the Loy Henderson Auditorium and express awe at the issues that were discussed in that room between 1961 and 1963. 

Kennedy’s use of television and his easy interaction with the media—sometimes sparring with reporters using humor—became the basis of what we considered normal exchanges between the president and media for over fifty years.  Several other presidents conducted themselves well at news conferences, but JFK set the bar high.

The photo is from that first press conference.  Credit:  Abbie Rowe.  White House Photographs.  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston; public domain.

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