American Presidents

John F. Kennedy American Presidents Teacher Guide

The Life and Policy of President John F. Kennedy
Nov. 1 - 6, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Secondary level

This Teacher Guide was developed by C-SPAN Champion Teacher Sally Souder who teaches social studies at Annandale High School in Annandale, VA. C-SPAN provided to his area by Media General.

Goal: To explore links between John F. Kennedy's biography, presidential campaign, and the domestic and international achievements of his administration.

Students will be able to:

  • Identify campaign issues of the 1960 Presidential election.

  • Identify and discuss both domestic and foreign policy issues.

  • Analyze public and political reaction to policy issues.

  • Examine President Kennedy’s assassination and its effect on the nation.

  • Materials:

    • Handout of biographical information of John F. Kennedy before his presidency.

    • Videotape of C-SPAN’s American Presidents focus on John F. Kennedy

    • C-SPAN's American Presidents website

    • A map of South East Asia (Vietnam).

    • Optional: campaign songs or buttons from the election of 1960.

    Time: Four hours

    1. Discussion
    Begin class discussion with a question session on what students know about John F. Kennedy. What state was John F. Kennedy from? What was his political affiliation? What offices did his two brothers hold during his administration? What year was the election of John Kennedy? Who was John F. Kennedy’s vice president and what political party was he affiliated with? Why is John F. Kennedy still a focal point in American society today? (10min.)

    2. Exploring Themes
    Assign students one of the following themes to trace throughout their study: Cold War, Civil Rights, Civil Service, and Space Exploration.

    3. Biography
    Explore the American Presidents web site for biographical information on John F. Kennedy, including: birthplace, education, family, military record, early political career, marriage, campaign for the presidency.

    4. Campaign Issues
    Ask students the following: Why did John F. Kennedy choose Lyndon Johnson as his vice president? What were the differences in personal history between the two? Which states were they from? Financial background? Policy ideas?

    Ask students what they know about the primary voting system. Students should research primary voting numbers of Kennedy and Nixon in the New Hampshire primary of 1960.

    What role did John F. Kennedy’s religion play in the campaign for the presidency in 1960?

    This was the first election in which television became a powerful campaign tool. Instruct students to discuss the factors which affected the Kennedy/Nixon presidential debates. What impact did the visual images have on the people watching the debate?

    5. Inaugural address
    Students should read John F. Kennedy's inaugural address and discuss the policies and goals he wished to achieve. Outline these goals and categorize them as domestic and international.(30min.)

    6. Domestic Politics
    Instruct students to determine whether Kennedy accomplished any of the domestic goals he outlined in his inaugural address. What influenced Kennedy in forming his domestic policy agenda? (30min.)

    7. Foreign Policy
    Again, have students relate back to the inaugural address and determine whether John F. Kennedy accomplished his foreign policy goals. What factors or people influenced Kennedy in forming his domestic policy agenda? (30min.)

    8. Assassination
    Review the facts of Kennedy’s assassination. Discuss the impact of his assassination on the American public and on his policies. (20min.)

    Review and Evaluation
    1. Instruct students to review the major policies of the Kennedy Administration.

    2. Instruct students to create a political flyer for John F. Kennedy, based on their impressions of his biography, and accomplishments.

    3. Students should prepare a presentation (3-5min) of their reaction to John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address. What impact did his words have? How did he view his role as president? How did he view the role of the citizens of the United States?

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