Chris White MP on the idealism of JFK
I’m sure I’m not the only MP to have been influenced by the life of John F Kennedy and Robert Dallek’s excellent biography of one of the most iconic figures in American politics, if not of the 20th century.
When any figure is as shrouded in myth, undoubtedly as JFK is, it can be hard to create an account that can both place the person in their wider historical context and also help us appreciate that person’s character and humanity. Dallek’s biography is one of just a handful that has managed to achieve both, and paints a picture of a courageous man who, despite his many faults, was dedicated to serving his country and creating a better future.
In an age prone to cynicism and thinking what can’t be done rather than what can, his life certainly challenges this conception. JFK’s message of civic renewal and empowering people to change their lives and communities is one that has stuck with me throughout my time in politics.
One of my favourite quotes attributed to JFK is from early in his career, when he described himself as an “idealist without illusions” – in times like the present, we could all take a leaf out of this book.