From President Kennedy in the 1960s to President Trump in the present day seems like a massive gulf but a scroll through the issues featured on both men’s Twitter feeds shows that they faced many similar issues – albeit they looked upon them in contrasting ways.
For anyone doing a double take on the idea of President Kennedy having a twitter feed, it was set up by the JFK Library Foundation for the Words Count campaign. It features some of Kennedy’s quotes as a way of “inspiring a new generation with his message”.
A quick glance through the account shows that Kennedy would have been a natural on Twitter with his ability to put memorable thoughts into a short pithy sentences.
His famous quote from his inauguration speech is a good example.
— John F. Kennedy (@JohnFKennedy) January 20, 2018
Just as for President Trump today, immigration was an important issue in Kennedy’s time, with concerns among the public that too many people from different countries were being allowed in without sufficient scrutiny as to their backgrounds or their intentions.
Unlike Trump, who has tapped into those fears to gain support, Kennedy chose to challenge them, to try to change public opinion rather than accept it. You can sense his frustration as he says:
“The words on the Statue of Liberty read: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ Under present law it is suggested that there should be added:: ‘as long as they come from northern Europe, are not too tired or too poor or slightly ill…'”
— John F. Kennedy (@JohnFKennedy) January 12, 2018
“Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world, and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience.”
— John F. Kennedy (@JohnFKennedy) January 8, 2018
President Kennedy took a different view to the current incumbent on the value of immigration and the benefit new arrivals brought to the United States. He had traced his own family tree all the way back to Wexford in Ireland and was influenced by the way each generation of the Kennedy clan had built on the work of the one that went before to enrich both themselves and the country as a whole. He was always fascinated by his Irish roots and referred to it often.
And like all presidents, he knew the value of the Irish vote and made sure he honoured his heritage and the contribution made by millions of Irish-Americans.
— John F. Kennedy (@JohnFKennedy) March 17, 2018
“Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.” #ThursdayThoughts
— John F. Kennedy (@JohnFKennedy) November 1, 2018
Like President Trump, Kennedy faced an inquisitive, challenging and often hostile media. His Democrat values were pilloried along with his Irish Catholic background. Unlike Trump, however, Kennedy accepted the tough questioning and decided to roll with it, accepting the old adage that a politician complaining about the press is like a farmer complaining about the weather. It’s just a fact of life.
“And so it is to the printing press–to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news–that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.”
— John F. Kennedy (@JohnFKennedy) October 29, 2018
— John F. Kennedy (@JohnFKennedy) October 18, 2017
During his election campaign, President Trump often spoke of putting America first and not getting embroiled in foreign affairs unless absolutely necessary. It was a move that struck a chord with many Americans, perhaps feeling scarred by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and numerous involvements like Syria.
But this quote from President Kennedy shows that the concern is not new, and even back then there was an acknowledgment that America could not be the policeman of the world righting every wrong.
“We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient– that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity– and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.” #WednesdayWisdom
— John F. Kennedy (@JohnFKennedy) November 29, 2017
President Trump has dismissed climate change as a hoax. It’s hard to imagine that Kennedy would have taken the same view. The need for environmental protection was already taking hold during his presidency, and he welcomed it enthusiastically.
“Thus it is our task in our time and in our generation, to hand down undiminished to those who come after us… the natural wealth and beauty which is ours. To do this will require constant attention and vigilance–sustained vigor and imagination.” pic.twitter.com/zx90W3VHrV
— John F. Kennedy (@JohnFKennedy) December 5, 2017
And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well. #WordsCount
— John F. Kennedy (@JohnFKennedy) November 16, 2018
One thing that would have united Kennedy and Trump was the rallying call to get people go and vote.
— John F. Kennedy (@JohnFKennedy) November 7, 2017
President Kennedy’s twitter feed is to be found at @JohnFKennedy