January 17, 2011

JFK's "application to Harvard, including mediocre test scores and a refreshingly banal personal essay."

Found in the JFK Library's digital archives. You know, there really was a time when you filled out the application form in handwriting, dashing off a few sentences in the space provided to answer the question "Why do you wish to come to Harvard?" (or whatever school you were applying to). These separate pages of ultra-tweaked writing that people attached to the form in later decades are really just as banal. I mean, seriously, "Why do you wish to come to Harvard?" is a stupid question that deserves an answer like the one JFK scrawled in 1935: "To be a 'Harvard Man' is an enviable distinction, and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain."

Also refreshing is the letter from JFK's father:
Jack has a very brilliant mind for the things in which he is interested, but is careless and lacks application in those in which he is not interested. This is, of course, a bad fault.

100 comments:

shoutingthomas said...

How in the hell did JFK get into Harvard with those grades?

Oh... never mind.

Calypso Facto said...

One can only imagine Joe Sr's letter for Teddy: Edward is very likable and athletic, yet can be careless when it comes to drinking, driving, and manslaughter. This is, of course, a bad fault.

ricpic said...

I want to come to Harvard so that I can sit on non-Harvard heads for the rest of my top of the heap life.

Oh, that's not the right answer, pater?

I want to go to Harvard in order to better serve all mankind.

Maguro said...

Makes sense, JFK was mediocre and banal through and through. His greatness as a president is as phony as his media-produced image of youthful "vigah".

Chase said...

The only thing that truly matters is how good looking he was.

As it did with Bill Clinton, being good-looking insures a high female electorate vote.

I am completely serious. That is how both men won the presidency and why both are still swooned over despite their mediocre abilities and historically average political accomplishments.

So Ladies - why do looks so heavily influence you in every area of social life?

Pastafarian said...

It's interesting that he graduated from Harvard with honors, despite these crappy scores from The Choate School. Apparently the gentleman's B was already in force at that time.

This just further enforces my already deeply-held opinion about the Ivy League: I wouldn't hire an Ivy League graduate to shine my shoes.

And yet we just keep hiring them to run the country. It's madness.

Ann Althouse said...

"How in the hell did JFK get into Harvard with those grades?"

How are you able to assess grades from 1935?

shoutingthomas said...

How are you able to assess grades from 1935?

True, grades were more realistic in 1935.

But:

Latin: 75
French: 60
Physics: 50

Huh?

Greg Hlatky said...

Physics: 50

The question he got right was to describe the action of a piston in an cylinder.

Martha said...

Admission to Harvard was not merit based until the 1960's. Until then Harvard students were selected from prep schools. Middle class students were not expected or welcome to apply. The creation of the SAT was a great opportunity leveler.

Chef Mojo said...

The question he got right was to describe the action of a piston in an cylinder.

Totally FTW, Gregg.

shoutingthomas said...

So, it's just possible that the great, glamorous JFK was a dope?

Pastafarian said...

I think that they used a pretty harsh scale in those days to relate percentages to letter grades; 94% was an A-, 93% a B+. I assume that these were percentages.

So he went from something like a D average in prep to better-than-average (that is over 2.0) gpa at Harvard.

I looked this up -- apparently you graduate "cum laude" at Harvard if you're in the top half of your graduating class. This surprises me, since at my public university you had to have a 3.3 gpa for cum laude. I'm not sure if this policy was in place in the 1930s, however. Maybe it was more difficult to graduate with honors then. I doubt that it could possibly be more lenient than "top 50%".

So apparently a mediocre student is above average at Harvard. And they allow mediocre students in. I don't see any rational way to defend Ivy League credentials at this point.

chickelit said...

You can always tell a Harvard man but you can't tell him much.

AllenS said...

What's worse is the fact that his grades were probably twice what Obama's were.

Ambrose said...

Oh come on, becoming President is a singular accomplishment in America that simply cannot be discounted. Anyone who accomplish that is a remarkable person. (and lots of people come from privileged backgrounds, very few become President.) Are we really reduced to gloating over the fact that some of us did better in high school physics?

shoutingthomas said...

Are we really reduced to gloating over the fact that some of us did better in high school physics?

Don't think that's what I'm doing.

Those sort of grades would lead somebody born into my lower middle class origins to a job as a shoe salesman.

When you combine the obvious intellectual deficits with the inability to control basic impulses, you get a not very flattering picture of our Camelot president.

Looks to me like the JFK worship was so much bullshit. And, it was immensely aided by a one party press. Wonder how this guy would have fared in the internet and cable TV era, when he would have faced tough scrutiny?

Comrade X said...

Only a 75 in Latin? What an idiot. Unless you compare him to the students of today.

Maguro said...

Wonder how this guy would have fared in the internet and cable TV era, when he would have faced tough scrutiny?

You mean like all the tough scrutiny Obama faced?

Comrade X said...

What were Obama's Latin scores in high school?

shoutingthomas said...

You mean like all the tough scrutiny Obama faced?

Touche!

Of course, the honeymoon didn't last very long for Obama. Almost as soon as he was elected, a tough opposition emerged on the internet and in cable news.

So, you're half right. JFK was protected by the press for years after his death. Obama got a very short grace period.

Obama isn't getting a free ride any more.

shoutingthomas said...

Only a 75 in Latin? What an idiot. Unless you compare him to the students of today.

The 75 in Latin is even more damning when you consider that JFK was Catholic and probably an alter boy.

Mass was still celebrated in Latin when JFK was a boy.

I was an alter boy! My priest drilled me relentlessly in Latin. He wasn't a New Ager in his approach.

So, JFK didn't give much of a fuck about his religious duty either.

What an ugly picture!

E.M. Davis said...

"My priest drilled me relentlessly in Latin"

That explains a lot.

JayC said...

Look at the implications of this: eventually, everything comes out.

So, eventually, we'll know what Obama's transcripts say about his college days. Eventually, we'll know about John Kerry's military record. Eventually, we'll know all the details about the Clinton marriage.

All you have to do is live long enough to see it.

Comrade X said...

we didn't study Church Latin in Latin class although we certainly sang it in choir.

my point is how many students today take Latin, French, & Physics in high school?

and how can you compare 1935 grades with today's? the local sportscaster idiot here in Dallas used to have his high school athlete of the week on and they would invariably have "a 4.53 GPA out of a possible 4.0". I guess it dends on what the meaning of possible is.

Bender said...

The only thing that truly matters is how good looking he was

I heard that said about him for all my life.

I've never seen it. Sure, he was good-looking compared to Richard Nixon, but that ain't saying a hell of a lot. His supposed good looks are as much a manufactured, madia-produced image as the rest of him.

SteveR said...

He should have taught Teddy how to cheat without getting caught.

MadisonMan said...

E. M. Davis, please don't hog all the straight lines.

MadisonMan said...

my point is how many students today take Latin, French, & Physics in high school?

I know many. So the answer is a number greater than 40. At least.

Chip S. said...

Hmm. If Ted Sorensen had been available I think the essay would have read: "Some ask, 'Why go to Harvard?' I ask, 'Why not?'"

deborah said...

Love Joe's letter. Very refreshing.

Comrade X said...

are those private school students MadMan? The MISD website doesn't even list Latin as an available course at any of their schools.

traditionalguy said...

John F was the toughest Kennedy. He did a courageous job at being a son of Joe Kennedy, as he also did a courageous job at night fighting the Jap Navy in the Slot. So IMO he took on many mighty opponents and endured the experience better than most would have. RIP Jack.

Gahrie said...

John F was the toughest Kennedy

First, I'd say Joe was the toughest. JFK was probably the toughest of him, Robert and Teddy.

Second, isn't the toughest Kennedy something like the tallest midget?

kent said...

"Why do you wish to come to Harvard?"

"How else am I ever gonna get to bone Marilyn Monroe, f'chrissaakes...?!?"

lemondog said...

Not a fan of the Kennedy family.

JFK was flawed and a sleaze when it came to women. The Camelot theme was idiotic.

But he courageously served his country with honor and distinction in WW2. He understood and appreciated the rich heritage of this country. Whether or not of his own making, he stood fast on the Cuban missile crisis. He created a space vision for America. Politically motivated or not, he ultimately pursued the right path with respect to civil rights.

Guts not grades.

Cedarford said...

1. Grading was tougher 75 years ago.
2. If Harvard puts it's reputation on the later accomplishments of it's graduates, vs. rewarding "quiz kids" with admission then graduation into obscurity - the success of it's "Kennedy grads" enhances their reputation.
3. Brilliance is over-rated if the search is, in some sectors of universities - not to help make Nobel winners but leaders and graduates that achieve standout success.

john bord said...

This from whom JFK replaced.... interesting read.

http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2011/01/50th-anniversary-of-dwight-eisenhowers.html

Cedarford said...

Gahrie said...
John F was the toughest Kennedy

First, I'd say Joe was the toughest. JFK was probably the toughest of him, Robert and Teddy.

Second, isn't the toughest Kennedy something like the tallest midget?

=================
Not really. Many 3rd gen Kennedys survived substance abuse that would have killed a lesser, weaker man.
Pity they partied as Princlings and Princesses instead of following the example of duty and committment to service displayed by Joe Jr, Jack, Teddy, Kathleen, and Bobby.

Michael said...

I should like to attend Barbara so that for the rest of my life I can devise ways of letting people know I am a harvard man within two minutes of our meeting

MarkW said...

So, it's just possible that the great, glamorous JFK was a dope?

Possible. But more likely he just didn't work any harder than necessary in prep school. Given his family's wealth and connections, the chances of him being rejected by Harvard were roughly zero.

His college years, BTW, were pretty amazing. He spent them bashing around capitols in a Europe on the brink of war while his daddy served as the British ambassador, turning his experiences into the best-selling (possibly ghostwritten) book "Why England Slept". About the same time he was involved in an affair with a Danish beauty-queen/journalist who attended the '36 Olympics with Hitler and was invited to Goebbels' wedding. And then on to the PT boats -- absurd plywood death traps that were an attempt by the Navy to generate something like the glamor of fighter pilots.

You read his biography and can't help but chuckle at the preposterous life he lived. Pick up a copy of Reckless Youth and see if you don't come away charmed despite yourself.

jamboree said...

I had a government teacher who was from a powerful, rich corporate family that was involved in politics on the elite levels. She was written up on a collegiate level and under consideration for some kind of admin post in Reagan and/or Bush admin.

She was a jovial republican and enjoyed snarking at the Kennedy family for fun. She was also constantly feeding us insider dirt on Reagan/Bush and getting the occasional famous figures from previous admins to come talk with us, etc.

Okay, so that's the background. She has a bias, but also was pretty well-grounded and well-connected person.

One of the Kennedy tales she told was that he was actually drunk on his boat, and they covered it up and turned him into a hero.

I'm just putting it out there for comment. I had never heard the story of his heroism to begin with back then, so it hardly mattered to me.

I'm not invested in it, it's just something I remembered seeing ppl defend him on the basis of his service and I don't think it's something I can google. :-)

bagoh20 said...

I've come to the conclusion that intelligence - as measured like this - is not particularly important for a President. Nobody who is actually stupid will get close to the office, but you can be smart and still accept and promote stupid or dangerous ideology. Ideology and values are the most important measures and require support qualities like courage, diplomacy, calm. In the mix, having a mind or personality that accomplishes good grades is of no importance for this job. For many jobs it's very important, but not this one.

A President always has people who can make up for his weaknesses of the scholastic or even analytical kind, but his ideology and values will affect policy and the nation in big ways, and his staff will only reinforce that since they will likely share his values. They better be the right values.

jamboree said...

I had a government teacher who was from a powerful, rich corporate family that was involved in politics on the elite levels. Her methods were written up on a collegiate level and she was under consideration for some kind of post in Reagan and/or Bush admin.

She was a jovial republican and enjoyed snarking at the Kennedy family in almost a friendly rivalry way. She was also constantly feeding us insider dirt on Reagan/Bush and getting the occasional famous figures from previous admins to come talk with us, etc.

Okay, so that's the background. She had a bias, but also was pretty well-grounded and well-connected person.

One of the Kennedy tales she told was that he was actually drunk on his boat the night of the incident, and they covered it up and turned him into a hero.

I'm just putting it out there for comment. I had never heard the story of his heroism to begin with back then, so it hardly mattered to me.

I'm not invested in it, it's just something I remembered while reading ppl defending him on the basis of his service and I don't think it's something I can google.

Later: just googled and all I found was this: http://www.orwelltoday.com/jfkpt109.shtml with Kennedy making his way like a "slow-motion drunk" but not actually saying he was drunk.

There is this: Kennedy was at the wheel, and he saw Ross turn and point into the darkness. The man in the forward machine-gun turret shouted, "Ship at two o'clock!" Kennedy saw a shape and spun the wheel to turn for an attack, but the 109 answered sluggishly.

(Her implication was his delayed reaction from drink got the boat sunk in the first place.)

Hmmm, maybe it was a snarky reference to Chappaquiddick that I was too young to get. I guess I'll never know.

Pogo said...

Heard the same story, jamboree.

If he looked like Nixon, he'd never have been President.

Women drooled, and he was in like Flint. But that ain't saying much. Quasimodo will never be king.

His Presidency was only remarkable because he was killed. The rest was all Trump-style sheen over plywood. Buncha smartest-guys-in-the-room who didn't know much at all, it turns out.

Now even the columns are styrofoam, not just the men.

Ralph L said...

But he courageously served his country with honor and distinction in WW2
By getting his boat run over by a destroyer? Where was the watch?

Kathleen
I think you mean Eunice (Special Olympics). Kathleen was a charming social climber.

Joe Sr getting into Harvard as an Irish Catholic, making the family fortune (by hook or crook), and engineering his sons' elections are the family's greatest achievements.

edutcher said...

If the school I attended used the same grading standard (and I think it did)

90 - 100 A

80 - 89 B

70 - 79 C

60 - 69 D

0 - 59 E

(since when does F come after D?)

So Jack flunked physics, barely passed French (D-) and got a C in French. Joe's letter for Teddy was probably the same as Jack's, "To whom do I make out the check and how many zeroes should there be?".

Chase said...

The only thing that truly matters is how good looking he was.

As it did with Bill Clinton, being good-looking insures a high female electorate vote.


In both cases, when pollsters asked women why they voted for either, the answer was they'd to go to bed with them.

traditionalguy said...

John F was the toughest Kennedy. He did a courageous job at being a son of Joe Kennedy, as he also did a courageous job at night fighting the Jap Navy in the Slot.

Not really. Old Joe got him a cushy job on Embassy Row in DC and Jack blew it by letting too much classified info slip across too many pillows; that's how he ended up in the Solomons. His record was good, but no better than any other skipper's - he was one of several pulling Marine paratroopers off Choiseul Island after a raid.

Blackett Strait (where the 109 was sunk) was a screw-up and I remember, when the movie about PT-109 came out, a number of officers who were in-theater said anyone else would have been court-martialed. Given that his actions after the boat was hit were worthy of a Navy Cross or Silver Star, all he got out of it was a Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal.

Skyler said...

I don't think grades really apply to someone like JFK to indicate his intelligence. As the son of a very rich and powerful man, his role in life was not to be studious but to learn how to influence and coerce people. Grades are almost meaningless to someone in his position.

He was clearly not an idiot. I'm positive that he did not have a great intellect, but he was obviously good at working with people. We needn't judge him on any other scale, except to judge him as to what he did as President.

Coketown said...

I went to college in the same state as Sarah Palin. Is that an enviable distinction? Or am I a quasi-retard too?

Pogo said...

Joe Sr. used to sleep with high school girls who befriended his kids, even some of his own son's dates; some girls left in tears.

So said Garry Wills in The Kennedy imprisonment: a meditation on power, and John F. Kennedy: A Biography by Michael O'Brien.

"Joe Kennedy even tried to date and bed his sons' girlfriends."

"Yes, he was amoral, sure he was," declared Arthur Krock, the Washington bureau chief of the New York Times"

The NYT cover-up goes way back.

Chad said...

Talking about another Big Fake, why are we forced to honor that other liberal lowlife (and a communist to boot) Martin Luther King? One of our best state senators wants to get rid of this ridiculus holiday. I hope Repubicans can follow through.

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/blog/article_0ae9979a-2267-11e0-8190-001cc4c03286.html

Pogo said...

Moby.

Methadras said...

Greg Hlatky said...

Physics: 50

The question he got right was to describe the action of a piston in an cylinder.


LOL!!! Was this in a frictionless environment? :D

chickelit said...

Pogo said...Moby

Hang the Chad!

Jay Retread said...

WI State Senator Glen Grothman is a moby?

traditionalguy said...

Let me get this straight. Jack Kennedy's unit was night patrolling in PT Boats in a Japanese held area near Gizo Bay, where many men were losing their lives ever day to a foe that showed them no quarter and got none in teturn. The PTs were sent out nightly to attack resupply Barges" loaded with Japanese Army soldiers and their weapons and supplies sneaking down the Slot at night but hiding by day along jungle covered shorelines to escape a certain daytime death from patroling Cactus AF fliers such as Pappy Boyington and Joe Foss. Jap Destroyers escorting the Jap barges were charged with seeking and killing PT Boats that preyed on them at night. In the dark, when PTs could still feel their way along and attack, while the Wildcats and SBDs could not fly, a Jap ship rammed PT 109. Jack survived the ramming and then rescued most of his injured crew using his swimming skills. Finally some natives canoed them back to a coastwatcher's camp. And that is why I am supposed to lose all respect for Jack Kennedy. Hmmm.

Revenant said...

Those of you ridiculing Kennedy's grades should bear in mind that these were grades from an elite prep school. It is common, to the point of being a cliche, for kids who barely passed at a private school to transfer to a public school and miraculously transform into straight-A students.

Obviously the man was no genius, but these grades still leave plenty of room for him to have been a smart kid. Especially if (as his father hints) his grades were in large part due to failure to apply himself to things that didn't interest him.

He lists his interests as "politics and economics". I expect he focused on studying those at Harvard, which would explain his better grades there.

MadisonMan said...

The MISD website doesn't even list Latin as an available course at any of their schools.

If you mean MMSD, Madison schools teach latin, at West.

Maguro said...

I took Latin in high school. We spent very little time conjugating verbs and a lot of time watching I, Claudius on videotape. Good times.

Pogo said...

@Jay Retread:

Chad, the moby, pointed to an article recommending that state workers should actually work on MLK day, like the rest of us.

But he posted it in a way to impugn and disrupt. It's what mobies do best.

Ralph L said...

The reply to "jukie"'s comment at Gawker posted JFK's "Why I want to go to Princeton" answer. It's almost identical to what he wrote for Harvard.

Job said...

About 25 years ago when I was in college, I knew a guy who had attended Choate-Rosemary Hall. This guy -- who was a bit to the left of center -- told me that the story at Choate was that JFK was the stupidest person to have ever graduated from Choate. He wasn't the stupidest person to ever go there, but he was said to be the stupidest person to have actually graduated.

Now, my friend's story was at least second-hand by the time it got to me and the data were 40+ years old.

But that was the story.

Ralph L said...

No private school was likely to send away the son of a very wealthy man during the worst years of the Depression.

PaulV said...

PT boats were more manuerable than destroyers. Only an error would let one be cut in two.

Jay Retread said...

Yes "Job",

Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were geniuses and JFK was stupid.

The only problem with you view is that JFK still holds the record for the most first term press conferences of post war presidents while Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have had the least. Hence roll the tape. The proof that Reagan and Bush are stupid (and senile in Reagan's case) comes through loud and clear.

Chad said...

Jay you retard! JFK could not even get himself elected to a second term! LOL

Pogo said...

"JFK still holds the record for the most first term press conferences of post war presidents..."

He was scouting for skirts.

Jay Retread said...

Ronald Reagan was looking for his toys and trying to remember not to drool.

Pogo said...

At least he kept his pants on!

Jay Retread said...

I would rather have a virile president than one who has to be reminded to take off his "jammies" before getting dressed in the morning.

Pogo said...

'Jay you retard! '

I think it's actually 'Retread'.

Unless he misspelled it.

Jay Retread said...

Pogo, Ronald Reagan showed up at the Oval Office on many days after forgeting to put his pants on. But at least on those days he did not pee in them.

Pogo said...

More puerile than virile.

Jay Retread said...

I agree Pogo. Ronald reagan was "puerile" because he wet his pants all the time. What a moron.

Pogo said...

OMG, it's Ritmo.

somefeller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
somefeller said...

As mentioned above, back in those days the most important qualification for getting into Harvard was the right Eastern prep school pedigree and the ability for your father to pay the bills. The switch to some semblance of academic meritocracy didn't occur until after World War II, and in many ways didn't really sink in until the early-to-mid 1960s.

Pastafarian says:This just further enforces my already deeply-held opinion about the Ivy League: I wouldn't hire an Ivy League graduate to shine my shoes.

That's okay, most Ivy League graduates have decent enough job prospects without needing to ask you for a job. But maybe one of them could teach you to stop pissing on your shoes.

John said...

Re JFK the War Hero:

JKF was rejected multiple times by all the services on medical grounds. Most people don't realize just how sickly he was.

Joe Sr pestered FDR until FDR ordered the Navy to let him in but to keep him at a desk job in DC.

While there, Kennedy started an affair with Inga Arvad, a married Swedish(?) woman suspected of being a German agent.

He was told to stop seeing her and would not. He was sent to Florida to get some distance between them. He came to DC on weekends to see her.

So he wound up in the Pacific.

He was apparently a mediocre PT boat skipper. He was probably incompetent for letting his boat get T-Boned by a Jap destroyer. He was given a medal because the alternative would have been a court martial.

He did behave heroically after losing his boat.

Joe Jr, in popular perception was shot down while on a bombing run over Germany. In reality, he never saw a German, never heard a shot fired in anger. He flew anti-sub patrols out of England. Nice and safe, just what Papa Joe ordered.

He got killed when his plane blew up. Much more to it than that of course but that is the short answer. It blew up over England.

I don't question his bravery nor do I dishonor his service. I merely point out that it is not quite what the Kennedy fog machine would have us believe.

I don't think Bobby even left the US.

John Henry

John said...

Contrast and compare:

“I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. … He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. … So what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. … He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”

Valerie Jarrett, speaking of Obama

"Jack has a very brilliant mind for the things in which he is interested, but is careless and lacks application in those in which he is not interested. This is, of course, a bad fault."

At least Papa Joe had the good grace to recognize that it was a fault. Jarrett seems to think it is a good thing.

John Henry

Revenant said...

PT boats were more manuerable than destroyers. Only an error would let one be cut in two.

Sports cars are more maneuverable than SUVs. Therefore, any car accident between an SUV and a sports car must be due to error on the part of the sports car's driver.

The real world's a little more complicated than that. Both the PT boat and the destroyer were running dark, and the PT boat had was idling to avoid detection. The crew had only a few seconds to react, and while PT boats are *relatively* maneuverable they're still triple the size and weight of a fully loaded tractor-trailer rig. It ain't exactly a jet ski.

Pogo said...

"It ain't exactly a jet ski."

Or an Oldsmobile Delmont 88.

traditionalguy said...

The mission of PT 109, along with 14 other PTs sent on patrol that night was to engage the Tokyo Express re-supply forces. It had been a 10 months since the 1ST Marines had been written off at Guadalcanal. but 8 months since Halsey took command from Admirals who had been hiding their ships. Halsey had a one brief order, "Attack, repeat, attack" and the Navy started throwing all of its ships into the battle after battle. The U S Navy lost more of those battles than they won. But the Japs lost their balance of forces from substantial losses in battles they won, but not overwhelmingly. The Japs were then on the defense after January, 1943. The PTs were an insignificant sacrificial group that had little or no chance in a fight, almost Kamikase boats if they did it right. But they added a small element to the new Attack with everything posture that was starting to work. JFK certainly did that job well. He closed with the Japanese Navy forces as close as you can get. Yes, that was an heroic role and JFK jumped into it and risked a horrible death to do his part. That makes him a hero in my book.

edutcher said...

tg, nobody is telling you to forsake your respect of the man, if that's the way you feel. Some of us put it in a bit more context.

That he was brave after the boat was hit wasn't in question. The issue is, did it have to happen in the first place?

Revenant said...

Those of you ridiculing Kennedy's grades should bear in mind that these were grades from an elite prep school. It is common, to the point of being a cliche, for kids who barely passed at a private school to transfer to a public school and miraculously transform into straight-A students

I went to a similar institution K-12. Flunking physics and barely scraping through French would not have gotten me cut much slack, I don't think.

MadisonMan said...

I don't think Bobby even left the US.

He as 19 when the war ended.

William said...

Natalie Portman went to Harvard. Would you rather have Natalie as a classmate or some other student who scored 50 points higher on their SAT. Likewise with Kennedy. When asked his father's occupation, young John had the wit to reply "Chairman of the SEC". Would you like your bright, ambitious kid to be going to school with the son of the SEC chairman or someone who got an A in Latin.......JFK was quick witted and self confident. I suppose the self confidence came more from having good looks and a wealthy father than from academic prowess. But that's the way of the world, and no demerit to him because of it....You can fairly argue about his judgement, but he was certainly brave. And he showed as much decency as courage in the way he rescued his men......Some of the criticism of him is very like the liberal critique of Palin. The bias is more in evidence than the factz.

David said...

Many commenters are flunking reading comprehension.

JFK's low score in physics was not his grade at Choate. It was a score on the CEEB (College Entrance Examination Board) test, which Harvard apparently required. In fact Kennedy scored very well on the CEEB in history and english, which were his main interests. This was more than adequate academically for Harvard in those days, and would have made Kennedy quite competitive with other applicants.

Kennedy had some low grades at Choate, especially in his earlier years, but schools like Choate had a very rigorous grading system in that era. Grades of over 80 on a scale of 100 were near the top of the class, and the school delighted in giving low grades to its students. They felt that only top effort deserved top grades, which was a good lesson to send.

JFK was of course a shoo in for Harvard, based on family position and wealth, Choate and legacy status. His banal application essay reflects his knowledge that he was going to get in, and blessedly is completely devoid of the bullshit that is slung in present day applications. Refreshing in its honesty, one might say.

Joe's letter was written after JFK was admitted. Again, it is a very honest letter written by a father that knew his son well.

It's interesting that no one has pointed out yet that Kennedy's top reference was Harry Hopkins, who was President Roosevelt's top aid and closest political confidant. Well connected, indeed.

rcocean said...

You can sum up JFK by looking at his war service - patriot, brave, likable, and incompetent.

On one hand, the guy was beloved by his crew, tried hard, and was a 4-F millionaire who pulled strings and lied to get INTO Combat. OTOH, PT Boats don't get run down by Destroyers unless some one was asleep.

Imagine you're out in the Mojave desert - no traffic, its 3 AM and you're in a sports Car and you get run over by an 18 wheeler - that someone told you was coming. How could that have happened without pilot error?

Yeah, he wasn't a scholar but how many you nerds banged Marilyn Monroe and had a chick a day and Jackie on the side?

Fred4Pres said...

You can afford to be flippant when you know your application to Harvard is in the bag, but the honesty from Jack and Joe Sr. is refreshing. But Joe Sr. thought Joe Jr. was going to be president in 35. Jack was just a back up son.

Then again Teddy was the Fredo of the family.

Fred4Pres said...

rcocean, I would give JFK a break on getting run down by a Jap destroyer.

und 2am, on a moonless night, Kennedy's boat was idling on one engine to avoid detection of her wake by Japanese aircraft when [10] the crew realized they were in the path of the Japanese destroyer Amagiri, which was returning to Rabaul from Vila, Kolombangara after offloading supplies and 900 soldiers. Amagiri was traveling at a relatively high speed of between 23 knots (43 km/h) and 40 kt (75 km/h)in order to reach harbor by dawn, when Allied air patrols were likely to appear.

The crew had less than 10 seconds to get the engines up to speed, and were run down by the destroyer on 2 August 1943 in the Blackett Strait between Kolombangara and Arundel in the Solomon Islands near 8°06′44″S 156°54′20″E / 8.112140°S 156.905488°E / -8.112140; 156.905488.


In short, shit happens.

When it did, Jack acted like a leader, saved his men, and managed not to get captured. I would not second guess this event that much.

Jay Retread said...

During the 1980 campaign Ronald Reagan shard harrowing memories he had of going on bomber runs during WWII. The only problem was is that he had forgotten to remember that these "bomber runs" never left the Hollywood studio lot where they were being filmed.

What a knob.

Fred4Pres said...

Chad said...
Talking about another Big Fake, why are we forced to honor that other liberal lowlife (and a communist to boot) Martin Luther King? One of our best state senators wants to get rid of this ridiculus holiday. I hope Repubicans can follow through.



Nice try Chad-Moby. Now back to the Daily Kos with you.

I do not care for all of Dr. King's economic policy, but he was a great man and was absolutely right about civil rights giving everyone equal opportunity. But hey, you are just doing what you are doing to stir things up.

MarkW said...

OTOH, PT Boats don't get run down by Destroyers unless some one was asleep.

No. The PT Boats were were potentially fast (when the trouble-prone engines were all working properly), but if they ran fast at night, they created a phosphorescent wake that make them an easy target for Japanese planes (just attack at the point of the glowing V). So Kennedy's PT boat was moving slowly when it was hit by the destroyer.

rcocean said...

During the 1980 campaign Ronald Reagan shard harrowing memories...

I think you're getting Reagan mixed up with Jimmy Carter. And I think the word is "Shared" not "Shard".

But maybe English is your 2nd Language and you read this anecdote in Paraguay.

Of course, you could be Southern Democrat.

rcocean said...

Several points. One, JFK's PT boat was the only one run down by a Japanese Destroyer in WW II. In fact, I don't think any German E-boats or British MTB boats were ever run down either.

2) JFK knew the Destroyers were coming down the slot and knew which direction and the approximate time. That's why he was there, to ambush them.

3) A destroyer cruising at 30 Kts, (an incredibly high speed given the high fuel consumption) covers a 1,000 yards a minute. It throws up a big wake, easily visible at 1,000 yards. Which means JFK had 1 minute to get out of the way of a Destroyer he knew was coming.

4) It should be noted that US submarines - on dark nights - picked up enemy ships at 3,000-4000 yards, and sank them at 1,000-1,500 yards.

Nope JFK or someone was asleep. And the US Navy has never accepted the excuse that "Shit Happens" when a ship/boat goes down in wartime. The Captain needs a better excuse, unless he's the son of a politically connected millionaire.

Carol said...

'He as 19 when the war ended.'

I've met a few old boys who managed to get in right before the end, at 17 or younger if they were lucky (or unlucky). Amazing what some kids would do to get out of podunkville.

rcocean said...

And let me say, I like JFK. The only problem with Jack was his judgment and friends. I wish Nixon had been elected in 1960, he was better prepared for the POTUS and had better judgment.

And he didn't have LBJ as a VP.

David said...

"Several points. One, JFK's PT boat was the only one run down by a Japanese Destroyer in WW II. In fact, I don't think any German E-boats or British MTB boats were ever run down either."

Huh? If true (sounds doubtful) what the hell difference does it make? There were lots of ways to die in that war, and some of them were unique.

If Kennedy made a mistake, it was in getting separated from the rest of his squadron, some of which had radar on board. (Kennedy did not.) But the separation was part of the confusion of the operation.

Kennedy's heroism came after the boat sank, and he knew that as commander he bore the responsibility of losing the ship. All commanders do. When asked how he became a "war hero," he replied "They sank my boat."

Kennedy could have had a cushy job (like, say, Nixon, LBJ or Reagan) in WW II. Instead, like George H.W. Bush, he took a dangerous one. That tells me most of what I need to know about his war service.

Kirk Parker said...

"Also refreshing is the letter from JFK's father"

That's not refreshing, it's disturbing! I had no idea old Joe Kennedy was going around peering into my soul...

Roy Lofquist said...

I joined the Army on 20 Jan 1961. Los Angeles induction center. There was a TV in the room and we took our oath as Kennedy took his.

I was in Peshawar, Pakistan during the Cuban missile crisis and Adana, Turkey when he was assassinated. We had a memorial formation and watched a couple of those ugly yellow insect-like nuclear weapon transporters headed for the hot pad.

There were still a lot of WWII and Korean combat vets around. They didn't like to talk about combat. War stories are for REMFs (Rear Echelon Mother Fs). The "heroes" wore their decorations only when required to do so.

The scuttlebutt about Kennedy was that maybe they were asleep. Happens. This from guys who had nodded off in a water filled foxhole during artillery barrages. Consensus? They came home from Hell and got some fruit salad (decorations). Bless them.

Kennedy was not particularly popular with the soldiers I knew but it had nothing to do with his war record. Even assholes are loved when the bullets fly. As long as they're shooting the same direction you are.

Pastafarian said...

somefeller said: "That's okay, most Ivy League graduates have decent enough job prospects without needing to ask you for a job."

And yet I've interviewed a few. I guess they were just killing time, or practicing, or something.

"But maybe one of them could teach you to stop pissing on your shoes."

Now, that's what I THOUGHT they'd be good at: Showing someone how to pee. Not engineering, but piss instruction. I take it back, somefeller: There is value to an Ivy League education. You Yale and Cornell gadgitates can probably piss rings around the people from Michigan and Stanford and Purdue that I hired.