JFK's Last Hundred Days
The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President
A revelatory, minute-by-minute account of JFK’s last hundred days that asks what might have been
Fifty years after his death, President John F. Kennedy’s legend endures. Noted author and historian Thurston Clarke argues that the heart of that legend is what might have been. As we approach the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, JFK’s Last Hundred Days reexamines the last months of the president’s life to show a man in the midst of great change, finally on the cusp of making good on his extraordinary promise.
Kennedy’s last hundred days began just after the death of two-day-old Patrick Kennedy, and during this time, the president made strides in the Cold War, civil rights, Vietnam, and his personal life. While Jackie was recuperating, the premature infant and his father were flown to Boston for Patrick’s treatment. Kennedy was holding his son’s hand when Patrick died on August 9, 1963. The loss of his son convinced Kennedy to work harder as a husband and father, and there is ample evidence that he suspended his notorious philandering during these last months of his life.
Also in these months Kennedy finally came to view civil rights as a moral as well as a political issue, and after the March on Washington, he appreciated the power of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., for the first time.
Though he is often depicted as a devout cold warrior, Kennedy pushed through his proudest legislative achievement in this period, the Limited Test Ban Treaty. This success, combined with his warming relations with Nikita Khrushchev in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis, led to a détente that British foreign secretary Sir Alec Douglas- Home hailed as the “beginning of the end of the Cold War.”
Throughout his presidency, Kennedy challenged demands from his advisers and the Pentagon to escalate America’s involvement in Vietnam. Kennedy began a reappraisal in the last hundred days that would have led to the withdrawal of all sixteen thousand U.S. military
advisers by 1965.
JFK’s Last Hundred Days is a gripping account that weaves together Kennedy’s public and private lives, explains why the grief following his assassination has endured so long, and solves the most tantalizing Kennedy mystery of all—not who killed him but who he was when he was killed, and where he would have led us.
Advance Praise for JFK’s Last Hundred Days:
"Thurston Clarke has done the seemingly impossible: he has found a revealing new angle of vision on John F. Kennedy that brings the president and his times back to vivid life. This is excellent narrative history."
—Jon Meacham, New York Times bestselling author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
"The three-months before President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas were frenetic times: civil rights, Vietnam, Berlin and reelection were on his mind. Thurston Clarke's JFK's Last Hundred Days does a marvelous job of reliving Camelot's fragile promise. Clarke is a masterful storyteller and able researcher. This book sings. Highly recommended."
—Douglas Brinkley, author of Cronkite
"Clarke makes the drama, the excitement, and the dark side of Camelot seem like only yesterday—indeed, you feel as though you’re right there, in the Kennedy White House, at Hyannis Port, and aboard Air Force One with JFK, today."
—Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution.
Praise for The Last Campaign:
“The Last Campaign is a great read, an evocative and engaging reminder of the glory and the tragedy of Bobby Kennedy's run for the presidency in 1968. Thurston Clarke's keen eye for the telling detail and his fast-paced narrative make The Last Campaign a must-have for any student of American politics."—Tom Brokaw
"The Last Campaign is a triumphant look at Robert F. Kennedy's heartfelt plunge into the poverty underbelly of America. The reader can't help but be moved at how deeply Kennedy cared about the underclass. Thurston Clarke has written a smart political book which actually inspires."—Douglas Brinkley
“The Last Campaign is a magnificent account of the final months in the life of a man who changed so many of us, and the brilliantly told story of a campaign that broke our hearts.”—E.J. Dionne, author of Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right
“Tremendously moving….Clarke compellingly recreates this “huge, joyous adventure”….Kennedy’s gradual but determined evolution into a fearless, formidable, winning candidate makes stupendous reading. The hope he inspired….still proves instructive and pertinent, especially in this election year. Generous without being slavish, beautifully capturing Kennedy’s passion and dignity.”—Kirkus (starred review)
“…revealing as an iconic portrait of the passionate, turbulent zeitgeist of the 1960s.”—Publisher’s Weekly
“I'll be shocked if I read a more devastatingly beautiful book than Thurston Clarke's The Last Campaign… this year…. Robert F. Kennedy's moral imagination shines in this book, so brightly, so compassionately, so full of literature and light and sacrifice, that it will haunt many readers who had hoped matters of war, poverty and inequality might have been solved 40 years ago.”—The Austin American-Statesman
“. . .The Last Campaign, a beautifully written and emotionally powerful examination of Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. . . Thurston Clarke has built The Last Campaign on an incredible amount of research, both archival and through hundreds of interviews with those who knew Kennedy best. The result is a vivid, intimate, historical portrait of a candidate who knew how to speak to an electorate amid troubled times. . . Clarke’s book will break your heart but it may also relieve your cynicism, reminding all of us that candidates need not pander to succeed.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“. . .The Last Campaign succeeds in framing a picture within a picture of a seminal year that reverberates to this day.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“. . .very well written and offers a ringside seat on tumultuous times.”—Mike Barry
“Clarke’s findings help to explain the divisions that have riven this nation for a generation. Heed this book, therefore, for the ideals and resentments that dominated that election are starkly similar to the ones facing today’s voters.”—The Miami Herald
“Mr. Clarke advances at a sprightly pace, has a keen eye for detail and captures not only the externals but the fascinating inner dynamics of the contest…. Captures [Kennedy’s] transformation with skill, showing R.F.K. emerging, page by page, into a brilliant and utterly iconoclastic politician over those short months on the trail.”—Ted Widmer, The New York Observer
“The images from “The Last Campaign,” Thurston Clarke’s powerful account of Robert F. Kennedy’s campaign for the presidency…impel themselves on the reader, touching chords of memory and sorrow.”—Michael Kenney, The Boston Globe
“A vivid portrait of a politician coming to a moral reckoning.”—David Ulin, The Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A ride inside the spinning bubble of [Kennedy’s] frenzied, idealistic, doomed campaign. [Clarke’s] discussion of the politics of class and race—the “backlash whites” in Indiana, the affluent antiwar voters in Oregon—proves remarkably topical, as is the moral challenge of Kennedy’s speeches on poverty.”—The New Yorker
“Clarke’s stirring narrative takes readers back to the late 1960s, that idealistic, hopeful—then tragic—time in history.”—Times-Picayune
“. . . an exhilarating read. . . passionate retelling.”—Gilbert Cruz, TIME
“. . . Clarke comes away with a focused, unique and worthy discovery of what happened during those two and a half months.”—J. Taylor Rushing, The Hill, TheHill.com
“. . . a fine addition to the Kennedy canon.”—Todd Leopold, CNN.com
“Well-reported and well-written.”—The Dallas Morning News, Steve Weinberg
“. . . takes a detailed and fascinating look at the period. . . “—Greg Morano, Hartford Courant
“Piercing and painstakingly researched, it’s political history written right.”—New York Magazine
“Fortunately … the author of this book is Thurston Clarke, an excellent writer and super-diligent reporter.”—Jack Lessenberry, Toledo Blade
“Clarke captures the Kennedy campaign in unusually graphic terms, quoting people along motorcade routes, quoting conversations Kennedy had with his staff and leading political figures. He makes the campaign come alive again, a strange thing in light of how much things have changed. This is political storytelling at its zenith.”—Dennis Lythgoe, Deseret News
"One of the many pleasures of reading Thurston Clarke’s … The Last Campaign … is the introduction it provides to RFK’s fierce moral rhetoric."—Nick Hornby
"Piercing and painstakingly researched, it’s political history written right."—New York Magazine
Praise for Ask Not:
“[Ask Not] has the happy effect of bringing quite fully to life that brief, hopeful hour in our nation’s history.”
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