About the Exhibit

John F. Kennedy was the first president to conduct live televised press conferences. Although some worried about the risk of mistakes by the President, and others thought some journalists showed insufficient respect for the dignity of his office, both the public and the press responded enthusiastically to JFK's innovative live televised news conferences.

President Kennedy's News Conference of 23 March 1961, with mapboard used to illustrate Communist Rebel Areas in Laos.

JFK conducted 64 press conferences during the course of his Presidency, an average of 1 every 16 days. The first aired on January 25, 1961, and was viewed by an estimated 65 million people. A poll taken in 1961 indicated that 90 percent of those interviewed had watched at least one of his first three press conferences; the average audience for all the broadcast conferences was 18 million viewers. Portions of the press conferences are presented in the exhibit illustrating the range of domestic and international issues addressed by President Kennedy during his tenure in the White House.  

  

The State of the World 

The Cold War, pitting the western democracies (led by the United States) against the Communist nations (led by the Soviet Union) had been disturbing world peace for 16 years when John F. Kennedy became President. The two sides vied for the support of neutral countries.  Divided Berlin, located 200 miles inside the Soviet-controlled East Germany, was the symbolic center of the Cold War, but tensions circled the world: the seizure of power by Fidel Castro in Cuba, the threat of Communist infiltration into newly independent Laos, and maneuvering to influence in the Middle East.

An interactive display allows visitors to get briefed by advisers on the leading issues of the day, then try answering actual questions posed to President Kennedy by members of the press.

Exhibit Highlights

Radio and Television Executive Society Medal On display is the Radio and Television Executive Society Medal presented to President Kennedy in response to his innovation of holding live televised press conferences.

Reproduction of the Independence Hall Inkstand

A replica of the inkstand used by signers of the Declaration of Independence given to JFK by White House news correspondents and photographers.  This inkstand was made by Reed and Barton of Taunton, Massachusetts.
 

Press Conference

An abstract sculpture of President Kennedy by Herman Perlman entitled "Press Conference" depicting his hair, arm and pointing hand as if in the act of questioning a member of the press, a caricature of his typical stance at a Presidential press conference.