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New Kennedy Book Features Harvard

`Reckless Youth' Tells of President's Days At Winthrop House, Crimson, Spee

By Olivia F. Gentile, Contributing Reporter

In a recently released book about John F. Kennedy '40, author Nigel Hamilton chronicles the former president's scholastic, athletic, and social exploits while a student at Harvard.

JFK: Reckless Youth also traces the political development of John F. Kennedy '40. During his junior year Kennedy allegedly wrote an unsigned editorial for The Harvard Crimson in which he argued for the appeasement of Hitler. The editorial supported his father's belief that the Allies could not win the war.

That editorial, according to New York Times book reviewer Roger Morris, "might well have cost Jack Kennedy his later political career" had it borne his name. By the end of his junior year Kennedy had changed his views and supported a policy of armament.

But most sections of JFK: Reckless Youth which deal with Kennedy's time at Harvard focus on events with much less political significance.

According to Hamilton, during his first year at the College "Jack seemed to thrive on hard work, hard play, and hard sex."

Kennedy's schoolwork consequently suffered that year. Hamilton quotes a letter Kennedy wrote to a friend in January 1937: "Exam today so have to open my book and see what the fucking course is about."

Derring-do

Hamilton wrote that Kennedy's Harvard friends, noting his humor and talent for writing, believed he would eventually become a journalist.

"What such friends could not easily see...was that Jack's refusal to be a `mere' journalist reflected his inherent determination to be a derring-doer, not simply an observer," Hamilton wrote.

According to the book, Kennedy wrote in one of his first-year essays that the purpose of education was not to learn to parrot back information but to develop judgment and character.

Kennedy spent his upperclass years as a resident of Winthrop House, which Hamilton wrote was then one of the less exclusive houses.

Hamilton writes of Kennedy's being accepted, despite his Irish-Catholic descent, into the Spee Club, a Harvard final club, during his sophomore year.

The Spee became an integral part of Kennedy's life at the College: "In the spacious, well-appointed Georgian building on the corner of Mt. Auburn and Holyoke Streets in Cambridge... Jack Kennedy was, at last, `home.'"

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