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From Eisenhower to Kennedy: What the two presidencies meant for a changing America




President John F. Kennedy and former president Dwight D. Eisenhower September 10, 1962 at the White House.
President John F. Kennedy and former president Dwight D. Eisenhower September 10, 1962 at the White House.
National Archives/Getty Images

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The 1960s are considered a time of change, and that included the U.S. presidency.

When John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Richard Nixon in 1961, a little-known 10-week transition period was as much of a whirlwind shift as the rest of the country. It was a stark contrast from then-president, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s tenure in the White House and a brewing rivalry between Eisenhower and Kennedy. J.F.K symbolized a new generation of political and social ideologies, and there were dueling visions for the nation. There were also personal differences between the two leaders, as Kennedy’s campaign criticized Eisenhower’s leadership and eventually beat his vice president, Richard Nixon in the election.

So how different were Ike and J.F.K.’s plans for the U.S.? And what led to the country’s swift and historic change? Reporter and author John T. Shaw documents this shift in his new book, “Rising Star, Setting Sun: Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and the Presidential Transition that Changed America.

Larry speaks to Shaw today on the differences between the two presidents and what that meant for the U.S. we know now.

Guest:

John T. Shaw, author of “Rising Star, Setting Sun: Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and the Presidential Transition that Changed America” (Pegasus, 2018); director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University