Putting It All Together
American history and culture are both shaped by the accomplishments of individuals. The 1960 election of John F. Kennedy as the youngest elected and the first Roman Catholic president of the United States reinforced for many the American beliefs that one person can make a difference.
Activity 1: Why Do We Remember John F. Kennedy?
Many people remember John F. Kennedy's presidency as a time when Americans had a true sense of pride in their country. Many looked toward the future with hope and confidence in the idea that the United States could help build a better world. Divide the class into four groups to investigate four of the important issues of President Kennedy's administration: the space program, civil rights, the peace corps, and the nuclear arms race. Ask each team to make a report to the class.
Many of the issues and problems that concerned President Kennedy are still with us today. Assign each student to find a recent newspaper article dealing with one of the four issues studied and to share it with the class. They should describe the following: the issue discussed in the article; changes that have occurred, if any, since Kennedy's time; why the issue is still important today; and what can be done today to solve the problem or issue.
Activity 2: Changing Attitudes Over Time
Ask all students to read a profile of Kennedy that was written just after his death. Then assign them to find an assessment of him in the years since; one student might look at a year after his death, another five years, another ten years, and so on. Have each student (or group) to write up a brief summary of what has changed and what has remained the same, and then read this report to the rest of the class. When all have finished, have them discuss how opinions about JFK have developed since his assassination. Be sure to have them consider why this has happened.
Activity 3: Who Am I?
The character of each of us is formed by a combination of heredity and environment. Ask students to assemble a list of family traditions, important family values, and special family stories. Have them interview family members to provide more information including how these traditions, etc., became an important part of their family history. Are they important to the students? Will they pass down the same traditions to their own families? Why or why not? Now have students consider the community where they grew up. How have their surroundings influenced their own personality and character?
As an alternative assignment, ask students to find a special family photograph and describe, in writing, what it shows about their own development and their relationship with their family. To facilitate the writing, ask questions such as: How old is the photograph? Who or what is in the picture? Where was it taken? By whom? Why is it an event, place, or time to remember?