About the Series 

Kennedy Library Forums are a series of public affairs programs offered by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum to foster public discussion on a diverse range of historical, political and cultural topics reflecting the legacy of President and Mrs. Kennedy's White House years.

Fall 2015 Forum Series

The full Fall 2015 Forum Series will be posted online in mid-September.

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Taylor Branch - March 1, 1998

March 1, 1998 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Taylor Branch discussed the second volume of his trilogy on the civil rights era, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-1965. The first volume, Parting the Waters, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Pillar of Fire covers the upheavals of 1963, 1964, and 1965, as the movement broadened its geographical and political scope and became more contentious and entangled with other national and international issues. Deval Patrick, former assistant attorney general Civil Right Division, Department of Justice, introduced Mr. Branch. 


Race and Political Leadership in the South - March 10, 1998

March 10, 1998 5:30 PM - 7:15 PM

President Johnson predicted in 1965 that his party would suffer because of its vigorous support of civil rights. Race, he felt, had always been such an overwhelming factor in the politics of the south, and in many northern states, that the new era of bold attacks on discrimination would inevitably bring a radical change in American politics. He was right. This forum had three goals: (a) to look at the deep-seated political traditions of leaders in the south; (b) to consider just why southern leaders opposed the civil rights movement so aggressively despite the probability of a successful outcome; and (c) to discuss the long-term political implications of the Civil Rights Movement and why southern elections have become so competitive since the time of President Johnson. Panelists were Nadine Cohodas, author of Strom Thurmond and the Politics of Southern Change and The Band Played Dixie: Race and the Liberal Conscience at Ole Miss; Ray Jenkins, former editor of The Montgomery Journal, special assistant to President Carter and editorial page editor of The Baltimore Sun; and Curtis Wilkie, reporter for The Boston Globe (stationed in New Orleans), a graduate of the University of Mississippi, covered the civil rights issues in the 1960s.


Boston and the Civil Rights Movement - March 19, 1998

March 19, 1998 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

In 1900, relations between black and white citizens in Boston were fairly good, in part because of the city's leading role in the abolitionist movement. African Americans did not yet live in distinct neighborhoods, and the political leadership of the city, including John Fitzgerald, was generally sympathetic to the needs of this small but important constituency.The story of what happened to this relationship between 1900 and 1954 is a major chapter in the history of the city. Understanding this background helps to explain the response of Bostonians to the national movement for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, and why busing in the 1970s was so difficult for everyone. The forum consisted of two brief talks and a panel discussion among Boston civil rights activists of the 1960s: Ruth Batson, national, statewide and local activist, founder of METCO and former president of the Museum of Afro-American History; Gerald Gill, associate professor of history at Tufts University; and James Jennings, director of the William Monroe Trotter Institute and professor of political science at University of Massachusetts, Boston.

The Struggle for Civil Rights - April 28, 1998

April 28, 1998 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Elaine Jones, head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, moderated a panel discussion of the events in the early 1960s that led to the Civil Rights Act. The panel included civil rights leaders and administration officials involved in the events at the time: Anthony Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer; Dorothy Cotton, member of the Southern Christian Leadership Council; Myrlie Evers-Williams, wife of Medgar Evers, Director of the Mississippi NAACP; Prathia Hall, member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; James Hood, one of the two students integrated into the University of Alabama; Theodore Sorensen, Special Assistant to President Kennedy; Burke Marshall, Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice; Nick Katzenbach, Deputy Attorney General of the United States; and Ed Williams, State Department official.

Transcript       Transcript 2

A Conversation on Race - June 8, 1998

June 8, 1998 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

As part of President Clinton's Initiative on Race, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity William E. Leftwich III moderated a public symposium on race relations in America.


The Making of the President 2000 - March 5, 2000

March 5, 2000 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

On the eve of the Massachusetts presidential primary, former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and Democratic Congressman Barney Frank squared off in an analysis of the results of the early primaries and how the major candidates are positioning themselves for the general election campaign. Boston Globe columnist David Nyhan moderated the session.

Debating Campaign Finance Reform - March 14, 2000

March 14, 2000 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Free speech for all or free access for the wealthy? The next great civil rights issue or a perilous threat to the Constitution? A debate about whether we should we reform our system of financing political campaigns took place between pro-reform activists, John Bonifaz, Director of the National Voting Rights Institute, and Carrie Bolton, veteran civil rights worker with Democracy South; and free speech defenders Wendy Kaminer, Radcliffe Institute Policy Fellow and contributor to the Atlantic Monthly; and James Bopp Jr., noted litigator who represents the Christian Coalition and the National Right to Life Committee in these disputes.

Robert Frost: The Nation's Poet - April 2, 2000

April 2, 2000 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

President Kennedy described Robert Frost as "one of the granite figures of our time. He was supremely two things: an artist and an American." In his recent biography, Robert Frost: A Life, Jay Parini analyzed the conflict between Frost's artistic need for solitude and his desire for exposure to the general public. Using a colloquial voice in his verse and courting national leaders such as Eisenhower and Kennedy, Frost earned his position as America's national bard. After viewing clips of Frost's recitation at JFK's inaugural, Parini, poet, novelist, and professor at Middlebury College, offered his analysis of the final years of one of this century's greatest poets.

The Cold War through Khruschchev's Eyes - April 16, 2000

April 16, 2000 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Few moments in history were as full of peril and promise as the period of the Cold War when a post-Stalin Soviet Union came under the dynamic leadership of Nikita Khrushchev. His son, Sergei Khrushchev, now a US citizen and professor at Brown University, discussed his new book, Nikita Khrushchev and the Creation of a Superpower. Moderating the session was David Eisenhower, grandson of the 34th president.

"Mission Control: We have a problem." - April 17, 2000

April 17, 2000 5:15 PM - 7:00 PM

Marking the 30th anniversary of Apollo 13, NASA Mission Control Director Gene Kranz discussed his new book, Failure is Not an Option, providing an insider's account of the entire manned space program including the flights of Alan Shepard and John Glenn, Neil Armstrong's moonwalk, and the memorable return to earth of Apollo 13. Kranz also discussed Hollywood's dramatization of that historic flight by showing film clips from the movie in which he was portrayed by Ed Harris.

American Tragedy Revisiting Vietnam - May 1, 2000

May 1, 2000 5:15 PM - 7:00 PM

Last fall, Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith offered a dramatic re-assessment of the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, based in large measure on his reading of David Kaiser's new book American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War. Relying on newly opened archival resources, Kaiser, professor at the Naval war College, discussed why we entered the war, why our efforts were doomed to fail, and the intriguing interplay between Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and their senior military subordinates. Ambassador Galbraith offered his response to this startling new account.

Women in Massachusetts Politics - May 7, 2000

May 7, 2000 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

For over four decades, Betty Taymor has been an outspoken advocate of women's candidacy for elective office. In her new memoir Running Against the Wind, she weaves together the fascinating story of her own experience in politics (including her work with John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, and Edward M. Kennedy) with hard hitting narrative on women's deplorable lack of success in breaking through the political glass ceiling in Massachusetts. Taymor is a former Democratic National Committeewoman and the founder of the Center for Women in Politics at UMass Boston.

The Art of Political Biography - May 16, 2000

May 16, 2000 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

The recent publication of several notable political biographies has led to increased interest in the art of creating accurate and compelling portraits of our nation's leaders. Distinguished historian Jill Ker Conway moderated a session with Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer David Herbert Donald (Abraham Lincoln and Charles Sumner), National Book Award winner Joseph Ellis (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams), and Bancroft Prize winner Robert Dallek (Lyndon Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt, and currently at work on a new biography of John F. Kennedy).

A Conversation with President George Bush - May 21, 2000

May 21, 2000 12:00 AM - 1:30 PM

On the eve of the Profile in Courage Award ceremony, Caroline Kennedy honored President George Bush as part of the Kennedy Library's Distinguished American series. Following this brief presentation, President Bush discussed his published collection of letters, All the Best, in a session moderated by John Seigenthaler, Chairman of the Freedom Forum.

Robert F. Kennedy Conference - November 18, 2000

November 18, 2000 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

Four panel disussions, moderated by John Seigenthaler, paid tribute to the memory of Robert F. Kennedy, followed by a keynote address by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend:

I: Harris Wofford, Special Assistant to President Kennedy; Ed Guthman, Special Assistant to Robert F. Kennedy; and James W. Hilty, author of Robert F. Kennedy: Brother Protector

II: Peter Edelman, Legislative Assistant to Senator Robert F. Kennedy; Jeff Shesol, author of Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert F. Kennedy and the Feud that Defined the Decade; and Douglas Brinkley, presidential historian

III: Joe Dolan, Administrative Assistant to Robert F. Kennedy; Theodore Sorensen, Special Assistant to President Kennedy; and Michael Sandel, professor of Government at Harvard University

IV: Congressman John Lewis (via video), Civil Rights Leader; Anthony Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist; and Marian Wright Edelman, founder of Children's Defense Fund


Promoting Religious Tolerance in the Face of Religiously Motivated Terrorism - October 22, 2001

October 22, 2001 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

One of the most enduring legacies of President Kennedy is his commitment to religious tolerance. Panelists confronted the religious misunderstandings that continue to fuel division in our world. Speakers included Father Bryan Hehir, Dean of the Harvard Divinity School; Professor Leila Ahmed, author of Women and Gender in Islam; Robert Leikind, Director of the New England office of the Anti-Defamation League; Andrew Tarsy, Director of Civil Rights of the Anti Defamation League; and Ambassador Charles Stith, former minister of the Union United Methodist Church and Ambassador to Tanzania at the time the US Embassy was bombed. Host of WBUR's The Connection, Dick Gordon, moderated.

Women Trailblazers - October 26, 2001

October 26, 2001 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

In conjunction with the exhibition, Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years, an extraordinary group of women discussed their experiences as trailblazers in their fields and their insights concerning frontiers yet unconquered. Moderated by Carole Simpson of ABC News, speakers included: Geraldine Ferraro, first woman Vice Presidential nominee; Mae Jemison, first African American woman in space; and Wilma Mankiller, first women to serve as Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Redistricting in Massachusetts: A Community Discussion - October 28, 2001

October 28, 2001 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Based on the 2000 census data, the Massachusetts Congressional map will be redrawn. State Representative Jarrett Barrios, State Senator Dianne Wilkerson, UMass Boston Professor Paul Watanabe, and other community leaders discussed the census, redistricting, and political opportunities for ethnic minorities to have their voices heard.

Presidential Decision-making: The U.S. Response to Terrorism - October 29, 2001

October 29, 2001 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Joseph Nye, Dean of the Kennedy School of Government and former US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, led a panel including Jessica Stern, an expert on terrorism and professor at the Kennedy School of Government, and Thomas Oliphant, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at the Boston Globe, concerning the choices facing President George W. Bush and his administration's handling of the crisis to date.

The Wrong Response: Recalling the U.S. Internment of the Japanese - November 4, 2001

November 4, 2001 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Congressman Robert T. Matsui shared his and his family's experience in Japanese internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and commented on the dangers of a similar backlash against Arab Americans in response to the recent attacks on the US. Kenneth Oye, professor of political science at MIT, moderated.

Presidents and Foreign Policy Crises - November 7, 2001

November 7, 2001 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

David Gergen, advisor to four presidents and author of Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, discussed the foreign policies of presidents he has known and comment on the military and leadership challenges facing the current administration.

Race in the Military - November 11, 2001

November 11, 2001 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

As the country commemorated Veterans' Day and faced an unprecedented military threat, Gail Buckley, author of American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm, discussed the long, and at times tortuous history, of African Americans in the US Military. Gerald Gill, professor of history at Tufts University, moderated.

Bringing International Criminals to Justice - November 12, 2001

November 12, 2001 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

How should the world community punish those who commit crimes against humanity? Justice Richard Goldstone, former Chief Prosecutor for the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia; and Michael Ignatieff, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, discussed the development of a system of international justice to confront the perpetrators of such actions, be they former heads of government such as Slobodan Milošević or international terrorists such as those who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Boston Globe's Elizabeth Neuffer moderated.

Defending an Open Society - November 14, 2001

November 14, 2001 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

In responding to terrorism on its own shores, how can the US protect security and civil liberties? NPR chief legal correspondent Nina Totenberg moderated a panel including John Shattuck, former Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and ACLU Washington Director, Michael Horrowitz, Nancy Gertner, and Philip Heymann.

Defining Style: Jacqueline Kennedy's White House Years - November 18, 2001

November 18, 2001 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Hamish Bowles, Euopean Editor-at-Large of Vogue and guest curator of Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years, discussed how Mrs. Kennedy helped to revolutionize the taste of the nation and became a leading promoter of American arts and culture. Sponsored by the Boston Globe.

Searching for a Better World in the Face of Terrorism - December 9, 2001

December 9, 2001 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Prior to the terrorist attack in New York, CARE, one of the world's pre-eminent humanitarian relief and development organizations, was leading the fight against hunger and for healthier living conditions for the Afghan people. Peter Bell, President of CARE, discussed the challenge of protecting those relief workers and the importance of continuing relief efforts in developing countries as a means to combat division, oppression, and terror at its roots.

Assessing the Military's Options - December 12, 2001

December 12, 2001 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

As Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Wesley K. Clark oversaw NATO's military intervention in the former Yugoslavia. Based on his new book Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat, he commented on the current US military and diplomatic efforts to confront and debilitate international terrorist networks.

Protecting Human Rights - January 6, 2002

January 6, 2002 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

As United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson has traveled the globe in an effort to advance freedom, promote peace, and protect human rights. In this forum, she commented on the roles of, and relationship between, the United Nations and the United States in these endeavors. Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer Anthony Lewis moderated.

Reassessing the Johnson Presidency - January 30, 2002

January 30, 2002 5:15 PM - 7:00 PM

In Reaching for Glory: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1964 - 1965, Michael Beschloss interprets the secretly-recorded conversations of LBJ's presidency during the crucial years in which Johnson demands the passage of civil rights legistation, promotes the Great Society programs, and escalates the war in Vietnam.


Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years - February 3, 2002

February 3, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas, Kennedy biographer Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Irish novelist Edna O'Brien, and Tiffany executive John Loring  remembered Jacqueline Kennedy and her enduring hold on the world's imagination. Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman moderated.

Brokering Peace in War-Torn Lands - March 4, 2002

March 4, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Former Senator George Mitchell discussds his experience as a negotiator in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, mediating among centuries-old antagonists.

Theodore Roosevelt: The White House Years - March 5, 2002

March 5, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

As part of the Kennedy Library Presidential Historian series, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris discussed his new, best-selling book, Theodore Rex, the second of a proposed three volume biography.

A Reporter's View from the Frontlines - March 13, 2002

March 13, 2002 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour - who has covered the US response to terrorism in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia - shared first-hand accounts from her most recent reporting.

Seeking Common Ground: Civil Rights and Human Rights - March 15, 2002

March 15, 2002 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM

One of the country's best-loved entertainers, Harry Belafonte has also been at the forefront of our nation's struggle for civil rights and the international effort to promote human rights throughout the globe. In this forum, Mr. Belafonte launched a major new civil rights and human rights initiative at the Kennedy Library by reflecting on America's painful history of racial injustice and commenting on the challenges that remain to advance human rights both at home an abroad. Anthony Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer, moderated.


Ending Global Poverty - March 25, 2002

March 25, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Jeffrey Sachs, renowned expert on the economic and social devastation of AIDS in developing countries, was named by Kofi Annan as Special UN Advisor on poverty, health, and education. Professor Sachs discussed the challenge of ending poverty that afflicts so much of the world today.

Democratic Gubernatorial Debate - April 1, 2002

April 1, 2002 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

All of the major Democratic candidates for Governor were invited to discuss the pressing issues facing Massachusetts and to debate who should be the party's challenger to Acting Governor Jane Swift.

Challenges at Home and Abroad: Past and Present - April 8, 2002

April 8, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

From World War II pilot to presidential candidate, George McGovern has been "in the arena" through a half century of history. He and veteran CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer discussed our nation's past and the challenges facing the US and the world in these difficult times.

The U.S. and the Middle East: Strengthening the Dialogue - April 11, 2002

April 11, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan led a discussion of US humanitarian efforts and how they can be more effective in helping to forge new alliances with those living in the Arab and Muslim world.

What Would JFK Do? - April 21, 2002

April 21, 2002 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Special Counsel to President Kennedy Theodore Sorensen articulates President Kennedy's core beliefs about human nature, international relations, and the role of the US in the world - and applies them to the current international situation.

Is the Human Rights Era Ending? - April 22, 2002

April 22, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Michael Ignatieff, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights policy at Harvard, led a discussion concerning whether in the aftermath of September 11, the era of human rights has come and gone.

The Presidency of Harry S. Truman - April 28, 2002

April 28, 2002 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

As part of the Kennedy Library's examination of 20th century presidents, noted historians Alan Brinkley and Melvin Leffler led an analysis of our 33rd president, who faced challenges not unlike those confronting our country today.

The Challenge at Home - April 28, 2002

April 28, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Senator Edward M. Kennedy set out both the domestic and foreign policy challenges facing our country as he sees them from his unique historical and political vantage point of four decades of leadership in the United States Senate.

The State of Political Courage Today - May 6, 2002

May 6, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Caroline Kennedy convened some of our country's most respected commentators to discuss the state of courage in our existing political climate. PBS News Anchor Gwen Ifill moderated a discussion with past Profile in Courage Award recipient Representative Hilda Solis; children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman; and journalists E.J. Dionne, Al Hunt, Bill Kovach, and Steve Roberts. This forum coincided with the publication of Profiles in Courage in Our Time, edited by Caroline Kennedy, with chapters on the past recipients of the Profile in Courage Award.

Citizen McCain - May 13, 2002

May 13, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Senators John McCain and Russell Feingold won the Profile in Courage Award in 1999 for their legislative efforts to promote campaign finance reform. Veteran journalist Elizabeth Drew discussed her new book, Citizen McCain, with former Boston Globe columnist David Nyhan who covered McCain in his bid for the presidency in 2000.

Defending an Open Society - June 5, 2002

June 5, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

In responding to terrorism on its own shores, how can the US protect the security of its citizens without unduly restricting civil liberties? Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, led an examination of the current US response to the terrorist threat in the aftermath of September 11. This session was moderated by Callie Crossley, news commentator and producer.

Ask what you can do for your country: National Summit on Service - June 17, 2002

June 17, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

One of the most enduring legacies of President John F. Kennedy is his call for Americans to serve their country. Senators John McCain and Evan Bayh led a town meeting on national service and discussed their pending legislation to create more service opportunities by expanding Americorps and modifying the college work-study program, GI Bill benefits, and enlistment procedures for those wishing to join the military. Jonathan Alter, senior correspondent and columnist for Newsweek, moderated. 


Human Rights Then and Now - September 23, 2002

September 23, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Veteran human rights leader Jeri Laber discussed her new memoir describing her experiences as the founder of Helsinki Watch and her efforts to advance human rights throughout the world.

Confronting the Terrorist Threat - September 24, 2002

September 24, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Before the tragic events of September 11, 2001, former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, co-chairs of the US Commission on National Security, warned of the risks of terrorist attacks on US soil. In this forum, moderated by terrorism expert Juliette Kayyem, they discussed our country's response to terrorism and the proposal to form a cabinet-level agency for homeland security.

Seeking Common Ground: Civil Rights and Human Rights - September 25, 2002

September 25, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

What lessons can human rights workers throughout the globe learn from the civil rights struggle in the United States? Elaine Jones of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Gay McDougall of the International Human Rights Law Group, Ken Roth of the Human Rights Watch, and Lynn Walker Huntley of the Southern Education Foundation discussed the historical and contemporary challenges facing both movements.


James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss. - September 30, 2002

September 30, 2002 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

On the fortieth anniversary of the registration of James Meredith as the first black student at the University of Mississippi, Mr. Meredith joins with Kennedy administration officials Burke Marshall and John Doar, and member of the Little Rock Nine, Ernest Green, in a forum moderated by journalist Juan Williams.