Digital Resources: Campaigns and Elections

The resources below, from Kennedy’s January 2, 1960 announcement of his candidacy to his inaugural address, can help bring the excitement and energy of the 1960 campaign and election into your classroom. 

Each listing includes recommended grade levels:

E = Elementary, M = Middle School, H = High School

Background Information

Campaign 1960
An historical essay on the campaign of 1960. Includes photographs and speeches, along with a recording and transcript of the first televised debate. M, H

Primary Source Material

Historic Speeches
Audio and video footage of Kennedy’s Acceptance of Democratic Nomination for President, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, and Inaugural Address. To access additional 1960 campaign speeches, click here. E, M, H

Media Gallery: Campaign
View a collection of 1960 campaign buttons, posters, and other campaign material. E, M, H

Media Gallery: Inauguration
Access an invitation to the inauguration, an image of the Bible Kennedy used to take his oath of office, and photographs from January 20, 1961. E, M, H

Interactive Exhibit: The President’s Desk, Campaign Button Module
Click on the campaign button on the president's desk to access primary sources relating to the 1960 presidential campaign and election. For additional teaching resources, click here for The President’s Desk: A Resource Guide for TeachersGrades 4 -12.E, M, H

Pre-Presidential Papers, Presidential Campaign Files, 1960
Invite your students to use the research tools and materials of professional historians. This finding aid links to digitized archival material from the 1960 campaign. M, H 

Lesson Plans

The Road to the White House
Students make the “trip” with JFK from the Democratic National Convention to the November 8, 1960 election, answering questions with information gleaned from the primary sources located in the Campaign Office, a module in the interactive exhibit, The President’s DeskE

Managing a Presidential Campaign: The 1960 Election
Students use materials related to the 1960 presidential election to explore the elements of a successful political campaign. E, M

Televised Debates: Candidates Take a Stand
Use primary source material to explore what voters can learn from political debates. Students then create a guide book to help voters select a candidate. E

Political Debates: Advising a Candidate
Students analyze excerpts from the first Kennedy-Nixon debate (September 26, 1960) and a memo assessing the debate from one of Kennedy's advisers. They then use the memo as a model as they watch a current political debate to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate they support. M, H

Red States, Blue States: Mapping the Presidential Election
Students analyze the results of the 1960 election, and collect and analyze data for a recent presidential election. E, M

"Ask not what your country can do for you"
John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address inspired children and adults to see the importance of civic action and public service. The letter included in this activity, written by a third-grade student, is one of thousands housed at the Kennedy Presidential Library. E

Recipe for an Inaugural Address
Students consider what "ingredients" might go into the speech that will launch a President's term in office as they examine some of the most memorable inaugural addresses of the past. M

Analyzing JFK’s Inaugural Address 
Students learn about the historical context of the inaugural address and then analyze the speech from three perspectives—a young civil rights activist, a Soviet diplomat, and a Cuban exile. H

Analyzing the Rhetoric of JFK’s Inaugural Address 
Students consider the rhetorical devices in the inaugural address. They analyze suggestions made by advisors and compare them to the delivered version of the speech. H