Presidential Wit: John Fitzgerald Kennedy II

Lead: After gaining the White House, Jack Kennedy's wit helped win over a deeply divided electorate still skeptical about his qualifications for high office.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Kennedy used humor as a weapon against his opponents and as a means of diffusing uncomfortable issues about himself. One of the most important aspects of this campaign was his calculated seduction of the press, not newspaper or television management, but working reporters whom he cultivated diligently. As a former reporter himself, he knew the habits and needs of journalists, their ever-present deadlines and their habit of using humor to deal with the often seamy and depressing reality of the world they had to cover. Kennedy's use of the press was nowhere better demonstrated than at regular live Presidential press conferences. There, in a rehearsed, orchestrated fashion, the elegant Kennedy was on display to his best advantage.

Presidential Wit: John Fitzgerald Kennedy I

Lead: Faced with an image problem, politicians often use humor to win over the electorate. Few public servants were as adept at diffusing their critics with humor as John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: “Humor is a form of voter seduction that is more insidious than dirty tricks and much more amusing.” Clever politicians wield humor as a weapon to make fun of their opponents or as a means of giving themselves a more sympathetic and down-to-earth image. Since the 1960s when television first began to dominate the political arena, qualities such as wit and charm began to play a much more important role in the electoral process. No longer could a successful politician rely on political contacts, personal character and executive skill, he or she had to possess at least a measure of telegenic charisma.

Presidential Wit of Abraham Lincoln

Lead: Of the weapons available to the politician, among the most powerful is humor. No one was better at wielding that weapon than Abraham Lincoln.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Few politicians can survive if they become an object of laughter and ridicule. On the other hand, those seeking office who have the ability to use humor as a weapon against opponents or as a means of giving themselves a more sympathetic and down-to-earth image, go a long way to winning the support and perhaps the affection of the electorate. A sense of humor is not required for election, but it helps, both to soften the blow of losing or, even better, to keep political success in correct perspective.

The Wit of Samuel Johnson

Lead: Born in poverty in 1709, Samuel Johnson became England's premier eighteenth-century man of letters and was the author of the first great dictionary of the English language.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The son of a bookseller, Johnson early on developed a healthy appetite for reading but he was not a willing convert to scholarship. He later attributed his commanding knowledge of Latin to the severe beatings he received at the hand of his master at Litchfield grammar school. Johnson spent thirteen months at Pembroke College, Oxford but had to leave because the money ran out. Back in Litchfield he attempted to start a school of his own, which failed, and he acquired a wife, Tetty Porter, a widow twenty years his senior. Their stormy years together became the source of his many clever observations on married life, such as this one, "if marriage is a struggle against the odds, remarriage is the triumph of hope over experience."

 

Wit of President Abraham Lincoln

Lead: Of the weapons available to the politician, among the most powerful is humor. No one was better at wielding that weapon than Abraham Lincoln.

Tag: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Few politicians can survive if they become an object of laughter and ridicule. On the other hand, those seeking office who have the ability to use humor as a weapon against opponents or as a means of giving themselves a more sympathetic and down-to-earth image go a long way to winning to the support and perhaps the affection of the electorate. A sense of humor is not required for election, but it helps, both to soften the blow of losing or even better, to keep political success in correct perspective.

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Presidential Wit: Richard Nixon

Lead: Humor is the ready partner of many successful politicians, but humor never came easy to Richard Nixon. He succeeded largely without it.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: To evaluate the wit of Richard Nixon is difficult. There is Watergate. There is a widespread but inaccurate perception that Nixon had no humor at all. His sense of humor was real, but it reflected the darkness of his emotional apparatus, the demons and hostility that plagued him.

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