Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson were temperamental opposites. Kennedy was born in comfortable circumstances, well educated, a decorated veteran of WWII and a candidate whose youthful appearance and glamorous lifestyle and witty intellect mesmerized the nation. Johnson by contrast was born under more humble conditions in the grasslands of eastern Texas. Kennedy was charismatic, promised “New Frontiers” including eradicating injustice and taking meaningful strides to eradicate domestic inequities. Johnson lacked Kennedy’s eloquence although Johnson mastered the complex politics of coalition building through a combination of threatening and cajoling reluctant members of Congress to endorse a myriad of legislation entitled the “Great Society” to comprehensively eradicate categorical social injustice and providing extensive programs to improve education, vocational training, neglected urban development and national health care. Kennedy reached out to developing nations in South America, South Asia and Africa while navigating international crises in Berlin, Cuba and Southeast Asia. He epitomized hope and global dialogue in contrast to Johnson’s increasing fixation with maintaining American credibility in the ongoing crusade against communist territorial expansion at the cost of sacrificing the notable progress made in acknowledging and dismantling racial segregation and opening the possibility of long-term economic improvement for the nation’s least affluent components. Citing milestones and controversies, evaluate the impact of both presidents and the importance of the political dialogue they initiated in fulfillment of constitutional mandates.
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