In what ways was the presidential candidacy of Senator John F. Kennedy different or unique?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The presidential candidacy of Senator John F. Kennedy was different or unique for the following reasons:

1) The country had never elected a Catholic to the presidency.  Because of the relationship of the Catholic Church to its followers, and Kennedy being a Catholic, Protestant Americans were concerned about the influence the Church would have on his policies were he to be elected.  Kennedy attempted to assuage this concern in a September 12, 1960, speech before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.  In the speech, Kennedy sought to assure the audience of Protestant ministers that Catholicism would not be a factor in how he would govern.  As he stated in that speech,

          "I believe in an America where the separation of church and            state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote . . . and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him."

2) The role of television in influencing political contests was a new consideration in presidential politics.  The Nixon-Kennedy debates were televised, the first time the new medium of mass communication was used for that purpose.  Kennedy's youth, appearance, and ability to articulate his position contrasted with the much older and less telegenic Nixon.  

3) John Kennedy would be the youngest person ever elected president.  Kennedy's relative youth was a concern to many who wondered whether he possessed the maturity and experience necessary for the job.

4) The relationship of the candidate to the world of celebrity was more pronounced than ever before.  While famous people had routinely voiced support for one candidate or another, the high profile of those who supported Kennedy combined, once again, with the emerging role of television, provided a glamour that past presidential candidates couldn't have imagined.  

5) The Kennedy Family dynasty, while not unique in the history of American politics, was more pronounced than in previous campaigns.