The Age of Great Dreams

by David Farber

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What is the main point of chapter 2 in The Age of Great Dreams?

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The second chapter of David Farber's The Age of Great Dreams focuses on the 1960 presidential contest between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy as well as Kennedy's victory, his desire to “recast” America's image as a global power with a mission to the world, and his handling of...

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the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The author begins with a discussion of the presidential campaign. Nixon faltered in the face of Kennedy's easy smoothness, and Kennedy soon embraced the stance of “change” and especially of forceful anti-Communism. He also focused on economic prosperity and growth that could take the US into a leading position in the world. Most Americans, the author notes, liked things black and white and easy to understand, and Kennedy offered this. Kennedy won the election, but it was close.

Farber then goes on to speak of Kennedy's persona, his use of the media (especially television), and his Inaugural Address, in which he set the goal of making the US into a world power with a global mission. America, he asserted, must spread its ideas of liberty to the rest of the world, and he invited all Americans to join him in this effort.

Kennedy was put to the test during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the author describes it in some detail, focusing especially on Kennedy's handling of the situation and on his West Berlin speech. The US managed to avoid open warfare, and the Soviets backed down. The author notes, though, that while “Kennedy's rhetoric was inspirational,” many of his programs and policies fell short, and at his assassination, people realized that sometimes possibilities could be bad as well as good.

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