Book details

JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency

Author: John T. Shaw

JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency

JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency


About This Book

Based on newly opened archives, congressional historian and political insider John T. Shaw sheds new light on JFK's term in the Senate

Page Count
On Sale

Book Details

Before John F. Kennedy became a legendary young president he was the junior senator from Massachusetts. The Senate was where JFK's presidential ambitions were born and first realized. In the first book to deal exclusively with JFK's Senate years, author John T. Shaw looks at how the young Senator was able to catapult himself on the national stage. Tip O'Neill once quipped that Kennedy received more publicity for less accomplishment than anyone in Congress. But O'Neill didn't understand that Kennedy saw a different path to congressional influence and ultimately the presidency. Unlike Lyndon Johnson, the Democratic leader in the Senate, JFK never aspired to be "The Master of the Senate" who made deals and kept the institution under his control. Instead, he envisioned himself as a "Historian-Scholar-Statesman" in the mold of his hero Winston Churchill which he realized with the 1957 publication of Profiles of Courage that earned JFK a Pulitzer Prize and public limelight. Smart, dashing, irreverent and literary, the press could not get enough of him. Yet, largely overlooked has been Kennedy's tenure on a special Senate committee to identify the five greatest senators in American history—JFK's work on this special panel coalesced his relationships in Congress, and helped catapult him toward the presidency. Based on primary documents from JFK's Senate years as well as memoirs, oral histories, and interviews with his top aides, JFK in the Senate provides new insight into an underappreciated aspect of his political career.

Imprint Publisher

St. Martin's Griffin



In The News

“Shaw's account deftly balances anecdote and analysis, making this a valuable read for those interested in both J.F.K. the pol and J.F.K. the person.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“John F. Kennedy's Senate career is the most important, overlooked chapter in JFK's storied political life. Shaw has delivered a masterful corrective. Mining newly available archival materials, JFK in the Senate offers a riveting and revealing account of Kennedy's transformation from unremarkable freshman congressman to dynamic presidential contender. Sure to be a classic in Kennedy scholarship and American presidential history.” —Amy Zegart, Stanford University professor and Hoover Institution fellow

“Like most Americans, I usually think of John F. Kennedy as an inspiring young president. But we sometimes forget that before he was elected in 1960 he had served for eight interesting and consequential years as the junior senator from Massachusetts. We learn in this book that JFK entered the Senate as an uncertain backbencher and grew into a formidable presidential candidate and compelling American statesman. Shaw gives us a vivid, memorable account of how this transformation occurred.” —Tom Daschle, former Senate Majority Leader

“Though many of us have tried, only Warren Harding, John Kennedy and Barack Obama made the jump straight from the Senate to the White House. Here we learn how Kennedy prepared for the 1960 campaign and the presidency.” —Richard Lugar, former Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

“A captivating account of Kennedy's often overlooked formative years in the Senate. A fascinating read.” —Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania

“A compelling exploration of an understudied period in John F. Kennedy's political life. John Shaw reminds us again of Kennedy's unique political gifts. By tracing Kennedy's intellectual evolution over his Senate years, Shaw provides a new window into JFK's presidency and legacy.” —John Podesta, chairman, Center for American Progress

“John Shaw has thoughtfully and fully examined a period of John F. Kennedy's career that has been too often glossed over. By illuminating Senator Kennedy's distinctive contributions in both domestic and foreign policy, Shaw effectively refutes the cliche that Kenney was an inconsequential senator.” —Ira Shapiro, author of The Last Great Senate

About the Creators

JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency

JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency