THE last time I spoke with President Kennedy was in February, 1963. I had come to Washington to obtain the support of the Foreign Service for the last phase of my Columbus work — a joint flying expedition with a friend from Bogotá to photograph all islands and places that Columbus discovered. I had an appointment with McGeorge Bundy; and after I told him what I wanted, he said, “Wouldn’t you like to see the President?” Of course I would; so McGeorge, after peeking through a crack in the door to the President’s study to make sure that he was not busy with someone else, let me in. Mr. Kennedy greeted me cordially, asked me what I was about to do, approved it, and then, instead of waving me out, called my attention to a model of the clipper ship Flying Cloud, which had just been given to him. That led to a talk about her history and her all-time sailing record of eighty-nine days New York to San Francisco, around Cape Horn. The President, without conveying any feeling that I should retire, showed me some of the other ship pictures and models in his study, and left it to me to decide when to leave. That was typical of Jack Kennedy. No matter how urgent and weighty were the affairs of state, he could always find time to greet an acquaintance in the easy, unhurried manner of a gentleman meeting an old friend.

President Kennedy had a great sense of history. He studied it in college, read it extensively after he graduated, wrote a good book on American history, Profiles in Courage, and regarded his Administration as picking up and continuing the central liberal, Jeffersonian tradition in American history. As an example of this, I recall his rebuke, on January 9, 1961, a few days before his inauguration, to the General Court of Massachusetts, which had become almost a symbol of corruption. Instead of clichés and comfortable platitudes about the dear old Bay State, he quoted the words of Governor Winthrop, to the effect that the people of Massachusetts should always remember that they were “a city upon a hill,” under “the eyes of all people.” The lesson, I fear, has not been deeply heeded, despite Governor Peabody’s efforts to drive it home.

Courage Mr. Kennedy never lacked: courage to differ publicly from the appeasement ideas of his father and elder brother; courage as an MTB commander in the last war, when, his PT-109 sliced in two by a Japanese destroyer and sunk, Skipper Kennedy assisted in rescuing the floating survivors; even towed one of them, his burned engineer officer, ashore by gripping the tie-ties of the man’s life jacket with his teeth. After reaching shore, Lieutenant Kennedy did not relax but swam out into the sound in the hope of intercepting a rescue vessel, was in the water all night and just able to make shore in the morning. A severe injury to his back resulted from that brave night’s work, but Jack Kennedy never let it keep him from active life. His courage, however, was not the bullheaded courage of Theodore Roosevelt; he had patience, he could wait, and work quietly for his New Frontier program. Witness his patience with the slowmoving Congress; T.R. would long ago have exploded and called names. Kennedy added serenity to courage, and that quality made him all the more effective.

Courage alone is not enough qualification for a President of the United States, but it is one of the qualifications of a great one, like John Quincy Adams, the President whom Mr. Kennedy most admired. Calvin Coolidge, the one Massachusetts President between Adams and Kennedy, won his reputation in history, such as it is, by evading great issues. John F. Kennedy, on the contrary, made his reputation by meeting them head on. He came to the presidency at a crisis in the cold war; and whether future historians will say he was right or wrong in refusing American aid to the 1961 invasion of Cuba, I do not dare to predict. But there can be no doubt that his courageous confrontation of Khrushchev in the matter of the Russian missiles in Cuba not only saved our country from a deadly menace, but convinced the Soviets that they had best be wary in the future. It was a turning point for the better in our relations with the Communist world.

In a high degree Mr. Kennedy had the power of decision, and of correct decision, too. For him there were no hesitations, no faltering, no sleepless, tossing nights; but a quick, intensive study of all possibilities, conferences with members of his inner Cabinet who were best cognizant of the situation, and the decision was made.

Defense was one of President Kennedy’s weightiest problems. He inherited a situation in which the Soviets had atomic capability at least equal to ours, and at a time when the shibboleth of “massive deterrent” was obsolete. He had to decide between differing estimates of Army, Navy, and Air Force officers, and of many civilians and leaders of industry too, how best to spend what the country could afford on weapons. With a keen sense of reality, he opted for paring down the strategic bomber force and building up the ICBM, yet not neglecting mobile naval and military striking forces for limited objectives. No other President, except Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, has had to make so many decisions vital to his country as Mr. Kennedy was forced to make in the two years and ten months of his Administration.

Amid conflicting issues of foreign policy and defense, Mr. Kennedy always kept before him the objective of world peace, with the premise that we can only maintain peace through strength, not weakness. He consistently, insistently, sought détente with Soviet Russia. The test-ban treaty may in the future be considered the crowning glory of his short Administration; but he knew very well that it was only a beginning. Although I do not claim to be privy to his thoughts, I believe that he felt there existed a certain community of interest between the United States and Russia, upon which he must build; that the really great menace to our civilization is Communist China; and that by careful diplomacy we may gain Russia for the side of the free world.

Among the many domestic issues which President Kennedy had to face, the most serious was that which has been called the Negro revolution of the 1960s. This, too, he faced courageously, and, I may add in no peiorative sense, politically; for he knew that in the framework of our federal system there are limits to what the federal government can do. What the Kennedy Administration did in this respect fell short of the demands and expectations of many liberals and Negroes, yet went far ahead of what the Southern white Democrats regarded as wise or even possible. On this subject the President made his own fresh estimates and decisions. He saw clearly that after a century of freedom, and in an era when native Africans were becoming independent, the American Negro could no longer be denied the full rights and privileges of American citizenship, which actually had been promised to him almost a century ago.

RESIDENT KENNEDY was remarkable not only for his courage and wisdom in meeting the challenges of our day; he chose to take the most important steps ever made by a President of the United States to foster literature and the arts. A product of Boston and of Harvard, he did what John Quincy Adams tried but failed to do: he transplanted the cultural values of that community to Washington, D. C. Mrs. Kennedy, his fair partner in this enterprise, by her excellent taste and boundless energy transformed the White House into a residence worthy of the chief magistrate of the Republic, which it never had been. At the presidential inauguration, Mr. Kennedy gave a principal role to New England’s and America’s favorite poet, Robert Frost. At a party in the White House for the American Nobel Prize winners, which my wife and I had the honor to attend, and which was conducted with an elegance that no European court could have surpassed, he entertained American writers, artists, and scholars of all races. And, as an example of his wit, the President addressed his guests thus: “ This is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone!”

In view of the fact that previous presidential administrations have been largely indifferent to the arts, President and Mrs. Kennedy’s effort has been of vast significance in making the cultural aspects of American civilization respected; within three years the capital city, hitherto an artistic and literary desert, has become one of the leading cultural centers of the United States. And all that Mr. Kennedy did was done with such grace and humor. For instance, when, two years ago, a Boston club gave me a dinner in honor of the completion of my naval history, President Kennedy, at that time in conference with Prime Minister Macmillan in Washington, was asked to send me a message. Instead of doing the conventional thing, he telegraphed to the chairman. Professor Howard Mumford Jones, “I want to assure Admiral Morison that I am doing my best to revitalize American maritime history. Prime Minister Macmillan and I will drink a toast to Professor Morison as we sail down the Potomac in the Honey Fitz. I hope that we can sustain the high traditions of seamanship and craftsmanship which he has set for so many readers and friends.” Truly, it may be said of Mr. Kennedy, as was said of another great man of Irish stock, Oliver Goldsmith, Nihil tetigit quid non ornavit.

Incidentally, I wish to point out that, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, the Presidents of the United States who have done most for the people, who stand highest in the estimation of historians, were gentlemen born and bred — aristocrats in the proper meaning of that much abused word. These Presidents were Washington, both Adamses, Jefferson, both Roosevelts, Wilson, and Kennedy. Is it not significant that all these great Presidents were well-educated men of gentle background and upbringing?

By the time John F. Kennedy acceded to the presidency in 1961, the turbulence and fanaticism of what we call McCarthyism had subsided, but the evil done by that sinister figure in our history has lingered on, nourishing black hatred and lunatic fringes of the left and the right. Let us hope that President Johnson may cope with this menace and do his utmost to protect the United States from being torn apart by factions who would turn our country into something very different from the free, liberty-loving Republic that our fathers founded.

In the advance release of the speech which President Kennedy intended to deliver in Dallas on that fatal Friday, November 22, he declared, “America today is stronger than ever before.” He begged his country to exercise its strength “with wisdom and restraint . . . that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” For, said he, “As was written long ago, ‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’ ” American policy, he said, must be guided by learning and reason, “Or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality, and the plausible with the possible, will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem. . . . Voices are heard in the land,” continued the President’s text, “voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume . . . that peace is a sign of weakness.

“We cannot expect that everyone . . . will ‘talk sense’ to the American people, but we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.”

Alas, that we shall never again see that bright, vivid personality, whose every act and every appearance made us proud of him, and who gave us fresh confidence in our country, even in ourselves. Alas, that we shall not again hear that ringing, virile voice, those words, so well chosen and phrased, in such perfect diction. With his death something died in each one of us; yet something of him will live in us forever.

So I close, thanking God for giving us a President such as John Fitzgerald Kennedy, praying the Almighty to have mercy on this whole land, and so to rule the heart of His servant President Lyndon Johnson that he may execute justice, maintain truth, and carry forward the work of his predecessor in bringing internal peace to this troubled country and eternal peace among the nations.

Reprints of our tribute to the late President are available for those who wish them.