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American Experience Programs

American Experience | JFK

Watch Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 1:30pm on WMHT TV.

American Experience presents JFK, a new four-hour, two-part special premiering in November 2013 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the president’s death. Forever enshrined in myth by an assassin's bullet, John F. Kennedy’s presidency has often defied objective appraisal. This new portrait, part of the Peabody Award-winning American Experience series, The Presidents, offers a fresh assessment of the man, his accomplishments and his unfulfilled promise. Produced and directed by Susan Bellows, JFK features interviews with Kennedy family members and historians including Robert Dallek, Robert Caro, and Evan Thomas.

JFK provides a fresh look at an enigmatic man who remains one of the nation’s most beloved and mourned leaders. Beginning with Kennedy’s childhood years as the privileged but sickly second son of one of the wealthiest men in America, the film explores his early political career as a lackluster congressman, his successful run for the U.S. Senate, and the game-changing presidential campaign that made him the youngest elected president in U.S. history. With the benefit of recently opened archives, the film recounts his struggles with life-threatening illnesses and his efforts to keep them hidden from the public. JFK offers new perspectives on his complicated private life, including his relationship with his wife, his close connection to his younger brother, Robert, and his complex bond with his powerful father. It also reevaluates Kennedy’s strengths and weaknesses in the Oval Office as he navigated some of the most explosive events of the twentieth century: the disastrous failure at the Bay of Pigs, the urgent demands of an increasingly impatient civil rights movement, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the escalating conflict in Southeast Asia.

JFK is the 17th program in American Experience’s The Presidents series, which has won dozens of awards including Emmys, Peabodys, and duPont-Columbia Journalism Awards. Says Executive Producer Mark Samels, “With our presidential biographies, we strive for a better understanding of the men who have held the office. While we’re interested in the decisions they made, we also want to know why they made them — what in their lives led to a particular worldview? What shaped these men and how did those factors in turn shape our country?”

“John F. Kennedy is an iconic figure in American politics, known for his soaring rhetoric and the youthful energy and glamour he brought to the presidency,” says filmmaker Susan Bellows. “However, he wasn’t a born politician, and he struggled with debilitating health challenges throughout his life. Our film looks at his journey to the Oval Office, the ambition that propelled him there, and how he navigated one of the most pivotal eras in American history.”

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