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Business and the Economy

Historian Sees Similarities Between JFK's Election and 2008

The general election season is underway, and many Americans are having political Deja vu. They recall John F. Kennedy's election in 1960, when the votes were close, stakes were high, and the idea of change was as popular as it is today. KSMU's Benjamin Fry spoke with a presidential historian about the similarities between these monumental campaigns.

With just five months until a new president is chosen, young voters are feeling excitement about America's future.

But their parents or grandparents may be reminiscing about another election.

Political analysts have drawn many similarities between today and the 1960 contest between JFK and Richard Nixon.

James Giglio is an emeritus professor of history at Missouri State University and has written six books on JFK.

He says the international situation in 1960 presented similar prospects and problems for the U.S.

"The difficulties were with the Soviet Union, Communist insurgency in Laos, we had problems in Vietnam. Of course we had Fidel Castro in Cuba, which was perceived at the time as a threat to the United States," Giglio said.

Back then, an economic recession also kept the candidates' attention on the domestic front.

In comparing past and present candidates, Giglio sees many similarities between Kennedy and Barack Obama.

"You know, Kennedy like Obama today represents youth and youth I think suggests change. Kennedy campaigned on that basis, that we needed to get the country moving again," Giglio said.

Like Obama, Giglio says Kennedy had the ability to rally young voters to his cause.

He believes if JFK were alive today, he would have advised the senator to stay with his message of change and reach across the aisle.

"You know I think Kennedy would argue that he needs to reach out to elements of the opposition party. You know, we need a national unity that presently does not exist and I think Kennedy sensed that," Giglio said.

And JFK's legacy continues to help Obama.

His daughter Caroline endorsed the senator in January and currently heads up the committee to consider a running mate.

For KSMU news, I'm Benjamin Fry.