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Kennedy, Nixon, and the Debate of the Century

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, January 11, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0143
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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“It was that first moment in our history when we saw that television can transform a political candidate … into a celebrity, and it changed the whole contours of our politics.” That is how one historian described the debate that helped John F. Kennedy become president in 1960.

Historian Allen Pietrobon takes us back to the Eisenhower era, a time before the “celebrity president.” He examines the lives and backgrounds of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon and reveals how Kennedy’s domination of the medium during the first-ever televised debate was key in his winning the presidency. The debate left Nixon so diminished, it would be 16 years before presidential candidates agreed to debate live on TV again.

Pietrobon uses the 1960 presidential election as a lens to explore American politics and culture in this pivotal era in history.

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