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Center for Politics Announces Plans for “Kennedy Half-Century”

On the eve of 50th anniversary of the election of President John F. Kennedy, the University Center for Politics announced details for a major new book on JFK by Center Director Larry J. Sabato and the production of a national television documentary focused on the legacies of President Kennedy and his administration. Also, later this week Sabato will tape a special for NBC’s “Meet the Press” commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Great Debates of 1960; and then travel to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas, where he will begin a series of interviews with eyewitnesses to the Kennedy assassination.  Today’s announcement is part of the Center’s Golden Anniversary Series, a comprehensive series of events, productions and publications illuminating the landmark political events of the 1960s.

Sabato’s new book, THE KENNEDY HALF-CENTURY: The Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy, will be published in 2013 by Walker & Company, a division of Bloomsbury Publishing.  Based on interviews with major political and media figures and ordinary citizens alike, along with new archival finds, the book will tell the compelling story of how John F. Kennedy’s life and administration, as well as his tragic death on November 22, 1963, have influenced the general public, the media, and every president who has followed him.  Working in partnership with the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas, Sabato is scheduled to begin a series of in-depth interviews this week with many of the key players and eyewitnesses who were in Dealey Plaza and personally witnessed the Kennedy assassination.

Among the completely original features of this book will be the most extensive study ever conducted of the public’s view of an historical figure. The accomplished pollsters Peter D. Hart and Geoff Garin will supervise large-sample public opinion polls of Americans—those alive on November 22, 1963 and those who have come of age since. The polls will be supplemented by focus group interviews of Americans conducted at various locales across the country.

Updated news on the book project and discussions of Kennedy’s legacy are available on Facebook by visiting

The Center for Politics is again working with longtime partner PBS to develop a major television special marking the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.  The documentary will be available to television stations throughout the country. Last year’s production, Locked Out: The Fall of Massive Resistance, marking the 50th anniversary of the end of Massive Resistance, received a 2010 Emmy Award nomination for Best Documentary.

“The political events of the 1960s changed American society in both positive and negative ways. Beginning with the first televised presidential debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960 all the way through Woodstock and the Moon Landing of 1969, the 1960s were among the most politically transformative years in American history,” said Larry J. Sabato, Director of the Center for Politics.

Center for Politics’ Golden Anniversary Series

Sabato’s new book on Kennedy is the vanguard of the Center for Politics’ new Golden Anniversary Series, which commemorates the landmark political events of the 1960s with programs, symposia, television documentaries, public lectures, travel opportunities and teaching resources offered by the Center for Politics to a nationwide audience. In addition to public events and lectures, the Center for Politics will create new lesson plans and other teaching resources for distribution through its national and international network of teachers who participate in the Center for Politics’ Youth Leadership Initiative.

Fall 2010 Events

September 2010

The Great Debates: A New Era in Political Communication

On Friday, September 24, 2010, the Center for Politics and NBC’s “Meet the Press” will examine the “Great Debates of 1960” and how these seminal television debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon continue to resonate. Former presidential aides, journalists, historians and media analysts will discuss how the debates forever changed elections and political discourse, as well as how technological advancements continue to shape politics today. The broadcast will be available for viewing online beginning September 26 at

Next week, September 30, 2010, the Center for Politics will host a special analysis of the first Kennedy-Nixon debate at the University of Virginia. To learn more and RSVP please click here.

November 2010

Remembering the Freedom Rides

As a featured event at the 2010 Virginia Film Festival, the Center for Politics will host a screening of Stanley Nelson’s “Freedom Riders,” followed by what promises to be a memorable and enlightening panel discussion with distinguished panelists who were part of this pivotal Civil Rights movement fifty years ago. The Freedom Rides pushed Civil Rights to the forefront of the Kennedy administration’s agenda early on.  The screening will take place in Charlottesville, Virginia during the Film Festival.  Details will be released later this fall.


The Golden Anniversary series officially launched in April 2010 featuring a performance by legendary musician Peter Yarrow of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. The Golden Anniversary Series will reflect sequentially on 50th anniversaries of key political and social events, examining the legacies of these events for each year of the 1960s. Topics will include landmark civil rights marches and speeches, the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign in 1964, the Vietnam War, the start of Ronald Reagan’s political career and the election of Richard Nixon, with many more covered along the way. Other organizations partnering with the Center for Politics for events of the Golden Anniversary Series include:  The Richard Nixon Foundation; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library; Harvard University’s Institute of Politics; PBS Community Ideas Stations; University of Virginia Art Museum; Virginia Film Festival, and others to be announced. For more information on the Center for Politics’ Golden Anniversary Series visit