John F. Kennedy on Environment



1962: Supported anti-DDT conclusions of "Silent Spring"

In June of 1962, The New Yorker magazine ran the first of three installments that would compose most of "Silent Spring," Rachel Carson's powerful indictment of chemical pesticides that pretty much started environmentalism as we know it. By then, President John F. Kennedy had noted the importance of "Miss Carson's book," and appointed a Science Advisory Committee to review the issue.

This didn't sit well with the multibillion-dollar industry being called out. Velsicol Chemical LLC threatened to sue for libel, hinting at the "sinister forces" (read: Commies) that must have influenced the book. In April 1963, Carson appeared on "CBS Reports" to make her case, prompting three sponsors to yank ads from the program.

In May, Kennedy's committee agreed with every salient point made in "Silent Spring." Sadly, Carson didn't have long to appreciate the vindication, as she died in 1964 of breast cancer, an illness she had kept to herself.

Source: Mike Di Paola on Bloomberg.com News, "JFK fought DDT" , Sep 18, 2012

1956: Voted against propping up farm prices

While newspaper and magazine coverage of the Senate, of necessity consisting of hard-to-follow explanations of arcane legislative technicalities, didn't translate into public interest in that body, and the benefit to a presidential candidate in being an active senator was therefore very limited, the liability inherent in such a role wasn't limited at all. A senator was constantly being forced to take stands on controversial issues, and such stands antagonized one side or the other--which meant antagonizing individuals or groups whose support a senator needed if he wanted to be President. One reason that Kennedy had lost the vice presidential nomination to Kefauver was the refusal of Midwest states to support him because of a vote he had cast against an Eisenhower Administration bill to prop up farm prices.
Source: Passage of Power, by Robert Caro, p. 48 , May 1, 2012

Investigated claims against DDT, which led to its ban

When Rachel Carson started her research career into DDT, industry officials claimed that it had no impact on other life forms, including humans. Her book "Silent Spring", released in 1962, documented the extent to which DDT wreaked havoc on the environment.

Readers flocked to her cause, and "Silent Spring" reached the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Her critics were ultimately silenced when President John F. Kennedy ordered his Science Advisory Committee to look into her findings and propose recommendations for the use and regulations of pesticides. Their report was issued on May 15, 1963, and it cautioned against the blanket use of toxic chemicals, calling for research into the potential health hazards they posed. DDT was eventually banned.

Source: This Moment On Earth, by John Kerry, p. 4-6 , Jan 1, 2007

We all inhabit a small planet & breathe the same air

After the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy spoke of peace: "Let us not be blind to our differences--but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."
Source: Profiles In Courage, Introduction by Caroline Kennedy, p. xi , Mar 18, 2003

Rural Areas Development program for agriculture technology

"Automation," Kennedy said at a news conference, "does not need to be our enemy. I think machines can make life easier for men, if men do not let the machines dominate them." Technological unemployment, which Kennedy understood, was a basic problem in our farm economy, which he never understood. New fertilizers, insecticides, and research had made American agriculture one of the productive miracles of the world, a sharp contrast with Communism's collective farms.

Kennedy, while keeping food prices relatively stable, took steps to raise net farm income per farm to a record high. A new Rural Areas Development program helped low-income farmers not only find new jobs and improve their homes, but also turn surplus cropland into recreation areas for fun and profit.

Source: "Kennedy" by Ted Sorensen, p.402-403 , Jan 1, 1965

Youth Conservation Corps: develop outdoor resources

Our national conservation effort must include the complete spectrum of resources: air, water, and land; fuels, energy, and minerals; soils, forests, and forage; fish and wildlife. Together they make up the world of nature which surrounds us-- of the American heritage. And we must not neglect our human resources--the Youth Conservation Corps, proposed as a part of the Administration's Youth Employment Opportunities Bill, should be established to achieve the dual objectives of conse developing the talents of our youth and of conserving and developing our outdoor resources.

Adequate outdoor recreational facilities are among the basic requirements of a sound national conservation program. The increased leisure time enjoy growing population & the greater mobility made possible by improved highway networks have dramatically increased the Nation's need for additional recreational areas. The need for an aggressive program of recreational development is both real

Source: Special Message to the Congress on Conservation (APP#69) , Mar 1, 1962

Invest in facilities for the important resources of the seas

The seas around us represent one of our most important resources. If vigorously developed, this resource can be a source of great benefit to the Nation and to all mankind.

It will involve substantial investments in the early years for the and operation of ship and shore facilities for research and surveys, the development of new instruments for charting the seas and gathering data, and the training of new scientific manpower.

The seas already are a principal source of prote They can provide many times the current food supply if we but learn how to garner and husband this self-renewing larder.

Mineral resources on land will ultimately reach their limits. But the oceans hold untapped sources in virtually limitle quantities.

These are some of the reasons which compel us to embark upon a national effort in oceanography. I am therefore requesting $23 million more for oceanography than what was recommended in the 1962 budget.

Source: Letter to the Senate on Oceanography (APP#100) , Mar 29, 1961

  • Click here for definitions & background information on Environment.
  • Click here for VoteMatch responses by John F. Kennedy.
  • Click here for AmericansElect.org quiz by John F. Kennedy.
Other past presidents on Environment: John F. Kennedy on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Joseph Biden
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

Political Parties:
Republican Party
Democratic Party
Libertarian Party
Green Party
Reform Party
Natural Law Party
Tea Party
Constitution Party
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022