|By Robert Cohen Executive Director|
Like many people, I find fascinating most things related to the Kennedy mystique. This past week, shortly before the 39th anniversary of President John F.Kennedy's assassination, the news media reported stories of JFK's drug use, illnesses, and near-death experiences from chronic diseases. How sick was this man? How much pain was he in? What ailed him? I read the Robert Dallek article in the December, 2002 issue of Atlantic Monthly (pp. 49-61) and was stunned. Kennedy was far from the picture of the vigorous healthy and athletic man that biographers and historians painted. As a child, Kennedy was plagued by bronchitis and ear infections, a telltale symptom of milk consumption. See: http://www.notmilk.com/e.html JFK's weakened immune system fell victim to one disease after another, including measles, German measles, mumps, and whooping cough. Kennedy also suffered from degenerative bone disease and severe rheumatoid arthritis. At the age of 13, one doctor suggested that John drink more milk, and at age 14, Kennedy experienced severe gastric distress. He spent a full month at the Mayo Clinic while attending eighth grade, but doctors could not identify the cause of, nor cure his colitis. Got Crohn's Disease?: http://www.notmilk.com/c.html In an effort to research JFK's love for dairy, I spent the better part of Friday, November 22, 2002 in the public library, searching for mention of milk consumption in dozens of Kennedy biographies. Was JFK a cheesehead? I found enormous supporting evidence for John Kennedy's love of dairy: "At 13 Jack went away to school for the first time. Jack was pretty homesick...he wrote home to ask for...chocolate cream pie." John F. Kennedy - Young People's President by Catherine Corley Anderson (1991), page 13 "Sick at Harvard, he bribed his roommate to bring him steaks and chocolate malted milk." The Story of John F. Kennedy by Earl Schenck Myers (1964), page 14 "For eight months, Kennedy traveled back and forth the state, living on cheeseburgers and milkshakes." Encyclopedia of Presidents by Zachary Kent (1987), page 46 Throughout his 1960 run for the presidency, and during his term of office, aides and advisors carefully kept his painful suffering and disease from the public. In the middle of America's closest brush with nuclear war, the Cuban Missile Crisis, a curious question is recorded on an Oval Office tape recorder. Kennedy, under stress, and showing discomfort to those around him, is asked: "John, do you want some milk?" October 21, 1962 The Presidential Recordings, Volume 2. Page 273 Earlier in the year, JFK expressed support for America's milk producers. On January 26, 1962, an eight minute public service announcement was issued by the U.S Agricultural Research Service. Kennedy's speech to the National Conference on Milk and Nutrition was held earlier that week in Washington, D.C. In that speech, Mr. Kennedy discusses the fact that as population increased during the 50s and 60s, milk consumption was decreasing. Kennedy (supported by dairy producers during his election run against Richard Nixon) stressed the critical importance of milk in his own daily diet. He also downplayed the significance of radioactive substances, such as strontium-90 in milk, citing research that we now know to be untrue. Fallout from nuclear testing tainted America's milk, and compromised the health and safety of America's children. What was JFK eating in the White House? "In their quarters, Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy eat lunch from trays. They are served grilled cheese sandwiches... the president drinks tea or a glass of milk." A Day In The Life of President Kennedy by Tim Bishop (1964), page 56 Thousands of school children sent letters to America's president: "Dear Mr. President, We all think you are a terrific President except for one thing. Yesterday in the newspapers you said that everybody should drink lots of milk. Couldn't you say that everybody should drink lots of ice cream sodas and coke? Give us a break. Your pals, Richard, Jack, Larry, and Mike - Gainesville, Florida" John F. Kennedy and the Young People of America by Bill Adler (1965), page 26 Nations with the highest rates of osteoporosis include Denmark, Norway, Holland, and Sweden. Nations in which people consume the greatest amounts of milk and cheese have the highest rates of bone disease. It is clear that John F. Kennedy loved dairy products. He was one of the dairy industry's biggest supporters. Kennedy had trouble walking, and had to use crutches. He could not walk up or down stairs unless aided, and had to shuffle sideways, due to skeletal pain. In fact, Kennedy's pain was so severe, that he could not bend over at the waist to tie his own shoes. JFK wore a full body back brace. On November 22, 1963, the first of three assassin's bullets struck our 35th President in the neck, nicking the corner of his tie. This first gunshot would not have been fatal. Unable to bend or slump to his seat, Kennedy remained a stationary and upright target. Nearly five seconds later, Mr. Kennedy was shot in the head, and his legacy now belongs to the ages.
Robert Cohen, author of: MILK A-Z
Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dairy Education Board
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