Historic Palm Beach speech by John F. Kennedy to be auctioned


 Update: The JFK handwritten speech and other documents sold today for $200,000, which includes the 25 percent buyer’s premium.

Sometime in late 1959, John F. Kennedy must have sat down in his parents’ oceanfront Palm Beach estate and wrote out in longhand the speech that propelled him into history and set in motion a national tragedy.

On stationery imprinted with “North Ocean Boulevard, Palm Beach, Florida” — the address of his parents’ winter home in Palm Beach’s north end — the senator from Massachusetts wrote the first, undated draft of his announcement that he was running for President of the United States.

““I am announcing today my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States,” he began.

The three-page manuscript, along with several later drafts corrected in his hand and two typewritten versions will be auctioned Monday for what RR Auction in Boston estimates will be about $100,000.

The step-by-step archive gives insight into Kennedy’s thought process as he worked to portray himself as a presidential contender.

“To see him crafting the speech is exciting,” said Bobby Livingston, executive vice-president of RR Auction. “We sell hundreds of thousands of written things, but this is one of those rare manuscripts that just blows your mind.”

The early, hand-written draft reads, “The Presidency is the most powerful office in the World. Through its leadership can come a more vital life for our people. In it are centered the hopes of the globe around us for a freedom and a more secure life.”

A later draft is dated “December 8, 1959.”

Kennedy delivered the speech in the US Senate Caucus Room on January 2, 1960.

According to Livingston, the papers have been put up for auction by one of the largest Kennedy collectors who is slowly selling off his collections.

“It’s museum quality,” Livingston said.

Kennedy was a writer who had already published his World War II book, “PT 109” and two years earlier had written “Profiles in Courage.” In the papers being auctioned, he appears to tinker with his words over and over until he was satisfied with the turn of a phrase.

The future president’s words are also a reminder of how the United States was poised on a frightening Cold War precipice.

In one version, Kennedy writes of his reasons for seeking the Presidency: “For it is in the Executive Branch that the most critical decisions of this century must be made in the next four years — how to end or alter the burdensome arms race, where Soviet gains already threaten our very existence…”

Kennedy writes of his image of America “as fulfilling a noble and historic role as the defender of freedom in a time of maximum peril – and of the American people as confident, courageous and persevering.”

And he concludes, “It is with this image that I begin the campaign.”

The words are made poignant, Livingston said, because we know what’s ahead for the young president: his head-on confrontation with the Soviets at the Bay of Pigs and the bullets in Dallas that end what was begun on those three pieces of cream-colored stationery on a Florida beach.

Pre-live bidding ends Sunday at noon with live auction bidding beginning Monday at 1 p.m.

See a video of Kennedy announcing his Presidential candidacy.

Read more Palm Beach Post stories about JFK in Palm Beach:

JFK in Palm Beach: Where the Kennedy identity grew:

Photo gallery of Kennedy memorabilia:

John F. Kennedy vacation in Palm Beach:

The Kennedy’s in Palm Beach, through 1963:

Timeline of JFK’s last weekend in Palm Beach:


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