John F. Kennedy’s 60th Anniversary Visit To Hays

STORY BY ELIZABETH COX
PHOTOS BY ALEX JUAREZ

On November 7th, FHSU’s Forsyth Library hosted Randy Gonzales, a recent graduate from Fort Hays State University. He gave a lecture on his thesis, “The Kennedy Effect: John F. Kennedy’s 1959 trip to Kansas and its relationship to his national campaign” and explained how Kennedy’s visit to Kansas affected his presidential election. 

Gonzalez first questioned, “Why would a democratic candidate come to Kansas?” He stated, Joseph Kennedy, John F. Kennedy’s father, approached Lyndon B. Johnson and asked if he would consider his son to become his Vice President. John, then realized he should run himself and started early campaigning, instead of relying on the government. Gonzalez’s lecture started by setting the scene in Kansas City in the year 1959. 

Kennedy attended two fundraisers and met the 33rd president, Harry Truman, where he asked Truman to sponsor him, where he politely declined but posed for an image. Kennedy then went to Wichita to attend another fundraiser, then made his way to Dodge City, where he became an honorary Dodge City posse. He then took a plane to Salina to speak at Marymount College, then took a small plane to Hays. 

Norbert Dreiling was the one to approach Kennedy and ask if he would visit and campaign. Gonzalez went on to explain that, although Kansas was a very republican state, his campaign changed the way how the parties choose their nominees. Come election time, Kennedy lost the Kansas vote, but 65% of Ellis County voted for him. Kennedy ended up winning the election overall and became the 35th president. He then started his campaign planning for the ‘64 election in November of ‘63, until his assassination on the 22nd. Gonzales said he got a majority of his research information from the grandson of Norbert Dreiling, and the John F. Kennedy library.

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