Thursday, May 6, 2010

West Virginia honors 50th anniversary of JFK's presidential campaign

State celebrates JFK's 1960 primary victory

This is a copy of the photo that sits over a booth at Jim's Steak & Spaghetti House in Huntington. Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy sat in the booth during his 1960 campaign in the Mountain State. (Photo courtesy of The Herald-Dispatch)

CHARLESTON -- May 10 marks the 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy's primary election victory in West Virginia - a historic day in American presidential politics.

In honor of this significant day, Gayle and I invite all West Virginians to a commemoration and panel discussion titled: "West Virginia 1960 Primary Election: The Primary that Made a President."

This event starts at 3 p.m. at the West Virginia Culture Center, located at the State Capitol Complex, and will include an array of discussions about Kennedy's campaign in our state, including a 6 p.m. keynote address from Theodore Sorensen, who was Kennedy's top aide, speechwriter, confidante and biographer. The event is open and free to the public.

The ceremony will also include a dedication of a new state exhibit in honor of President Kennedy's four-week campaign in West Virginia and how our state has a long connection with the Kennedy family.

Kennedy's primary win in the Mountain State was the turning point in his bid for the Democratic nomination for presidency and changed American presidential politics by undermining the conventional wisdom that a Catholic could not win the presidency. I have very fond memories of the Kennedy family campaigning in West Virginia, as I'm sure many of our residents do, and I look forward to sharing my experiences during this celebration.

It is so important for us to instill the value of history in our children. This event is an opportunity for us to better educate ourselves and the younger generation about this vital piece of our past. It will remind us of JFK's many accomplishments and the important role that West Virginia had in putting him in office.

JFK is remembered as a president with brilliant style and held a strong conviction that we, together, could change the world. His presence brought confidence and optimism to Washington.

With the 2010 primary election just around the corner, I hope that this reminds everyone of the importance of voting. History has shown us that any election can change the political climate of a state and the future of our nation. In addition, we've learned that no election is predictable, so please make sure that your voice is counted.

Manchin is governor of West Virginia.

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