On two consecutive days in June 1963, in two lyrical speeches, John F. Kennedy pivots dramatically and boldly on the two greatest issues of his time: nuclear arms and civil rights. In language unheard in lily white, Cold War America, he appeals to Americans to see both the Russians and the "Negroes" as human beings. His speech on June 10 leads to the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963; his speech on June 11 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Based on new material -- hours of recently uncovered documentary film shot in the White House and the Justice Department, fresh interviews, and a rediscovered draft speech -- Two Days in June captures Kennedy at the high noon of his presidency in startling, granular detail which biographer Sally Bedell Smith calls "a seamless and riveting narrative, beautifully written, weaving together the consequential and the quotidian, with verve and authority." Moment by moment, JFK's feverish forty-eight hours unspools in cinematic clarity as he addresses "peace and freedom." In the tick-tock of the American presidency, we see Kennedy facing down George Wallace over the integration of the University of Alabama, talking obsessively about sex and politics at a dinner party in Georgetown, recoiling at a newspaper photograph of a burning monk in Saigon, planning a secret diplomatic mission to Indonesia, and reeling from the midnight murder of Medgar Evers.
There were 1,036 days in the presidency of John F. Kennedy. This is the story of two of them.
Andrew Cohen is an award-winning journalist and former Washington correspondent whom the New York Times has called "one of Canada's most distinguished authors." A native of Montreal, he attended Choate Rosemary Hall, McGill University, and the University of Cambridge. Among his best-selling books are The Unfinished Canadian: The People We Are; Trudeau's Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Pierre Elliott Trudeau (with JL Granatstein); Extraordinary Canadians: Lester B. Pearson; and While Canada Slept: How We Lost Our Place in the World, a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction. He has written for United Press International, Time, The Globe and Mail, The Financial Post, and The Financial Times of London from Washington, London, Berlin, Toronto and Ottawa. He has won two National Newspaper Awards and three National Magazine Awards. A professor of journalism and international affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, Cohen writes a nationally syndicated column and appears regularly on radio and television.
“He may have served for a thousand days but it was two days that made John F. Kennedy's presidency. No one before Andrew Cohen has recognized that, and because of his signal achievement in Two Days in June, no one will be able to write about -- no one will be able to think about -- John Kennedy ever again in quite the same way. Channeling Theodore White and William Manchester, Andrew Cohen has changed the way we regard JFK in Two Days as much as JFK changed the presidency and the world in those two days.”
—David M. Shribman, editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“Andrew Cohen calls the two days during which President John F. Kennedy delivered ground-breaking speeches addressing the great post-war threats to America -- racial inequality and nuclear war – ‘his lyrical journey to peace and freedom.’ Cohen's own lyrical account of these days provides an intimate, moving, and revelatory portrait of Kennedy that is superbly detailed and thrillingly narrated.”
—Thurston Clarke, author, JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President and Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech That Changed America
“Using a literary zoom lens, Andrew Cohen zeroes in on forty-eight dramatic hours in John F. Kennedy's presidency to superbly illuminate his leadership in a compelling and original way. It is Kennedy up close and personal, making history with two of his most important speeches -- one carefully planned, the other a brilliant improvisation. Two Days in June nimbly juggles fast-moving presidential challenges at home and abroad, with fascinating new details of the drama unfolding behind the scenes on Air Force One, in the Oval Office, in the private quarters of the White House, and in the most exclusive salon in Georgetown.... Cohen's analysis of the two speeches and their impact, and his assessment of their measure in JFK's presidency is astute and constitutes an entirely original perspective. His research has been prodigious. Even Kennedy devotees and experts will find new tidbits throughout, judiciously placed in the author's seamless and riveting narrative, which is beautifully written and weaves together the consequential and the quotidian, with verve and authority..... At the center of the tale is Cohen's thoughtful portrait of JFK, the restless multi-tasker with the capacious world view, idealist and pragmatic simultaneously, ever alert to the quirks of human nature, his own included. Well beyond the president, the character sketches capture the big personalities (and several smaller ones) with insight and sensitivity. Through the prism of the Joseph Alsop dinner party, Cohen sweeps in crucial themes and personalities, putting the capital's secrets and licentious behavior in perspective, with wonderful fresh observations from Antonia Fraser. The entire book reflects Cohen's original take on mid-June 1963, beginning with his brilliant conceit of following the arc of JFK's flight from Hawaii to Washington to deliver the commencement address at American University. And it ends with his wonderful touch, imagining the two days as depicted by a Renaissance artist, Kennedy in all his roles, tossing ‘flares into the future.’”
—Sally Bedell Smith, author, Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House
Praise for While Canada Slept:
• "A trenchant critique of modern Canadian foreign policy." Time magazine
• "Cohen's contribution is invaluable. A book full of...rich detail, written with passion and engaging prose.... A must read for all of those who wish to understand the roots of Canada's global outlook." Globe and Mail