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A Letter From The Publisher: Nov. 14, 1983

2 minute read

Journalists are fond of the saying that they write the first draft of history. But on some 20 occasions in the past four decades,TIME’s editors have determined that a historically significant individual merited a journalistic “second draft” to assess his contributions and character in light of of, contemporary events, opinions and scholarship. In this week’s cover story, 20 years after John F. Kennedy’s death in Dallas, Senior Writer Lance Morrow tries to distinguish between the 35th President’s accomplishments and the en during myths. Observes Morrow: “The past inhabits us and defines us — and of ten haunts us. We need to go back to it, to sift it, in order to know who we are and how we became what we are.” Morrow’s re-examination is enhanced by photographs from Kennedy’s presidency, some of them never before published. The work of former White House Photographer Jacques Lowe, they form part of his new book, Kennedy: A Time Remembered, to be published this month by Quartet/Visual Arts.

Kennedy joins a small pantheon of U.S. Presidents who have come under retrospective scrutiny on TIME’s cover.

George Washington, appropriately, was the first, in 1953. Theodore Roosevelt was saluted on his centenary in 1958; a 1962 story looked at James Monroe and his hemispheric doctrine; Abraham Lincoln was portrayed in 1963 as the epitome of individualism; and the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt was traced last year. Only three religious leaders have been reassayed: St. Paul (1960), the Buddha (1964) and Martin Luther in 1967 and again last month in international editions. (Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary are our most frequent historical cover figures, but they have not been specifically the subjects of the accompanying stories.) Karl Marx was reassessed in 1948, Vladimir Lenin in 1964 and their ideological opposites Adam Smith, in 1975, and John Maynard Keynes, in 1965. In the arts, William Shakespeare (1960) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1968) have been so treated; in science, Sigmund Freud (1956) and Albert Einstein (1979).

Washington Contributing Editor Hugh Sidey, whose column “The Presidency” accompanies the cover story, is particularly partial to such endeavors.

“More than ever,” he says, “we need to pause and reflect on other times, other troubles and the people who tried to cope with them. Journalism can help by inserting these reflections from other years into the rushing current of contemporary affairs.”

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