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My Dad Remembers His Friend, John F. Kennedy

posted by Nell Minow

My father, Newton N. Minow, met then-Senator Kennedy in the 1950’s and worked on his 1960 Presidential campaign. He was appointed by President-Elect Kennedy as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission until the spring of 1963. His work there included signing the original charter for the brand-new Washington station WETA and promoting the nationwide availability of what was then called “educational television,” the launching of the first telecommunications satellite, and his famous “vast wasteland” speech, calling on the broadcasters using their access to the public airwaves to live up to their promise to “act in the public interest, convenience, and necessity.” He has carried on the work ever since. He helped to create the Presidential Debates (his book, Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future, tells the story and proposes further improvements), and still serves as vice-chairman of the Debates Commision.  And yes, his criticism of television was the inspiration for the name of the sinking ship on “Gilligan’s Island.”  As we remember the tragic loss of JFK 50 years ago, my father remembers his special combination of practicality and vision — and the very funny comment he made to LBJ.

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He also wrote about the way we should remember President Kennedy and the other leaders of that era for The Atlantic.

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