When American icons ascend to the realm of legend, it's sometimes difficult to remember that they started out at least marginally like the rest of us, writing awkward college essays. And while we may not have had the family connections of a young Harvard-bound John F. Kennedy, we can learn more about the man he became by reading his college essay words written as a teen in the 1930s.
The Washington Post has spotlighted many of Kennedy's secondary school and college entrance records, with more on digital display at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Kennedy attended The Choate School in Connecticut for ninth through twelfth grades, followed by a short stint at Princeton before graduating from Harvard.
Here is Kennedy's entrance essay detailing why he wanted to attend the school:
The reasons that I have for wishing to go to Harvard are several. I feel that Harvard can give me a better background and a better Liberal education than any other university. I have always wanted to go there, as I have felt that it is not just another college, but is a university with something definite to offer. Then too, I would like to go to the same college as my father. To be a "Harvard man" is an enviable distinction, and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain.
If Kennedy's words don't exactly sound inspiring and presidential to you, you're not alone. This is the report on Kennedy by the principal of Choate:
Jack has rather superior mental ability without the deep interest in his studies or the mature viewpoint that demands of him his best effort all the time. He can be relied upon to do enough to pass. We have been and are working our hardest to develop Jack’s own self-interest, great enough in social life, to the point that will assure him a record in college more worth [of] his natural gifts of intelligence, likableness, and popularity.
The principal does note that an illness may have sapped some of Kennedy's energy. Still, Kennedy's own father Joseph gave a measured assessment of his son's prospects:
Jack has a very brilliant mind for the things in which he is interested, but is careless and lacks application in those in which he is not interested. This is, of course, a bad fault.
Kennedy would go on to graduate from Harvard cum laude with a degree in international affairs in 1940.
Below are some of the digitized documents from the Kennedy collection: