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Evenings Upstairs - Kennedy Comes to Kentucky

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Led by Dr. Sean McLaughlin, Special Collections & Exhibit Director Murray State University

Co-sponsored by the Kentucky Humanities

Despite all of his advantages, John F. Kennedy had to fight an underdog campaign to win the presidency in 1960 against the sitting vice president, Richard Nixon. This was an election in which every vote in every state mattered. Kennedy understood that as a wealthy, Catholic New Englander he couldn’t take voters in heavily Baptist Appalachian states for granted even if they had reliably voted for Democratic presidents in the past. As a result, Kennedy spent three crucial October days in Kentucky, with stops in Louisville, Bowling Green, and Paducah, but in the end Kentucky’s electoral votes went to Nixon.

This presentation explores how Kentuckians responded when their faith and political allegiance seemed to be pulling them in opposite directions.

Dr. McLaughlin is Canadian-born and studied at universities in Canada and the UK before moving to the US to teach history in 2012. He has been with Murray State since the fall of 2016, currently serving as the archives/museum director. His first book, JFK and de Gaulle: How America and France failed in Vietnam, 1961-1963 was released by the University Press of Kentucky in August 2019.

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