In 2010, when producer Darin Nellis and I began research for JFK: A President Betrayed, we wanted to investigate Kennedy’s record in foreign policy to see how far he deviated from the Cold War script, which insisted that the Communists were our mortal enemies, and the only way to deal with them was through the threat of military force.
Specifically, we were curious to what degree President Kennedy, in his efforts for peace abroad, provoked adversaries in the United States to view him as a threat to national security. Did President Kennedy possess the forethought to understand the possible dangers?
We were eager to uncover something new in the record. We soon found out that many important details had been hiding in plain sight for decades.
Through the work of authors like John Kenneth Galbraith, Norman Cousins, Gareth Porter and Peter Kornbluh, we discovered lost episodes of Kennedy’s presidency – details that demonstrated JFK’s commitment to peace was much greater than people realized. For instance, who knew Kennedy was interested in pursuing a negotiated settlement in Vietnam? Who knew JFK was willing to speak with Fidel Castro? In these moments and others, the President displayed a remarkable ability to empathize with his enemies; to put himself in their shoes. The most famous example was the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Kennedy, together with Nikita Khrushchev, circumvented a dangerous nuclear confrontation.
Thanks to the firsthand recollections of people like Dan Fenn, Thomas Hughes and William Vanden Heuvel, we were able to uncover a substantive portrait of President Kennedy that helps explain his actions, why he had so many enemies, and why his assassination in Dallas was so impactful. We believe audiences will appreciate these new details and likely come to see President Kennedy differently after watching the film, just as we did when we were making it.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the peace activist and Buddhist philosopher Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, whose writings on President Kennedy inspired our efforts to make this film, and to share it particularly with young adults who will shoulder the future.