American Folk Singer, Songwriter, and Activist Pete Seeger died on January 27, 2014 at the age of 94. Few remember that he attended Harvard at the same time as Politician, Senator, and President John F. Kennedy.
A fixture on nationwide radio in the 1940s, Pete Seeger also had a string of hit records during the early 1950s as a member of the Weavers, most notably their recording of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” which topped the charts for 13 weeks in 1950. In the 1960s, he re-emerged on the public scene as a prominent singer of protest music in support of international disarmament, civil rights, counterculture and environmental causes.
A prolific songwriter, Seeger’s best-known songs include “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” (with Joe Hickerson), “If I Had a Hammer” (with Lee Hays), and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (lyrics adapted from Ecclesiastes), which have been recorded by many artists both in and outside the folk revival movement and are sung throughout the world. “Flowers” was a hit recording for the Kingston Trio (1962); Marlene Dietrich, who recorded it in English, German and French (1962); and Johnny Rivers (1965). “If I Had a Hammer” was a hit for Peter, Paul & Mary (1962) and Trini Lopez (1963), while the Byrds had a number one hit with “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in 1965.
In 1936, Seeger enrolled at Harvard College on a partial scholarship the same year as JFK, but as he became increasingly involved with politics and folk music, his grades suffered and he lost his scholarship. He dropped out of college in 1938.
In contrast, John F. Kennedy enrolled at Harvard College in 1936. In 1940 Kennedy completed his thesis, “Appeasement in Munich,” about British participation in the Munich Agreement. The thesis became a bestseller under the title ‘Why England Slept.’ He graduated from Harvard College with a Bachelor of Science cum laude in international affairs in 1940.
He served in the US Navy during World War II, earning a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for rescuing crewmembers after a Japanese destroyer rammed his PT Boat.
JFK married Jacqueline Bouvier, a fashionable debutante twelve years his junior. An educated woman fluent in several languages, Jackie coordinated the first major White House renovation in a century. The Kennedys had four children, only two of whom survived past infancy.
Kennedy‘s political career began as a US Representative from Massachusetts, and continued as a US Senator from the same state. In 1961, he ascended to the presidency when he triumphed over Richard Nixon by a slim margin of popular vote.
John F. Kennedy was the thirty-fifth president of the United States, from his inauguration on January 20, 1961 until his assassination on November 22, 1963. JFK is known for thwarting nuclear war with Russia in the Cuban Missile Crisis, promoting Civil Rights and ushering in the Space Race. He is remembered as a young, charismatic leader, whose speeches are studied and quoted to this day.