Anything about President John F. Kennedy is sure to make a few people take note. A lecture on JFK’s sex life, then, is sure to turn heads.
But a lecture on JFK’s sex life delivered in just 60 seconds?
Seems like a challenge for the speaker, but Bruce Kuklick, the Jeanette P. and Roy. F. Nichols Professor of History, easily rose to that challenge and met it. As the first to speak in the resurrected 60-Second Lecture Series on Sept. 3, Kuklick had the formidable task of captivating an audience and making a point in about a minute.
Though Kuklick’s talk was short, his points were bold.
“[Kennedy] was a very sick man,” he said to a crowd of students and faculty in the Houston Hall Reading Room. “He treated women like pieces of meat.”
The noontime crowd, which gathered inside to beat the slow drizzle of rain, sat on couches or stood to the side for the minute-long lecture.
In it, Kuklick said that Kennedy was actually on multiple medications prescribed by different doctors for a long list of ailments. These drugs, said Kuklick, may have prompted Kennedy to treat women cruelly, but allowed him to remain impartial and cool-headed during the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis and Vietnam War.
“This [topic] is something that I thought would attract a lot of listeners,” said Kuklick after the lecture. When asked if he’s ever delivered such a concise lecture before, Kuklick chuckled and said, “In a minute —no.”
The School of Arts and Sciences is responsible for bringing back this micro-lecture series that grew out of 1999’s summer 60-Second series, said SAS Director of Public Relations Lorraine Boehmke. Boehmke and her staff informally chose this year’s speakers, and they tried to tap those who would respond to the challenge of working within the minute-long format.
“By having it in September, when everyone’s just coming back to campus, we think it’s a great way to showcase our faculty,” said Boehmke. “We wanted to try to represent a range of perspectives.”
While the only parameter to the lecture is the time limit, some, like Kuklick, do gently stretch it. Speakers are always free to choose their own topic.
Those in attendance also get treated to free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and music from the band, Nooney Tunes.
Next up at noon on Sept. 24 is Rebecca Bushnell, dean of the College and professor of English. See “What’s On.”
Originally published on September 18, 2003