In March 1958, John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie went to the University of Virginia Law School’s first alumni Law Day.
While introducing Kennedy before his address, John S. Battle, the Governor of Virginia said, "I venture the hope that in 1960, the Commonwealth of Virginia will join hands with the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts and present to you [as] the next president of the United States."
Kennedy was campaigning at the time, but his election was far from a sure thing. Maybe Battle was a good guesser, or maybe he saw a man with the greatness and charisma needed for the power and responsibility of the Oval Office. But he was right: later that year, Kennedy won in a close election against incumbent Richard Nixon.
Kennedy's address to the crowd of eager students and family members at the banquet focused on the inevitable challenges that come with an educational lag in the United States. He went on to say "There is no 'crash' program that can do the job of rebuilding American education. It will take a good long time. If we begin now, we may regain our pre-eminent position in science and scholarship by the 1980s or even the 1970s. But the 1960s are already lost."
He expanded by making the connection between the caliber of scientific talent generated here in the U.S and the effectiveness of our missiles, rockets, and other key military equipment.
The future youngest president, accompanied by his wife and two brothers, concluded with a warning about the deteriorating state of American education. This marked an important milestone of the relationship between UVA’s Law School and the Kennedys.
With several scholarships, donations, and fellowships sponsored by the Kennedy estate, UVA is taking steps to maintain the educational supremacy that The United States is known for. Kennedy didn’t just tell UVA what needed to be done: he simply went and did it himself.
The University of Virginia’s Law School remembers John F. Kennedy fondly. In 2017, UVA launched a gallery of previously unseen photographs of Kennedy and the rest of his family for students and the public to see.
Their connection runs deep, and just like Kennedy’s warning 60 years ago helped UVA refine their curriculum, so too will the ongoing legacy of the ubiquitous JFK continue to impact the graduates of UVA’s Law School.