Three lessons Millenials can learn from President John F. Kennedy

By Maggie Stephens

November 22 is the 52nd anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was an all-around awesome leader and human being. He had style, great speaking skills and could read 500-600 words per minute. That’s a pretty cool dude.

I find that Millennials can learn many lessons from Kennedy. Here are three lessons you can learn from President Kennedy and how you can apply them to your new professional life.


“Pearls are always appropriate.”

 Jackie Kennedy

Ok, so this one might not be straight from President Kennedy’s mouth, but another famous Kennedy said it. Jackie Kennedy is often regarded as a top style icon, and noted for dressing modestly and modern.

Dressing professionally is challenging, especially because business casual is so loosely defined. I have worked in an office where cargo shorts and crew neck sweatshirts are the norm and in an office where anything less than a Hillary Clinton pants suit was subject to public shaming.

I felt really odd when I showed up to my first day of work dressed like I was working in the White House and my cubicle mate was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Do not let this happen to you. If you are concerned about what to wear, nothing is as timeless or as translatable in any office setting as an appropriate black dress, flats and strand of pearls. Look, it is even Jackie-approved.


“…Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

 Graduation Meme

This quote came from Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech given at Rice University in 1962. It is one of my favorite speeches because it illustrates the progressive vision Kennedy had for America and the world. This quote, specifically, exemplifies stepping up and taking on challenging work.

I admit that there are times when I feel like doing the bare minimum. It is not always easy to find motivation to give a minute task all of your attention. Whether it is printing a 127-page packet for your boss or creating a media list, give it your all. It may not seem like the most important task, but your positive attitude and hard work will not go unnoticed.

I believe that the people who get the furthest in their professional life are those who choose to take risks. Taking risks leads to unforeseen opportunities, shows confidence and helps you pursue success. It might not be easy to take a risk, but we choose to because the outcome may be greater than if we had played it safe.


“How did you become a hero, President Kennedy?” “It was involuntary. They sank my boat.”


 This quote is about Kennedy’s World War II experience and shows the president’s modesty in his war heroism.

Millennials have gotten a bad reputation. Many people call us “bossy” or “arrogant” because we often find ourselves managing our peers, or even more daunting, people much older than us.

It is easy to assume a position of authority and get carried away with the new power acquired. Make sure you find the balance between being a power-hungry dictator and a pushover. Learn how to manage people effectively and how to empower your peers. 

Remember: A good leader does not command respect; they earn the respect of their peers.

We are all beginning to apply for jobs and internships and it is so scary to imagine ourselves having a real job and our own apartment and bills and hopefully a puppy. But, remember the great advice of the Kennedy’s: always dress your best, take on challenging tasks and be an effective leader.

If President Kennedy were around during the generation of Millennials, he would probably tell them to “Ask not what your job can do for you, but ask what you can do for your job.”


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