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A Nation of Immigrants

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  660 ratings  ·  100 reviews
Throughout his presidency, John F. Kennedy was passionate about the issue of immigration reform. He believed that America is a nation of people who value both tradition and the exploration of new frontiers, people who deserve the freedom to build better lives for themselves in their adopted homeland. This modern edition of his posthumously published, timeless work—with a ...more
Paperback, 111 pages
Published September 1st 1986 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1964)
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Mark Taylor
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
When he was a young man, John F. Kennedy had dreams of being a writer. The second son of Joe and Rose Kennedy, he was not the golden boy his older brother, Joe Jr., was. Joe Jr. was hale and robust, while Jack, as John was known to his friends and family, was frail and sickly, plagued by a bad back and constant stomach problems. After Jack wrote his senior thesis, his father helped him get it published in 1940. Titled Why England Slept, it was an examination of the policy of appeasement under ...more
Jul 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing that what JFK had to say about immigration 50 years ago still rings true today. I'll be sharing this with my 8th graders this year.
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well, that was a depressing reminder that things never change, we’re still debating the same issues, and history is repeated by those who refuse to study it.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
An intelligent and compassionate look at the impact of immigration in America. Kennedy had a mature and balanced perspective of how immigrants have enriched our nation despite our frequent self-defeating prejudices.
Rick Patterson
Aug 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Imagine a president who was interested in changing an American law that was, in his estimation, "without basis in either logic or reason." Because he wanted to convince his fellows in Congress that his legislation had merit, this president researched the subject--his bibliography has nearly 100 titles--and composed a treatise that summarized the information and led to his argument in favor of changing the law. The law was changed, of course; given that sort of intellectual rigor and respect for ...more
Ryan Lackey
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting short book by JFK (or his writers; I’m not sure how much of this he wrote) which uses cherry picked history to try to justify the upcoming 1965 INA (written before it was law, but definitely from the same pool of thoughts which became the law). Basically, the magic dirt argument. Not the best form of the argument, but worth reading to understand how things had been misrepresented (that massive changes in immigration policy would have no substantial effects).
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must read.
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, uplifting
There are so many reasons to love this man and this is just one of them. He wrote this and published it as a senator in 1958, and just put that into perspective - the 1950s, when racism, prejudice and xenophobia were all commonplace, segregation had only just been struck down and criminalised and tensions were high due to the situations in Vietnam and East Germany (and, still, Japan). So, in somewhat of a retaliation, he wrote a book denouncing harsh immigration policies, reaffirming the view ...more
Cat J
Aug 30, 2011 rated it liked it
I'm torn between 3 stars and 3 1/2 stars...unfortunately the majority of the book was just regurgitation of facts, some interesting, and I'm sure during the time this was originally written it was probably a novel idea to even put these ideas out there. It's only until the end where Kennedy actually adds some analysis/stances on his end, and I will say there are some gems of wisdom. My personal favorite being, "It reminded every American, old and new, that change is the essence of life, and that ...more
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
"The continuous immigration ... was thus central to the whole American faith. ... It reminded every American, old and new, that change is the essence of life, and that American society is a process, not a conclusion."
Ernest Sneed
In 1957 Senator Kennedy was part of a committee to revamp immigration laws. This book covers the history of European immigration from the founding of the nation until 1957. Political issues covered include: the concept of the American dream, opportunity and open doors for the less fortunate and ambitious, xenophobia and political backlash against each wave of immigration, and the reasons why immigration is an asset to the American economy and culture. This 50th anniversary addition includes ...more
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a short book written and updated by John F. Kennedy in preparation for his proposal to comprehensively reform immigration in 1963. It contains two forwards, by Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Abraham H. Foxman, then national director of the Anti-Defamation League. It proposes that we live up to ideals. As Kennedy notes, inscribed at the Statue of Liberty is, "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free". Although more than 50 years old, its amazingly ...more
Derek Griffin
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A timely read. JFK gives a brief and concise history if immigration in America. One that reminds us not only where we've come from but who we are. This text drives home one single point, we should not ask what immigrants can do for this country but this country is immigrants. There is no separation between us and them so what right do we have to restrict their access.

It strikes me that reading this 50 years later it tells us a lot about not only our immigration policy but about our 35th
Short but powerful essay from the first "immigrant" President on why immigration has been the affirmation of America's success.
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All Americans
Shelves: history, nonfiction
I can think of no other title that is more perfect to read right now. Highly recommended.

Favorite quotes: "It is no accident that freedom of religion has always been a central part of the American creed. People who crossed oceans for the right to believe in their own God were not lightly going to surrender that right in their new life."

"Only one thing is certain - every immigrant served to reinforce and strengthen those elements in American society that had attracted him in the first place.
President John F. Kennedy talks about how immigration is America's history — about how America is a nation of nations, a beacon of hope for the oppressed, and a haven for political refugees.

Having read this book in 2014, I have come to understand how immortal JFK's words are. He explains how almost every American today (and ever) can trace their roots to an immigrant, and trashes the idea of racial "purity."

This book is one of the many in which makes me wish that JFK lived longer than 1963. I
I was interested in reading this because JFK was the grandson of Irish immigrants. The Irish (and Italians, Chinese, and others) at one point were the targets of the kinds of language we saw just recently during the 2016 presidential election. He also was a senator and president who had to consider policy. From what I knew about him, his speeches expressed faith in American ingenuity and ability to tackle the greatest challenges.

This book did not disappoint. Well written, it is an easy read. He
Richard Buro
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in America's history with immigrants
Recommended to Richard by: My personal appreciation of President Kennedy
The short version first . . .

I am amazed by the dichotomy fifty years can bring; it is more like 48. How to couch this without stepping on every toe around me. You see, during the administration of President John F. Kennedy, he wrote a brief but stirring book, A Nation of Immigrants. Written by this, the youngest President in American History, readers of this treatise were amazed by his grasp of the immigrant situation. His vision was unique in that he was born into a family of immigrants.
Zach Vaughn
In seven short chapters, President John F. Kennedy discusses the role of immigration in American history and how government policy has shaped immigration. Anyone reading this work cannot help but notice, when they compare it to our contemporary immigration debate, that the more things change the more they stay the same. Kennedy notes the various waves of immigrants - Irish, German, Scandinavian, etc. - and there contributions to American society and culture, as well as the various nativist push ...more
The Book : An Online Review at The New Republic
THEY ARE LESS WELL KNOWN than their counterparts in the world of foreign affairs, the mandarin caste of experts who cycle in and out of government and provide the brainpower behind American foreign policy. But immigration policy also has its mandarins, and Susan Martin is one of the most distinguished. Research Director for the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy (it provided the blueprint for the landmark Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986), later executive director of ...more
Kruno Stjepanović
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Surprisingly easy to read. For those uninformed, it's a good way to learn about the US immigration history and foundations of the country.
Oct 12, 2007 rated it liked it
This is more inspirational than historical, it reads more like a pamphlet than a book. His brush strokes are broad and some of his details are inaccurate, but his thrust is undoubtedly right. These pages outline the Immigration Act of 1965, a law inspired by these, JFK's, thoughts on the subject, and so I agree to the depths of my heart in this book's proposition of human equality, the principle which allows me to be.
Apr 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Daniels’ thesis, romanticizing journey of immigrants. Refers to The Uprooted but doesn’t support the Handlin stereotype. Breaks down immigration by waves, then by nationality. All European and Russian immigration, but some Chinese, Japanese, but none on Latin America or Africa.

Chapter on immigration policy including Chinese exclusion law 1882. good photo section.
Niloy Mukherjee
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Timely and just as relevant today as when it was written sixty years ago. Maybe even more so.
Contention around immigration in America is as old as America itself. This truth may be a bit upsetting but there is a glimmer of hope in this reality. We have faced the demons of xenophobia before and, against all odds, triumphed. And so we shall triumph again.
Michael Duane  Robbins
Kennedy debunks all the arguments denigrating the immigrant 'problem' in this country by demonstrating. in a coherent and comprehensive manner, that we are all immigrants. His reasoning should persuade one and all against the fallacy of immigrant prejudice.
My copy is actually the 1964 edition that was in a box of books my father was clearing off his bookshelf. The content is actually pretty timely with the current debates in Congress about immigration policy.
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read. Everyone should read this little, yet full of history, book. Five decades later this book is a current reading to remind this nation about its immigrant past and present; as well about the immigrants contributions that had make of the US the nation we know today.
May 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Really powerful insight into JFK's character. His commitment to immigrant rights seems to have been ahead of his time.
Denton Peter McCabe
This is a terrific essay on immigration from JFK. A classic.
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent, and as relevant today as it was when it was written (if not more). Highly recommended reading, although I suspect it'll mainly preach to the converted.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy, often referred to by his initials JFK, was the thirty-fifth President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.

After Kennedy's military service as commander of the Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 during World War II in the South Pacific, his aspirations
“Immigration policy should be
generous; it should be fair; it should
be flexible. With such a policy we
can turn to the world, and to our own
past, with clean hands and a clear
“The interaction of disparate cultures, the vehemence of the ideals that led the immigrants here, the opportunity offered by a new life, all gave America a flavor and a character that make it as unmistakable and as remarkable to people today as it was to Alexis de Tocqueville in the early part of the nineteenth century.” 21 likes
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