The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

Excerpt, My Day

NEW YORK. -- The question most frequently asked me at press interviews these days is this: "Do you believe there will be any 100 days' honeymoon with Congress for the new President in view of the fact that his margin of victory is small in the popular vote?"1

I would like to point out that President-elect Kennedy's prestige with the Senate and House, whose members are very sensitive to votes and who analyze them very carefully, will be very high, for he had a tremendous vote to overcome. If you look at what President Eisenhower's vote was in 1956 you will gain some measure of Senator Kennedy's achievement.2 In view of all the handicaps he had to overcome, he really accomplished a near-miracle.

President-elect Kennedy is going to give vigorous and decisive leadership to the White House. Using all the power of the Presidency and aided by the legislative experience of Vice-President-elect Lyndon Johnson, he will be careful to start out by doing first things first -- not without a fight perhaps, but I have a feeling that we are going to have a President who rather enjoys a fight.

I read one of the columnists in one of Monday's newspapers3 who asked whether "the country will respond with energy and courage to a true picture of the national situation." I am usually a pessimist, but when it comes to trusting our people once they know the truth I have never doubted for a minute that they would face up to whatever the situation was and meet it magnificently.

You cannot meet a challenge till you know what the challenge is. But I think in the next few months we are going to know, in clear and unmistakable terms. And, once we know, the answer of the American people will be adequate to whatever the needs of the situation are.


     1. The phrase "the first hundred days" initially described the amazing success Franklin D. Roosevelt had with the first session of the 73rd Congress, which adjourned 100 days into Franklin Roosevelt's first term. During that period, March 9 to June 16, 1933, FDR, responding to the throes of the Great Depression, persuaded Congress to pass fifteen major pieces of legislation, which formed the bedrock of the New Deal and revolutionized federal regulation of banking, the stock market, agriculture, and relief policy. In many cases, Congress passed these bills with only a few hours of deliberation. No president, not even FDR himself or Lyndon Johnson, has ever matched that legislative benchmark. [William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940 (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963), pp. 41-62.]
     2. In 1952, Eisenhower defeated Stevenson by 6,621,242 votes, winning 55.1 percent of the popular vote to Stevenson's 44.4 percent. In 1956, Eisenhower's margin increased to 9,567,720 votes for a total of 57.6 percent of the popular vote to Stevenson's 42.1 percent. Although his electoral margin was wide, Kennedy, until the controversial 2000 presidential election, had the smallest popular vote margin in presidential history. [Paul Boyer, et al, The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People (Lexington, Mass: D.C. Heath, 1990), p. xxxi.]
     3. Staff has not yet determined which columnist wrote this editorial. We do know, however, that it did not appear in the November 21, 1960, edition of The New York Times.

Index to this Document: 1956 presidential election; 1960 presidential election; Eisenhower, Dwight D.; Great Depression: FDR and; Johnson, Lyndon Baines: ER on; Kennedy, John F.; My Day; New Deal: FDR and; Roosevelt, Eleanor: on American people; JFK, leadership of; Roosevelt, Franklin D.: first hundred days; Great Depression and; New Deal and; Stevenson, Adlai E.; U.S. Government: U.S. House of Representatives

Published by the Model Editions Partnership

Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished letters. .

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