John F. Kennedy was one of eight U.S. presidents to become a Life member of the National Rifle Association, guardian of Americans’ Second Amendment rights. In this distinction, JFK was the lone Democrat in the company of Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, all of whom became NRA Life members (although Nixon disavowed his membership in 1969 and George Bush resigned in 1995).
In his March 20, 1961, letter to NRA Executive Vice President Franklin Orth, accepting his Life membership, Kennedy wrote, “I am pleased to accept Life Membership in the National Rifle Association and extend to your organization every good wish for continued success.” He continued, “Through competitive matches and sports in coordination with the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice, the Association fills an important role in our national defense effort, and fosters in an active and meaningful fashion the spirit of the Minutemen.”
Kennedy supported Second Amendment rights for Americans, saying in an April 1960 statement, “By calling attention to a well-regulated militia, the security of the nation, and the right of each citizen to keep and bear arms, our founding forefathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of government tyranny which gave rise to the Second Amendment will ever be a major danger to our nation, the Amendment still remains a major declaration of our basic civilian-military relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason, I believe the Second Amendment will always be important.”
JFK’s High Standing With Americans
Immediately after his assassination, the popularity of the late President was reflected in the unprecedented demand for the 1964 Kennedy half dollar, minted in his honor. Almost five times as many Kennedy halves were dated 1964 as the number of Ben Franklin half-dollars that were dated 1963.
John F. Kennedy stands far and away the most popular of recent former U.S. presidents. A CNN poll in January 2011 found that 85 percent of Americans approved of JFK, with only 8 percent disapproving and 7 percent with no opinion. Bill Clinton was second with a 72 percent approval rate, and Reagan was third with 68 percent approval.
Understandably, Democrats and Independents were more positive about Kennedy than were Republicans. However, even among the GOP Kennedy fared well, with 78 percent approving, 13 percent disapproving and 9 percent with no opinion.
Kennedy Was Our Last “Hard Money” President
President Kennedy was the last U.S. President who defended the traditional role of silver in U.S. coinage. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, sowed the seeds of future inflation with his “guns-and-butter” spending policies (paying for rising war and welfare costs at the same time). Barely 20 months after President Kennedy was killed in November 1963, silver demand rose so fast that President Johnson opted to take silver out of most U.S. coins during the early summer of 1965.
On June 23, 1965, while signing the Coinage Act of 1965, President Johnson proudly stated that he made “… the first fundamental change in our coinage in 173 years. The Coinage Act of 1965 supersedes the act of 1792-since that time our coinage of dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars have contained 90 percent silver. Today, except for the silver dollar, we are establishing a new coinage-the new dimes and quarters will contain no silver. They will be composites, with faces of the same alloy used in our 5-cent piece that is bonded to a core of pure copper.”
Despite saying that “Silver consumption is now more than double new silver production each year,” he defied all laws of economic supply and demand by adding, “Our present silver coins won’t disappear and they won’t even become rarities … If anybody has any idea of hoarding our silver coins, let me say this. Treasury has a lot of silver on hand, and it can be, and it will be used to keep the price of silver in line with its value in our present silver coin. There will be no profit in holding them out of circulation for the value of their silver content.”
President Johnson was very, very wrong. Today, the price of pre-1965 “junk” circulating silver coins is about 18 times their face value. A 1964 dime trades for about $1.80, while most U.S. dimes minted after 1965 are worth … just 10 cents.
See the NRA Member Exclusive offer inside the back cover of the December 2013 issue of American Rifleman and get a first Date of Issue, 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar. To learn more about diversifying and protecting yourself with gold, silver and certified rare coins, call Universal Coin & Bullion at (800) 822-GOLD and watch the award-winning educational videos featuring NRA Benefactor member Mike Fuljenz online at UniversalCoin.com. Vault Verification: UAMRFGN1213.