Arthur M. Schlesinger reveals again his prize-winning ability to express ideas and describe personal characteristics and actions in a way that rivets the attention of the reader. A Thousand Days is a remarkably readable and detailed chronicle of the three years of the Kennedy administration. It has the full flavor that comes from intimate observation. It is vividly autobiographical as it reveals the thinking and attitudes of the author. It is also undoubtedly representative of the political attitudes of many of the other professors who advised and assisted President Kennedy.

One most important feature of the book is that it reveals the characteristics of Schlesinger’s own thinking which made his presence in the White House a symbol of President Kennedy’s personal and official interest in intellectuals and idealists who were not only unappreciated but often in the political opposition in many countries of the world. I know that this gave hope to many such people. And President Kennedy obviously valued this symbolism, because he persisted in it, even though it caused him suspicion of more conservative elements in our own country and abroad, whose cooperation with the Kennedy administration was less enthusiastic because Schlesinger was there. The faith that President Kennedy showed in Schlesinger was linked closely with the aspect of the President’s mind and personality that made him revered by youth.

Readers of the HAHR should have special interest in Schlesinger’s account of United States relations with the Hispanic American countries during the ‘thousand days.’ Undoubtedly I was invited to write this review for the reason that I knew about these relations intimately during a quarter of the thousand days—the eight months from July 1961 to March 1962 when I was Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. I can recommend Schlesinger’s book as a vividly revealing picture of the way in which President Kennedy and those around him formulated policies, the way they thought and performed. This intimate detail, the personal observations and attitudes, the biographical opinions and descriptions, will all be extremely valuable material to be weighed with the differing views and observations of others in the eventual perspective of history.

In my own opinion less partisan perspective will reveal that most of the ideas of the Kennedy administration in relations with Latin America were less original than Schlesinger would lead one to believe. For example, practically nothing in the long-standing administration of Public Law 480 was changed by calling this program “Food for Peace.” But it is probable that this program—providing a wide variety of uses abroad for surplus agricultural commodities and for the local currency proceeds from the sale of those products—was given more propaganda value by the more imaginative name.

Although few concrete measures for economic and social development were new, this should not diminish the significance of the mystique of the slogan, “Alliance for Progress,” symbolizing a collective effort toward lofty and concrete goals. Great impetus was given to the conviction—already slowly gaining currency—that “The men of wealth and power in poor nations . . . must lead the fight for those basic reforms which alone can preserve the fabric of their own societies” (p. 789). But Schlesinger does not give full weight to the high cost of the effort—the temporary effects which alarmed many conscientious Latin American leaders. Capital fled, fearing higher taxes and instability brought on by demands of “less-developed” populations which they knew they could not fulfill. But gradually confidence is building up. The greater respectability and enthusiasm won for the basic ideas of the “Alliance” are now showing their effects. History should demonstrate that the “Alliance” did accelerate progress, and the part played in this by multilateral organization of help in planning economic and social investment and development should not be underestimated.

Conversely, Schlesinger touched only lightly on one measure sponsored decisively by the Kennedy administration which I urged persistently in the belief that it was essential. This was an agreement on world coffee production and marketing which has been vital to the economies and the very stability of several of the fourteen coffee-producing nations in Latin America. Without this the ideals of the “Alliance” might still be in the doldrums. This commodity agreement may well prove to be one of the great landmarks in world economic development, an example for other such agreements; Michael Blumenthal, representing the United States as the largest consuming country, deserves kudos for helping to bring this pact into being.

Schlesinger shows the impatience of the idealist in some of his comments about bureaucrats and Department of State personnel. His incisive and sometimes stinging personal opinions should be welcomed and conscientiously examined. I can substantiate that he was at his fairest when he described the second meeting at Punta del Este in January 1962 and stated that all the qualities of Secretary Rusk, “his intelligence, command of detail, inexhaustible patience and effortless inscrutability—precisely fitted the requirements of the occasion” (p. 781). I believe that future perspective will reveal that this meeting was an achievement, that it stopped a fall in United States ideological and military prestige in Latin America which was far more serious than Schlesinger suggests.

While welcoming the author’s own views of President Kennedy’s comments about people and problems—comments which might have arisen from the exasperation of the moment—I could wish that he had given “equal time” to other more meditative reflections by the President. On December 17, 1962 President Kennedy commented on two years in the presidency with representatives of the three large broadcasting chains in an interview which was sent to United States embassies as a motion picture. William Lawrence of ABC asked the President how his experience during the two years had matched his expectations at the beginning. President Kennedy replied: “Well, I think in the first place the problems are more difficult than I had imagined they were. Secondly, there is a limitation on the ability of the United States to solve these problems.” He repeated these thoughts for emphasis and elaborated on the theme with examples and then added, “If you take the wrong course, and on occasion I have, the President bears the burden of the responsibility quite rightly. The advisors may move on to new advice.”