JFK: Pandering to the Hispanic vote?

Well here’s an interesting tidbit. Check out this campaign ad for John F. Kennedy from 1960:

It kind of puts the whole English-only issue into new perspective, doesn’t it? Here’s a video of Jackie Kennedy, “pandering” to the Hispanic vote” for her husband 46 years ago! Did the Kennedy campaign’s outreach to Hispanic voters cause an uproar then?

The fact is, the U.S. has always been a polyglot nation, particularly beginning in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, when a huge wave of immigrants arrived. English is the official language, but many other languages were commonly spoken. In many neighborhoods in New York City back in the early 1900’s, for example, English was nowhere to be heard–not unlike the situation now. And there were the same apocalyptic, fearful predictions that the wave of immigration would lead to the destruction of the U.S. as a single nation.

(Via The Daily Dish.)


  1. #1 C. Schuyler
    July 9, 2006

    I believe English has NOT been the “official” language of the USA, if by “official” you mean that the federal government somehow decreed that it was the national tongue (though there may well be many statutes and federal regulations prescribing the use of English in certain contexts). Partly for this reason, I find the linguistic nationalism of many in the current Congress to be silly and disturbing at the same time. English has just never been in any genuine need of a special status.

  2. #2 razib
    July 9, 2006


    1) there were large waves of immigration before the great migration of the late 1800s which we tend to remember. e.g., the irish & the german of the mid 1800s were significant, especially when you note that according to the census ‘german’ is the most common ancestry listed. this is important because we must remember the past with as great a fidelity as we can and the heyday of ellis island tends to overshadow other periods and streams. i think this is part due to the fact the stamp of ellis island is stronger in new york city than nationwide and this is also our major media center re: information.

    2) the attitude of the majority culture was far more hostile and assimilationist then than now. the public school system pushed by yankee progressives was an arm of the program of anglicization and absorption. today the dominant culture seems more willing to accept separatism as the ‘natural state’ of new immigrants (speaking as one myself).

    3) in 1924 immigration was greatly reduced, and for 40 years up until 1965 there was a ‘pause,’ during which white ethnics were assimilated into the mainstream. the 19th century also witnessed the rise and fall of immigrant waves. the current stream has been going strong for 30 years now. some people do believe that a pause or a reduction might be in order. they aren’t always bigots to suggest this.

  3. #3 Lord Runolfr
    July 9, 2006

    Do we really have an official language? As far as I know, there’s no legislation making English the official language of the US; its more like the “default” language, since we have more English speakers than anything else.

  4. #4 razib
    July 10, 2006

    some states have official languages i think. i don’t think there is a federal law yet (though something is in the works).

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