Obama No Jack Kennedy, Fails to Inspire Young Adults Into Public Service

Jack Kennedy inspired the youth of his generation to volunteer and serve the nation. Ronald Reagan was also an inspiration, in much the same way.

Democratic vice-presidential candidate, Senator Lloyd Bentsen once quipped to George H.W. Bush’s Vice Presidential candidate, Dan Quayle, “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Since that first use of the cutting quip, it, or a variation of it, has been used to deflate any politician or other individual who thinks too highly of themselves.

Today it can be said of Barack Obama that he is no Jack Kennedy, and he is absolutely nothing like Ronald Reagan.

In fact, the magic that Barack Obama had, just a short time ago, seems to have evaporated. A week ago, The New York Times reported that the record number of young people that Obama mobilized to elect him, are severely disillusioned. Obama advocated for volunteerism and public service as part of his campaign platforms, and it resonated with the young. Obama has so disappointed those young people that millennials appear to have no interest in running for public office.

The Times reported that John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard’s Institute of Politics told them, “We’re seeing the younger cohort is even less connected with him generally, with his policies, as well as politics generally.” Della Volpe indicated the 2013 survey showed 70 percent of young people ages 19 to 29 felt community service was “honorable.” Only 50% of those same responders thought running for office was honorable.

That may be closely related to the low ratings for all politicians. The young people are a lot smarter than they are given credit for. They have already realized that Obama is a slick-talking politician who talks a good game but cannot deliver what he promises.

Compared to the results from the Kennedy and Reagan years in the White House, Obama’s numbers show a stark negative difference. Obama has been unable to interest the youthful generations in becoming future politicians, the complete opposite of what Kennedy and Reagan did.

Della Volpe laid out the reason Obama was unable to motivate the young people, “If you were to call it an Obama generation, there was a window – that opportunity has been lost.”

A former Obama pollster, Sergio Bendixen, has learned a lot from Obama. Rather than place the blame where it belongs – on Barack Obama himself, he points the finger at everyone else. His excuse for Obama’s miserable numbers is that social media is to blame for creating a generation only interested in “instant gratification.” He said the young people who were attracted to Obama’s campaign moved on to “the next website and then the next click on their computer” after the 2008 campaign. “I just don’t see the generation as all that ideological or invested in causes for the long run,” Bendixen told The New York Times.

So now we know – it has nothing to do with Obama, nothing to do with his lack of focus on Americans, his multiple vacations, his focus on golf and basketball, the many scandals or his inability to get anything done. The fault is all on social media and a generation of young people who have the attention span of a gnat.

Pollsters say they see something else – the underlying cause for this disassociation is the Obama administration’s multiple scandals, the unpopular health care law that tries to force those young people to spend money they want to keep for themselves, and the many divisions that Obama helped to foment since he became president in 2009.

Time Magazine reports that 56 percent of young people in the 18-to-29 range disapprove of Obamacare, and the Pew Research Center says 54 percent of millennials disapproved of Obama’s overall job performance.

Note to Sergio Bendixen: Check that quote in the NYT to see if you actually did say that, and if you were quoted correctly, Get Real!

Dwight L. Schwab Jr. is a moderate conservative who looks at all sides of a story, then speaks his mind. He has written more than 3500 national political and foreign affairs columns. His BS in journalism from the University of Oregon, with minors in political science and American history stands him in good stead for his writing.


Dwight has 30-years in the publishing industry, including ABC/Cap Cities and International Thomson. His first book, “Redistribution of Common Sense – Selective Commentaries on the Obama Administration 2009-2014,” was published in July, 2014. “The Game Changer – America’s Most Stunning Presidential Election in History,” was published in April 2017.


Dwight is a native of Portland, Oregon, and now a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area.