Term Paper: President Kennedy's Contribution to Physical Education

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President Kennedy's Contribution To Physical Education

Since the time of the ancient Greeks, we have felt that there was a close relationship between a strong, vital mind and physiological fitness.

-John F. Kennedy (Gatterman 2007)

Through example, President John F. Kennedy led the nation in the awareness of the need for physical fitness reform and was the reason for the advent of physical education in schools. President Kennedy was the driving force in strengthening the President's Council on Youth Fitness, later named the President's Council on Physical Fitness and now called the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, instrumented by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. President Kennedy, acting on letters from children and military leaders, sought to make Americans more physically fit and teach the importance of good physical health.

Today, the movement started and pushed by President Kennedy is being revisited almost 50 years later as Americans are becoming more and more obese. That is saying a lot when a man's theories are being promoted and reevaluated this many years later. This is the reason for writing this paper on President Kennedy and his involvement in physical education as we know it.

Literature Review

Though other Presidents enacted programs on physical education and fitness, none had the significance of the programs and decrees promoted by President John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy was a sportsman himself as a member of the Harvard sailing team and the now infamous Kennedy football games. The President is quoted in the article, "As Americans get heavier, Exhibit highlights John F. Kennedy's push for physical fitness," by Ngowi (2007) as having written,

"The age of leisure and abundance can destroy vigor and muscle tone as effortlessly as it can gain time," Kennedy wrote. "A single look at the packed parking lot of the average high school will tell us what has happened to the traditional hike to school that helped to build young bodies."

President Kennedy took the President's Council on Physical Fitness to new heights and appointing Oklahoma University's extraordinary head coach, Bud Wilkinson, to be the consultant helping to lead the program.

President Kennedy signed into effect the Executive Order of January 8, 1963, creating and organizing the President's Council on Physical Fitness and defined the entire purpose of the mission of the Council, as follows:

WHEREAS recent studies, both private and public, have revealed disturbing deficiencies in the physical fitness of American youth; and WHEREAS since the youth of our Nation is one of our greatest assets, it is imperative that the physical fitness of our youth be improved and promoted to the greatest possible extent; and WHEREAS there is a close relationship between physical fitness and intellectual vigor and moral strength; and WHEREAS the physical fitness of its citizens is a concern of the government at all levels, as well as a responsibility of the family, the school, the community, and other groups and organizations; and WHEREAS it is necessary that the activities of the Federal Government in this area be coordinated and administered so as to assure their maximum effectiveness and to provide guidance and stimulation. (McNatt, 2009)

The chairman of the Council was the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and included other members of the Executive branch of the United States government. The Council had been implemented by President Eisenhower due to the poor fitness of some American children but lacked substance and was prohibited from starting any programs. They were fearful the public would act negatively because of the World War and memories of the youth camps in Russia and Germany.

President Kennedy had received letters from children all over the United States complaining about the quality of the physical programs and equipment available to them at their schools. The acts of the President began before the letters but stirred up the efforts of the Council to enact and promote new programs. The effects of the initiative of the program can be witnessed in the writings of President Kennedy dating August 13, 1963 in the "Progress Report by the President on Physical Fitness" in which the President documented that 20% of the schools had started fitness programs since 1962, and the number of high schools testing for physical fitness was 96% versus the less than 50% in 1960. (Public Papers, 1963) Developments of the President and the Council will be examined further in this paper.

First, an overview of the, currently named, President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports needs to be made. The Council gives recommendations to the acting President, by way of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, regarding sports, physical activities, and physical fitness and how it affects the public's health. Working in conjunction with both private and public sector promoters, the Council helps implement programs for fitness and distributes informational materials in the promotion and need for good physical fitness and health. (President's Council, 2010)

Starting as the President's Council on Youth Fitness in July 1956 by President Eisenhower after it was determined that American children were lagging behind European children in regards to physical fitness. Vice President Richard Nixon served as the first chairman and the Council was made up of the Secretaries of the Cabinets primarily. President Kennedy, in 1963, changed the name of the council to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and changed the scope of the program to include all Americans as well as defining the full scope of the Council and its authority. In 1966, the name was again changed to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports by President Lyndon B. Johnson and was Council was given initiative in the area of sports. On June 6, 2002, the Council was given new life by President George W. Bush and now promotes physical fitness for health and prevention of disease, health benefits from vigorous physical training through strength training and stretching, and the sportsmanship values from the participation in sports. (President's Council, 2010)

Numerous awards are offered for children and adults in regards to lifestyle activities, physical fitness, and health fitness and range from Presidential awards to state and local awards. Partnerships have been made with numerous companies in the promotion of eating healthy, exercising, and living healthy lifestyles such as yearly doctor's checkups and preventive screenings. These all got most of their starts from the efforts of one man in particular, President John F. Kennedy.

President Kennedy is known for his still famous challenge for the Marines to conduct a 50-mile hike in 20 minutes and it turned into a challenge involving members of the government such as Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and even the public took to the challenge proposed by the President. (JFKlibrary.org, 2010) the Council protecting itself from liability of the public overdoing themselves did have to issue a statement warning the public to build up to such an event and not try to do it all at once.

The President's Challenge Award, implemented by the Council in 1966, was designed to test the physical fitness of children aged six through seventeen and allow them to win a commendation from the President. (Fitness, 1990) the challenge consists of five parts and is not an easy accomplishment whereas on 10% of the children can usually complete the event. The participant must receive a score of 85% in the 5 events to get a presidential emblem and a Presidential Certificate of Achievement signed by the President. The children can participate as many times as they desire and the certificates have special numbered emblems. Children that score at least 50% on the events are awarded with certificates and emblems for trying. The events that make up the challenge and descriptions of them listed in the Saturday Evening Post article, "Fitness: the president's challenge. (children's fitness test for President's Challenge Award)," are:

1. CURL-UPS

OBJECTIVE: To measure abdominal strength and endurance by maximum number of curl-ups performed in one minute. TESTING: Have student lie on cushioned, clean surface with knees flexed and feet about 12 inches from buttocks. Partner holds feet. Arms are crossed with hands placed on opposite shoulders and elbows held close the chest. Keeping this arm position, student raises the trunk, curling up to touch elbows to thighs, and then lowers the back to the floor so that the scapulas (shoulder blades) touch the floor, for one curl-up. To start, a time calls out the signal "Ready? Go!" And begins timing student for one minute. Student stops on the word "stop." RULES: "Bouncing" off the floor is not permitted. The curl-up should be counted only if performed correctly.

2. SHUTTLE RUN

OBJECTIVE: To perform shuttle run as fast as possible. TESTING: Mark two parallel lines 30 feet apart and place two blocks or similar objects (approximate size of 2" x 2" x 4") behind one of the lines. On the signal "Ready? Go!" The student runs to the blocks, picks one up, runs back to the starting line, places block behind the line, runs and picks up the second block, and runs… [END OF PREVIEW]

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