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Found: A 1937 Recording of JFK as a Harvard Student

It’s the earliest known recording of him.

A young JFK.
A young JFK. U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce/Public domain

In 1937, a young John F. Kennedy, just 20 at the time, signed up for Prof. Frederick Cilfton Packard, Jr.’s English F class. Packard taught the young men of Harvard public speaking, and as part of the class, the students would deliver speeches in Harvard’s Holden Chapel, the college’s third oldest building. While his classmates chose to speak about “book collecting, sourdough, and how to find a wife,” reports the Harvard Gazette, Kennedy spoke about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s controversial Supreme Court appointee, Hugo Black, who had ties to the Klu Klux Klan.

Decades later, archivists at Harvard discovered the speech about Packard’s archives and have restored the 20-year-old Kennedy’s speech from an aluminum disk into a digital file. Even through the background noise, you can hear the future president’s distinctive accent as he speaks:

Harvard released the recording as part of an exhibit on Kennedy’s relationship with the school; archivists believe Packard’s collection may have more recordings of the young JFK and his siblings waiting to be discovered.