Why did Kennedy come to Eastern Kentucky?

When some one hears the word “poverty,” what do people generally think of? What region of the United States comes to mind? People generally think of lazy, non-educated drug users, and people who were totally dependent on welfare (Eller 25). The region that many envision is the Appalachian region, particularly Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia. People often stereotype this region as one of the most poverty stricken areas in the whole country. You may wonder why this region is still so stricken with poverty and what legislators have done to reduce the levels in the region.

After President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, President Johnson enacted the federal “War on Poverty.”  This program was to help alleviate the high levels of poverty located within the Appalachian region and in large cities, such as New York City, LA, etc. In 1968, Robert Kennedy toured Eastern Kentucky to see how effective the federal programs enacted by the Johnson administration were, and  to see how much the region was benefiting with the federal governments help. What Kennedy found there was appalling.

Many people question the reasons as to why Kennedy would travel to Eastern Kentucky. Was it because he was genuinely concerned for the people of Eastern Kentucky? Or, could it be that he was seeking support for the upcoming Presidential nomination elections? This is debatable because he did not even announce he was running for President until March 1968, yet he visited the region in February. Maybe he came for both reasons?  I believe Kennedy traveled to Eastern Kentucky to gain support for the upcoming Presidential nomination elections and to help the people of Kentucky. Kennedy had advocated for the poverty relief benefits in the large cities, such as New York City and Los Angeles, so why would he not want to help the poor people in Eastern Kentucky? The more people Kennedy befriended the more likely he would receive the Democratic Party nomination for President. Therefore, I conclude Kennedy’s visit to Eastern Kentucky in 1968 was mutually benefiting both parties; Kennedy would be gaining support for his presidential nomination and the people of Eastern Kentucky would receive the federal attention it needed in order to rise above its poverty crisis (or so it was assumed).

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