JFK meets with President Eisenhower at the White House for the first time since the 1960 election as part of the presidential transition.
Date: December 6, 1960
Original Title: Kennedy & Ike Confer on Changeover
Film Type: Black and White / Sound
Credit: MCA/Universal Films
Archival Source: National Archives / 200-UN / 33-99
Transcript / Shot List
At the White House, the stage of history is set for the first meeting between President [Dwight] Eisenhower and Senator [John F.] Kennedy since the [1960 presidential] election.
The oldest of the nation’s presidents and the youngest President-elect meet in an atmosphere of cordial informality to discuss the transition from the present to the incoming administration.
Never before has the transfer from one administration to another been as carefully or as cordially managed. On this occasion the president and the President-elect spent nearly three hours in a conference with some of Mr. Eisenhower's chief advisers present, covering not only procedural matters, but all the responsibilities of world leadership the nation now bears and the problems America will face in coming months.
To the world, both men present a clear picture of national unity in the search for peace, as well as in the orderly transfer of the reins of power.
Afterwards, Senator Kennedy answers a few questions, although the details of the talk remain private.
Senator John F. Kennedy: I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to President Eisenhower. He was extremely generous in the time that he gave to the discussion of the problems that the United States now faces and will face in the coming months.
The President and I talked for about an hour and 45 minutes, and then he brought in the Secretary of State [Christian Herter], Secretary of the Treasury [Robert Anderson], and the Secretary of Defense [Thomas Gates Jr.], and that meeting was attended by [White House Chief of Staff] General [Wilton] Persons and Mr. [Clark] Clifford. The White House will have a statement to make on the meeting shortly.
This news report covers the first of two meetings between President-elect John F. Kennedy and President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the White House on December 6, 1960. It was their first meeting since the November 8 election, but lower-level members of each camp had already been meeting on the transition.
Kennedy brought with him Clark Clifford, a Washington lawyer, adviser to former President Harry Truman, and head of Kennedy’s transition team.
Kennedy and Eisenhower held another meeting on January 19, 1961, the day before Kennedy’s inauguration.
Later on December 6, the White House issued a joint statement that read:1
The President of the United States of America and the President-elect conferred today at the White House.
They first met alone in the President’s office and then were joined in the Cabinet Room by the Secretaries of State, Defense and Treasury. Also attending this latter meeting were The Assistant to the President and Mr. Clark Clifford, who have been acting as representatives of their two principals during the post-election period.
At the conclusion of the discussions the President and the President-elect agreed to the following statement:
We have had an informal personal meeting on continuing problems, particularly in the international arena, that confront and will continue to confront the Chief Executive of our nation.
The discussions, later joined in by the three Secretaries, covered such foreign affairs matters as major problems of peace, security, and freedom throughout the world, particularly including the American balance of payments and the position of the American dollar; and such domestic matters as the operation of certain aspects of the Executive Branch of the Government, including those related to our national security, as well as the manner in which the White House staff machinery has assisted the President in his Executive responsibilities.
There was of course full understanding that under the Constitution the President of the United States maintains sole jurisdiction for the conduct of the Government until his successor is inaugurated. The meetings, however, were extremely informative in nature. Thus, we feel that we were able in our discussions to provide a better foundation for our representatives who are working on the necessary orderly transfer of Executive responsibility from one Administration to another. The progress to date of this work has been most satisfactory.
We believe that through such orderly processes the continuity of Government affairs will be assured and our people will continue to demonstrate that they are united in the nation’s leadership toward peace.
We reaffirm the historic American position that this nation does not covet the territory of any people nor does it seek to dominate or control any other nation.
The American people and their government have consistently sought to protect freedom and have tried to help people throughout the world better their standards of living. These national objectives will be vigorously pursued by the incoming Administration.
The Government of the United States has and will continue to seek peace with justice in freedom for all peoples.
- “Joint Statement by the President and President-Elect Kennedy,” 6 December 1960, in Public Papers of the President: Dwight D. Eisenhower: 1960 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1961) doc. 369. ↩