Published Date

January 1, 2004

Resource Type

For the Classroom




United States

This resource was developed in 2004 as part of “Discovering American Social History on the Web” by Dan Kallgren.


John F. Kennedy stands at a lectern in front of a flag, pointing ahead of him with his right hand raise

Executive Orders are directives presidents can send to government agencies that have the force of law. Their legal authority comes from existing laws or from the president’s other constitutional assignments of authority. Presidents have used executive orders to set up agencies, modify rules, or give emphasis to certain laws. Because of this, executive orders can be mundane or they can reflect important ideological and policy interests of presidents. In this assignment, you will look at some (perhaps all) of the 214 executive orders issued by John F. Kennedy during his years as president, and use them to reach some conclusions about the ideological and policy interests of Kennedy.

Your assignment: “Select, analyze and write about the past”

  1. Visit the website listed above and familiarize yourself with the materials contained therein.
  2. Go through the executive orders (E.O.s), and try to see if a particular pattern emerges from the substantive ones. There are a number, which really do not tell us anything, such as revisions of earlier E.O.s. However, there are quite a few that focus on particular issues such as the status of women, the poor and elderly, the Peace Corps, and labor relations. Using the sections of the Faragher text which deals with Kennedy, place these E.O.s in the context of his presidency. Can we see what important issues Kennedy wanted to deal with? How do these E.O.s fit in with his notion of a “New Frontier?”
  3. Prepare a short report (3–5 pages) dealing with how the E.O.s might reflect the larger policy issues to which Kennedy’s administration wanted to pay particular attention.