In December 1960, then President-Elect John F. Kennedy wrote an article for Sports Illustrated entitled “The Soft American.” The article runs for 3 pages and details JFK’s concern over the declining physical fitness of Americans, especially American youth. He attributes this “softness” to a number of factors. For example, he notes that modern day conveniences, such as cars and televisions, allow for less physical activity in everyday life.
JFK goes on to argue that it is so important to have a healthy body because it promotes a healthy mind and overall healthy life. As he puts it, he believes that, “intelligence and skill can only function at the peak of their capacity when the body is healthy and strong; that hardy spirits and tough minds usually inhabit sound bodies.”
He notes that this is a national problem and proposes a four-step plan to whip America’s youth back into shape. First: establish a White House Committee on Health and Fitness to create a fitness program for the nation. Second: make the physical fitness of American youth the direct responsibility of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Third: invite the governor of each state to attend an annual National Youth Fitness Congress to assess progress being made. And fourth: the President and other government organizations must make it clear that physical education and sports participation is a basic, continuing policy of the U.S.