John F. Kennedy and the French Revolution

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —June 16, 2007
Filed in Anecdotes, Fun

I heard this anecdote last week.

John Kennedy was meeting the Premier of China and during some initial small talk Kennedy asked the Premier what he thought of the French Revolution. The Premier replied, “it’s probably too early to say.”

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

8 Responses to “John F. Kennedy and the French Revolution”

  1. avi Says:

    The French have made so many great things ever since – and so many mistakes – that the Chinese Premer comment is meaningless.

  2. Shawn Says:

    I thought this anecdote was a comment on how the Chinese saw the long-term view.

  3. John Parboosingh Says:

    My interpretation is similar. The Chinese vision of their civilization covers thousands of years, where as ours covers only three centuries. The story made me reflect on our society – the instant gratification demands plus demands for innovations and change to be evaluated even before they are adequately developed. Thanks for the story.

  4. Ben Says:

    I like that anecdote, but I suspect that it never happened – not with JFK at least. The US didn’t officially recognise the People’s Republic of China until after Kennedy was asassinated. The first US President to meet the Chinese Premier was Nixon, I think. Hence the US phrase “Only Nixon could go to China”.

  5. Shawn Says:

    Thanks Ben for putting this through the mythbusters test.

  6. Gloria Fox Says:

    I really liked this anecdote. Whether the facts were correct or not did not affect the knowledge being imparted to me: Culture and time perspective….the point was so beautifully stated in a few words. More importantly, it reminds me that facts in storytelling have less value than the contextual meaning. Each listener will filter the story thru their own experience and spin their own meaning. That meaning is what we will listen for…

  7. Ford Harding Says:

    I think this statement is more likely to reflect communist doctrine than anything else. Similar to Krushiev’ misunderstood “We will bury you,” it should be interpretted in the context of the marxist view that revolution of the proletariat and eventual conversion to communism is inevitabble.

  8. Jack Says:

    BBC NEWS on a page referenced by Wikipedia for their Zhou_Enlai summary, attributes the quote to Zhou.

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