Securities and Exchange Commission Historical Society

The Bright Image: The SEC, 1961-1973

Revitalizing the SEC

A High Calling

“I would like to have you know, Mr. President, that I am an American first, and a member of the New York Stock Exchange second.”
- March 14, 1961 letter from J. Truman Bidwell, Vice Chairman of the Board, New York Stock Exchange, to President Kennedy

The election of President Kennedy in November 1960 inaugurated a new enthusiasm for government involvement in public affairs. Kennedy, the youngest President ever elected at 43, campaigned on the theme of attracting the "best and the brightest" public servants to his administration. Committed to government service as a high calling, he recruited intelligent and innovative leadership to create political and economic progress for all Americans.

Kennedy believed that the SEC needed a similar revitalization. Two days after his election, Kennedy appointed former SEC Chairman and Harvard Law School Dean James Landis to head a study of the federal regulatory agencies and to develop a plan of reorganization for those agencies that would make them more responsive to current issues and more active participants in government.

In April 1961, Kennedy created the Council of the Administrative Conference, headed by Judge E. Barrett Prettyman, with Manuel F. Cohen, Director of the SEC Division of Corporation Finance, as one of its eleven members.

Kennedy's address to Congress on April 13, 1961 emphasized Presidential and Congressional cooperation to insure that federal administrative agencies, including the SEC, would attract the most competent personnel in order to coordinate and effectively implement action that would permit efficient economic growth.

"The preservation of a balanced competitive economy is never an easy task," the President affirmed, "but it is our task to cooperate in achieving those legislative and administrative steps necessary to enable those agencies to fulfill more effectively their roles in promoting and protecting the national interest."(2)

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(2) "Text of President Kennedy's Message to Congress on the Regulatory Agencies," New York Times, April 14, 1961, 12.

Related Museum Resources


March 14, 1961
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library)
April 25, 1961
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library)


November 16, 1961
(standing) Manuel F. Cohen and Jack M. Whitney III; (seated) Byron D. Woodside, William L. Cary and J. Allen Frear, Jr.

Oral Histories

13 August 2003

James Foster

14 August 2003

Libbey Sussan

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