John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29 , 1917 - November 22 , 1963), often referred to as Jack Kennedy or JFK, was the 35th (1961 - 1963) President of the United States.
Early lifeKennedy was born in Brookline , Massachusetts , the son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. In 1935 , he studied at the London School of Economics , then moved to Princeton University , but was forced to leave the latter during Christmas break because of an attack of jaundice . He then attended Harvard University , enrolling in the fall of 1936 , but he severely injured his back playing football . He traveled to Europe twice during his study at Harvard. The second was to Great Britain , while his father was serving as ambassador to that country. Kennedy returned, and wrote his honors thesis on analyzing the British portion of the Munich Pact of 1938 . He graduated cum laude from Harvard in June 1940 .
Military serviceIn the spring of 1941 , Kennedy volunteered for the US Army , but was rejected, mainly because of his injured back. However, he worked to strengthen himself during the summer, and was accepted by the US Navy in September of that year. He participated in various commands during World War II , but his most famous one was during March 1943 . With the rank of lieutenant , he received command of a patrol torpedo boat , or PT boat .
While his boat, PT-109 , was cruising west of New Georgia (near the Solomon Islands on August 2 , it was rammed by a Japanese destroyer . He was thrown across the deck onto his already injured back, but somehow rallied the survivors onto a nearby small island, himself towing a wounded man three miles through the ocean. After a few days of searching, he found two friendly islanders, whom he sent for aid with a message carved on a coconut . For these actions, Kennedy received the Purple Heart , Navy Medal and Marine Corps Medal . However, his back injury had been aggravated after being thrown on his boat, and he also contracted malaria . He was honorably discharged in early 1945 , just a few months before the Japanese surrender.
In May 2002 a National Geographic expedition found what is believed to be the wreckage of that PT-109 in the Solomon Islands.
Early political careerAfter World War II, he entered politics (partly to fill the void of his popular brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. , who was killed in the war). When Representative James M. Curley vacated his overwhelmingly Democratic district to become mayor of Boston , Kennedy ran for that seat. After a long and strenuous campaign, he beat the Republican opponent by a large margin. He was reelected two times, but had a mixed voting record, often diverging from then-President Harry S. Truman and the rest of the Democratic Party.
In 1952 , Kennedy decided to run for the Senate . He defeated the Republican incumbent, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. , by a margin of about 70,000 votes. He made good his slogan, "Kennedy will do more for Massachusetts", having voted and passed many ordinances that helped its citizens, especially its businessmen. However, he diverged from his constituents by speaking for censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy , who was most famous for his advantageous manipulation of the Red Scare . Although Kennedy was ill during the 77-22 vote (the other 99 senators all voted), he had spoken repeatedly with the majority.
Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier on September 12 , 1953 . He underwent many spinal operations in the two following years, and had a prolonged absence from the Senate. However, while recovering from an operation, he wrote about acts of political courage by eight U.S. Senators, and published the book, Profiles in Courage . This book later received the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. When he returned to the Senate in 1955 , many critics called him an "untrue liberal ". He had adopted many moderate positions; however, two years later, he adopted an extremely liberal position on labor, but was forced to accept a more moderate bill, the Landrum-Griffin Bill . He then decided to run for the office of President of the United States .
1960 Presidential electionOn July 13 , 1960 the Democratic party nominated him as its candidate for President. Kennedy asked Lyndon B. Johnson , a senator from Texas , to run with him as Vice President . In the general election on November 8 , 1960 , Kennedy beat Republican Richard Nixon in a very close race. At the age of forty-three, Kennedy was the youngest man elected President and the first Catholic.
Theodore H. White 's 1961 book about that election campaign, The Making of the President 1960 , was not only a national best-seller but is also often used as a supplementary text in high school and college courses in U.S. government and history. When he was elected, he became the youngest person to be elected president ( Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest to be president, but he first came to office by succeeding William McKinley when the latter was assassinated).
President of the United StatesJohn F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President on January 20 , 1961 . In his inaugural speech he spoke of the need for all Americans to be active citizens. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country , he said. He also asked the nations of the world to join together to fight what he called the 'common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
President Kennedy, together with his wife and two children, brought a new, youthful spirit to the White House . The Kennedys believed that the White House should be a place to celebrate American history, culture, and achievement. They invited artists, writers, scientists, poets, musicians, actors, and athletes to visit them. Jacqueline Kennedy also shared the same interest in American history as her husband. Gathering the finest art and furniture the United States had produced, she restored all the rooms in the White House to make it a place that truly reflected America's history with a sense of beauty. Everyone was impressed and appreciated her hard work.
The White House also seemed like a fun place, because of the Kennedys' two young children, Caroline and John-John. There was a pre-school, a swimming pool, and a tree-house outside on the White House lawn. President Kennedy was probably the busiest man in the country, but he still found time to laugh and play with his children.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was probably the most important event during Kennedy's presidency. Through skill and steadfast thinking, Kennedy was able to both control the warmongers in the cabinet who wanted war (to redeem themselves for the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba ), as well as the ambitious Communist organizations from using threat to gain strength (much like Hitler did 25 years early through appeasement ). Many people consider the Cuban Missile Crisis the closest point the world came to Nuclear War. The crisis all began on October 14, 1962 when spy planes took photographs of the contruction site of a Nuclear missile silo in Cuba. If Kennedy attacked the sites, then it would have killed many Russians, which would lead to Nuclear War . If the U.S. did nothing, it would appear to the world that the U.S. was weak. A peace settlement was nearly impossible. Everyone remembered the days leading to WW2 where appeasement only made the agressor more agressive. A temporary solution was found, a blockade of war materials. A solution came a week later, while the world stood on the brink. The Soviet Union agreed secretly to remove the missiles if the U.S. both agreed never to invade Cuba, as well as remove the missiles 6 months later from Cuba. Kennedy was honored for decades after the crisis for preventing the possible war.
President Kennedy worked long hours, getting up at seven and not going to bed until eleven or twelve at night, or later. He read six newspapers while he ate breakfast, had meetings with important people throughout the day, and read reports from his advisers. He wanted to make sure that he made the best decisions for his country. I am asking each of you to be new pioneers in that New Frontier , he said. The New Frontier was not a place but a way of thinking and acting. President Kennedy wanted the United States to move forward into the future with new discoveries in science and improvements in education, employment and other fields. He wanted democracy and freedom for the whole world.
One of the first things President Kennedy did was to create the Peace Corps . Through this program, which still exists today, Americans can volunteer where help is needed. They can help in areas such as education, farming, health care, and construction. Many young men and women have served as Peace Corps volunteers and have won the respect of many people throughout the world.
President Kennedy was also eager for the United States to lead the way in exploring space. The Soviet Union was ahead of the United States in its knowledge of space and President Kennedy was determined to catch up. He said, No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space . Kennedy was the first President to ask Congress to approve more than twenty two billion dollars for Project Apollo , which had the goal of landing an American man on the moon before the end of the decade.
President Kennedy had to deal with many serious problems here in the United States. The biggest problem of all had to do with racial discrimination. The US Supreme Court had ruled in 1954 that segregation in public schools would no longer be permitted. Black children and White children should be able to go to school together. This was now the law of the land. However, there were many schools, especially in southern states, that did not obey this law. There was also racial segregation on buses, in restaurants, movie theaters, and other public places.
Thousands of Americans joined together, people of all races and backgrounds, to peacefully protest this injustice. Martin Luther King, Jr . was one of the famous leaders of the movement for civil rights. Many civil rights leaders didn't think President Kennedy was supportive enough of their efforts. The President believed that holding public protests would only anger many white people and make it even more difficult to convince the members of Congress who didn't agree with him to pass civil rights laws. By June 11, 1963, however, President Kennedy decided that the time had come to take stronger action to help the civil rights struggle. He proposed a new Civil Rights bill to the Congress and he went on television asking Americans to end racism. One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free, he said. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds [and] on the principle that all men are created equal. President Kennedy made it clear that all Americans, regardless of their skin color, should enjoy a good and happy life in the United States.
For various reasons, Kennedy was, during the time he served, perhaps the most popular president in U.S. history. He was a handsome, photogenic man who seemed open and accessible, and his administration marked a notable increase in direct media exposure of the president to the public at large, through television broadcasts from the Oval Office , televised press conferences , and numerous photo spreads in popular magazines. His glamorous wife " Jackie " was as newsworthy as he was, and the way they handled personal tragedies, especially the death of their newborn son Patrick Bouvier Kennedy in August 1963 , enhanced their public image. The "charisma" Kennedy and his family projected posthumously led to the figurative designation of " Camelot " for his administration.
Information released after his death leaves no doubt that he had at least one, and probably several extramarital affairs while in office, including liaisons in the White House . Such things were not then considered fit for publication, and in Kennedy's case, they were never publicly discussed.
Assassination and AftermathPresident Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas , on November 22 , 1963 . This was a shattering and extraordinary event in the lives of most Americans who lived through it; "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" was a frequent question in the years that followed, and could still be heard for many decades afterwards. Lee Harvey Oswald , apprehended for the crime, was himself fatally shot by Jack Ruby before he could be formally charged or brought to trial. Four days after Kennedy and Oswald were killed, President Lyndon Johnson created the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination. See John F. Kennedy assassination for further details of the circumstances surrounding Kennedy's death.
On March 14 , 1967 Kennedy's body was moved to a permanent burial place and memorial at Arlington National Cemetery .
Kennedy's life and the subsequent conspiracy theories surrounding his death have been the inspiration for many films. Recent ones include Nigel Turner's 1988 mini series The Men Who Killed Kennedy , Oliver Stone 's 1991 blockbuster, JFK , and 1993 's JFK: Reckless Youth , which looked at Kennedy's early years.
Kennedy was the most recent Democratic president to push for income tax cuts to improve the economy. He was also the most recent Northern Democrat to win the Presidency.
In November of 2002 long-secret medical records were made public, revealing Kennedy's physical ailments were more severe than previously thought. He was in constant pain from fractured vertebrae despite multiple medications, in addition to suffering from severe digestive problems and Addison's disease . Kennedy received multiple injections of procaine before press conferences in order to appear healthy.
Kennedy's portrait appears on the U.S. half dollar .
- Secretary of State
- Dean Rusk
- Secretary of the Treasury
- C. Douglas Dillon
- Secretary of Defense
- Robert S. McNamara
- Attorney General
- Robert F. Kennedy
- Postmaster General
- J. Edward Day (1961-1963)
- John A. Gronouski (1963-1965)
- Secretary of the Interior
- Stewart L. Udall
- Secretary of Agriculture
- Orville L. Freeman
- Secretary of Commerce
- Luther H. Hodges
- Secretary of Labor
- Arthur J. Goldberg (1961-1962)
- W. Willard Wirtz (1962-1969)
- Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
- Abraham A. Ribicoff (1961-1962)
- Anthony J. Celebrezze (1962-1965)
Supreme Court appointments
- Byron Raymond White - 1962
- Arthur Joseph Goldberg - 1962