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John F Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th president of the United States, the
youngest person ever to be elected president. He was also the first
Roman Catholic president and the first president to be born in the
20th century. Kennedy was assassinated before he completed his third
year as president. Therefore his achievements were  limited.
Nevertheless, his influence was worldwide, and his handling of the
Cuban Missile Crisis may have prevented war. Young people especially
liked him. No other  president was so popular. He brought to the
presidency an awareness of the cultural and historical traditions of
the United States. Because Kennedy expressed the values of
20th-century America, his presidency was important beyond its
political achievements.   John Kennedy was born in Brookline,
Massachusetts. He was the second of nine children.

Kennedy announced his candidacy early in 1960. By the time the
Democratic National Convention opened in July, he had won seven
primary victories. His most important had been in West Virginia, where
he proved that a Roman Catholic could win in a predominantly
When the convention opened, it appeared that Kennedy’s only serious
challenge for the nomination would come from the Senate majority
leader, Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas.  However, Johnson was strong only
among Southern delegates. Kennedy won the nomination on the first
ballot and then persuaded Johnson to become his running mate.
Two weeks later the Republicans nominated Vice President Richard Nixon
for president and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., who was ambassador to the
United Nations and whom Kennedy had defeated for the Senate in 1952,
for vice president. In the fast-paced campaign that followed, Kennedy
made stops in 46 states and 273 cities and towns, while Nixon visited
Another important element of the campaign was the support Kennedy
received from blacks in important Northern states, especially Illinois
and Pennsylvania. They supported him in part because he and Robert
Kennedy had tried to get the release of the civil rights leader Martin
Luther King, Jr. King, who had been jailed for taking part in a civil
rights demonstration in Georgia, was released soon afterward.

The election drew a record 69 million voters to the polls, but Kennedy
won by only 113,000 votes. Kennedy was inaugurated on January 20,
1961. In his inaugural address he emphasized America’s revolutionary
heritage. 2″The same  beliefs for which our forebears fought are
still at issue around the globe,” Kennedy said. 3″Let the word go
forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike, that the torch
has been passed to a new generation of Americansborn in this century,
tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our
ancient heritageand unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing
of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed
and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”
Kennedy challenged Americans to assume the burden of “defending
freedom in its hour of maximum danger.” The words of his address were,

4″Ask not what your country can do for youask what you can do for
Kennedy sought with considerable success to attract brilliant young
people to government service. His hope was to bring new ideas and new
methods into the executive branch. As a result many of his advisers
were teachers and scholars. Among them were McGeorge Bundy and Arthur
M. Schlesinger, Jr., both graduates of Harvard. Kennedy’s most
influential adviser was Theodore C. Sorenson, a member of Kennedy’s
staff since his days in the Senate. Sorenson wrote many of Kennedy’s
speeches and exerted a strong influence on Kennedy’s development as a
political liberal, 5 a person who believes that the government should
directly help people to overcome poverty or social discrimination.
The president and Mrs. Kennedy attempted to make the White House the
cultural center of the nation. Writers, artists, poets, scientists,
and musicians were frequent dinner guests. On one occasion the
Kennedy’s held a reception for all the American winners of the Nobel
Prize, people who made outstanding contributions to their field during
the past year. At the party the president suggested that more talent
and genius was at the White House that night than there had been since
Thomas Jefferson had last dined there alone.

At a meeting with the leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics (USSR), Nikita Khrushchev, Kennedy asked the name of a medal
Khrushchev was wearing. When the premier identified it as the Lenin
Peace Medal, Kennedy remarked, 6″I hope you keep it.” On another
occasion he told a group of Republican business leaders, 7″It would be
premature to ask for your support in the next election and inaccurate
to thank you for it in the past.” Even in great crises, Kennedy
Kennedy’s first year in office brought him considerable success in
enacting new legislation. Congress passed a major housing bill, a law
increasing the minimum wage, and a bill granting federal aid to
economically depressed areas of the United States. The most original
piece of legislation Kennedy put through Congress was the bill
creating the Peace Corps, an agency that trained American volunteers
to perform social and humanitarian service overseas. The program’s
goal was to promote world peace and friendship with developing

The idea of American volunteers helping people in foreign
lands touched the idealism of many citizens. Within two years, Peace
Corps volunteers were working in Asia, Africa, and Latin America,
living with the people and working on education, public health, and
However, after his initial success with Congress, Kennedy found it
increasingly difficult to get his programs enacted into law. Although
the Democrats held a majority in both houses, Southern Democrats
joined with conservative Republicans to stop legislation they
disliked. The Medicare bill, a bill to make medical care for the aged
a national benefit, was defeated. A civil rights bill and a bill to
cut taxes were debated, and compromises were agreed to, but even the
compromises were delayed. A bill to create a Cabinet-level Department
of Urban Affairs was soundly defeated, partly because Kennedy wanted
the economist Robert C. Weaver, a black man, to be the new secretary.

Southern Congressmen united with representatives from mostly rural
Kennedy did win approval of a bill to lower tariffs and thus allow
more competitive American trade abroad. Congress also authorized the
purchase of $100 million in United Nations bonds, and the money
enabled the international organization to survive a financial crisis.
Further, Congress appropriated more than $1 billion to finance sending
a man to the moon by 1970 which was accomplished in 1969.
The major American legal and moral conflict during Kennedy’s three
years in office was in the area of civil rights. Black agitation
against discrimination had become widespread and well organized.
Although Kennedy was in no way responsible for the growth of the civil
rights movement, he attempted to aid the black cause by enforcing
existing laws. Kennedy particularly wanted to end discrimination in
federally financed projects or in companies that were doing business

In September 1962 Governor Ross R. Barnett of Mississippi ignored a
court order and prevented James H. Meredith, a black man, from
enrolling at the state university. On the night of September 29, even
as the president went on national television to appeal to the people
of Mississippi to obey the law, rioting began on the campus. After 15
hours of rioting and two deaths, Kennedy sent in troops to restore
order. Meredith was admitted to the university, and troops and federal
marshals remained on the campus to insure his safety.
In June 1963, when Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama prevented two
blacks from enrolling at the University of Alabama, Kennedy
federalized the Alabama National Guard to enforce the law. The
students were enrolled at the university. Three months later, Kennedy
again used the National Guard to prevent Wallace from interfering with
integration in the public schools of Birmingham, Tuskegee, and Mobile.

Kennedy also asked Congress to pass a civil rights bill that would
guarantee blacks the right to vote, to attend public school, to have
equal access to jobs, and to have access to public accommodations.
Kennedy told the American people, 8″Now the time has come for this
nation to fulfill its promises  to act, to make a commitment it has
not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no
Public opinion polls showed that Kennedy was losing popularity because
of his advocacy of civil rights. Privately, he began to assume that
the South would oppose him in the next election, but he continued to
speak out against segregation, the practice of separating people of
different races. To a group of students in Nashville, Tennessee, he
said, 9 “No one can deny the complexity of the problem involved in
assuring all of our citizens their full rights as Americans. But no
one can gainsay the fact that the determination to secure those rights
is in the highest tradition of American freedom.”
In 1959, after several attempts, a revolution led by Fidel Castro
finally overthrew the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar.
During the next two years, Castro was to become increasingly hostile
to the United States. The new regime’s agricultural reform laws
provoked U.S. companies that operated sugar plantations. Companies
that were not controlled by Cuban stockholders were not allowed to
operate plantations, and sugar production was de-emphasized in favor
of food crops. In 1960 the Castro government nationalized, or took
over ownership of, an estimated $1 billion in properties owned by U.S.
companies and citizens, and the Eisenhower administration imposed a
When Castro began to proclaim his belief in Communism, Cuba became
part of the Cold War, or struggle between the United States and its
allies and the nations led by the USSR that involved intense economic
and diplomatic battles but not direct military conflict. Many Cubans
fled to the United States. During the Eisenhower administration the

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had begun to train Cuban exiles
secretly for an invasion of Cuba. When Kennedy became president, he
In April 1961 more than 1000 Cuban exiles made an amphibious landing
in Cuba at a place called the Bay of Pigs. Their plan was to move
inland and join with anti-Castro forces to stage a revolt
simultaneously, but instead Castro’s forces were there to meet the
invaders. The revolt in the interior did not happen, and air support,
promised by the CIA, never came. The exiles were defeated and the
survivors were taken prisoner. On December 25, 1962, 1113 prisoners
were released in exchange for food and medical supplies valued at a
total of approximately $53 million.
Most other Latin American countries had the same bad social, economic,
and political conditions that had led to Castro’s success in Cuba.
Many of these nations seemed ripe for a revolution that could easily
be exploited by the Communists. Upon taking office, President Kennedy
looked for a program that would accelerate change in Latin America by
strengthening democratic institutions. In March 1961 he introduced the

Alliance for Progress, and in August it was established by the charter
of Punte del Este. The Alliance for Progress was to be a Latin
American version of the Marshall Plan, the United States plan to fund
a cooperative, long-term program to rebuild Europe following World War
II. All Latin American nations except Cuba joined the Alliance for
Progress, pledging 10″to bring our people accelerated economic
progress and broader social justice within the framework of personal
dignity and individual liberty.” The United States promised $20
billion for the first ten years. The Alliance for Progress and
President Kennedy’s particular concern for democratic institutions
brought the United States renewed popularity in Latin America.

On June 3, 1961, in Vienna, Austria, Kennedy and Khrushchev met and
reviewed relationships between the United States and the USSR, as well
as other questions of interest to the two states. Two incidents
contributed to hostility at the meeting. The first was the shooting
down of a U.S. spy plane in Soviet air space, and the second was the
failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in early 1961. The results of the
conference made it clear that Khrushchev had construed Kennedy’s
failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion as a sign of weakness. No
agreements were reached on any important issues. In fact, the Soviet
premier made it clear that the Soviet Union intended to pursue an even
more aggressive policy toward the United States. Kennedy’s last words
to Khrushchev in Vienna were, 11″It’s going to be a cold winter.” He
reported to the American people that the Soviet premier was a
“tough-minded” leader who did not understand the intentions of the
United States. The leaders had spent a “very sober two days.”
In August 1961, to prevent East Germans from fleeing to the West, the
Communists ordered a wall built on the border between East and West
Berlin. West Berlin had been under the control of the United States,
France, and Britain since the end of World War II, although the city
lay deep inside East Germany, a state that was an ally of the USSR.
Kennedy and other Western leaders protested, but the wall was built.
Kennedy had already asked for more military spending and had called up
reserve troops for duty in Europe. When East German soldiers began
blocking the Allied route through East Germany into Berlin, Kennedy
sent a force of 1500 soldiers marching along the route into West
Berlin. The troops went uncontested. Communist interference stopped,
allowing Allied forces travel to and from Berlin. Amongst other
problems President Kennedy faced, none was more serious than this one.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was perhaps the world’s closest approach to
nuclear war. In 1960 Soviet Premier Khrushchev decided to supply Cuba
with nuclear missiles that would put the eastern United States within
range of nuclear missile attack. Khrushchev, when asked, denied that
any missiles were being supplied to Cuba, but in the summer of 1962
U.S. spy planes flying over Cuba photographed Soviet-managed
construction work and spotted the first missile on October 14.
For seven days President Kennedy consulted secretly with advisers,
discussing the possible responses while in public his administration
carried on as though nothing was wrong. Finally, on October 22,
Kennedy told the nation about the discovery of the missiles, demanded
that the Soviet Union remove the weapons, and declared the waters
around Cuba a quarantine zone. Kennedy called upon Khrushchev 12″to
halt and eliminate this clandestine, reckless and provocative threat
to world peace and to stable relations between our two nations” and
warned that an attack from Cuba on any nation in the western
hemisphere would be considered an attack by the USSR on the United

At the same time, United States troops were sent to Florida to prepare
for invading Cuba, and air units were alerted. American vessels
blockaded Cuba with orders to search all suspicious-looking Soviet
ships and to turn back any that carried offensive weapons.
For several tense days Soviet vessels en route to Cuba avoided the
quarantine zone, while Khrushchev and Kennedy discussed the issue
through diplomatic channels. Khrushchev, realizing his weak military
position, sent a message on October 26 in which he agreed to Kennedy’s
demands to remove all missiles. The following day, before the United
States had responded to the first note, Khrushchev sent another,
trying to negotiate other terms. Kennedy decided to respond to the
first message, and on October 28, Khrushchev agreed to dismantle and
remove the weapons from Cuba and offered the United States on-site
inspection. In return Kennedy secretly promised not to invade Cuba and
to remove older missiles from Turkey. Kennedy called off the blockade
but Cuba, angry at Soviet submission, refused to permit the promised
inspection. However, U.S. spy planes revealed that the missile bases
were being dismantled. Nuclear war had been avoided. This was perhaps
Kennedy’s greatest moment as president. Many felt that both World War
I and World War II had begun because of weak responses to acts of
aggression, and Kennedy may have prevented World War III by displaying

On November 22, 1963, President and Mrs. Kennedy were in Dallas,
Texas, trying to win support in a state that Kennedy had barely
carried in 1960.   As the motorcade approached an underpass, two shots
were fired in rapid succession.  One bullet passed through the
president’s neck and struck Governor Connally in the back. The other
bullet struck the president in the head. Kennedy fell forward, and his
car sped to Parkland Hospital. At 1:00 PM, he was pronounced dead. He
had never regained consciousness. Less than two hours after the
shooting, aboard the presidential plane at the Dallas airport, Lyndon
B. Johnson was sworn in as the 36th president of the United States.
That afternoon, Lee Harvey Oswald, who was employed in the warehouse,
was arrested in a Dallas movie theater and charged with the murder.
On November 24 the body of President Kennedy was carried on a
horse-drawn carriage from the White House to the Rotunda of the
Capitol. Hundreds of thousands of people filed past the coffin of the
slain president. The grave was marked by an eternal flame lighted by

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