John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 29, 1917. He was born into a successful and influential Irish American family. One of his grandfathers John F.
Fitzgerald, was a politician who got elected into Congress in 1894, and twelve years later became the first Irish American mayor of Boston and served three terms between 1906 and 1914. His other grandfather was Patrick J. Kennedy, who bought a string of taverns and bars. He later opened a liquor importing company and even later bought interests in a coal company and a bank. (5) pg.26-27. His father Joseph Kennedy who became president of a bank at the age of 25, and his mother Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy were married in 1914.
(5) pg. 27. John was often sick throughout his childhood, and his mother, who kept notes which recorded the growth and developments of her children, noted that during his childhood he had chicken pox, whooping cough, and measles. At the age of three he even had a case of scarlet fever which was so serious that he had to be hospitalized for a whole month.
His illnesses however, did not stop him from enjoying sports like football, basketball, golf and tennis. (6) pg.7. In 1936, John went to Harvard as his father had, and where his brother Joe was also a student.
(6) pg.7. Although he was smart and thoughtful, he was not the best student, as he spent more time on girls and sports than on schoolwork.
(2). While he was studying at Harvard University, John traveled in Europe. He wrote a senior thesis called “Why England Slept.” It was later published as a book.
(1). After graduating from Harvard, John enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was later given command of a patrol boat in the South Pacific Ocean. On August 2, 1943, the boat he was in command of, was hit by a Japanese ship and sank. He saved a wounded sailor by pulling him through the water by his life vest. After that John led the rest of the survivors to an island.
The soldiers were rescued six days later. For his brave actions Kennedy earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart medal. Jack’s older brother, Joseph Kennedy Jr., was also in the Navy. He, however did not return home as he had died when his plane blew up in August 1944. (2).
In 1946, John decided that he wanted to run for a seat in the House of Representatives. As he was now a war hero, it was easier for him to win the election, and secure his spot in the House. Even though he served three terms in Congress from 1946 to 1952, John felt that the job was very boring and did not like his position.
He said that all the rules that were set in place prevented him from making a real impact. (2). Speaking about his position in the House, he had once said: “We’re just worms, nobody pays much attention to us nationally.” (4). In 1952, the young politician challenged Henry Cabot Lodge for his seat in the Senate. No one thought that Kennedy could beat Lodge. Nevertheless, JFK turned out to be victorious.
John’s personality was a major factor in why he won. “He was the new kind of political figure that people were looking for that year, dignified and gentlemanly and well-educated and intelligent, without the air of superior condescension” was something that was said about Kennedy. (2). On September 12, 1953, John married a journalist named Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. The wedding was a major social event that was written about in newspapers all around the country.
(4). Two years later, Kennedy wrote the book, “Profiles in Courage,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957. In 1956, Kennedy announced his candidacy for president. He defeated a primary challenge from Hubert Humphrey and chose Lyndon Johnson as his running mate.
In the general election, Kennedy’s opponent was Richard Nixon. Nixon had already had experience being a vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower. Kennedy, however was a young and energetic alternative to Nixon.
(1). Jack was not in this race alone. His whole family pitched in and helped, whether it be by hosting house parties or by visiting schools, factories and restaurants, and talking with people about JFK. Once, Kennedy’s wife, Jackie went into a supermarket and asked to use the loudspeaker to talk about her husband. (4).In the election, Kennedy won by less than 120,000 votes and became the youngest man and the first Catholic to be elected president of the United States. In his inaugural address, JFK said these famous words “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” (1).
One of the first things that Kennedy did in office was launch the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps was established on March 1, 1961. Because the Soviet Union had hundreds of scientists, teachers, engineers, and doctors prepared to spend their lives abroad in the service of communism, Kennedy wanted the United States to have a program that involved Americans more actively in the cause of peace, development, and freedom. The Peace Corps consisted of volunteers that would live in foreign countries, help the locals, “share their skills to solve challenges that face developing communities.” The volunteers worked in areas such as community development, environmental protection, health, and education. (8). Another accomplishment of John F.
Kennedy is his civil rights bill. Although there were already laws in place regarding segregation, these laws were being broken. There was segregation on buses, in public bathrooms, in restaurants, and in other public places. JFK decided that it was time to help the civil rights movement, and in June 11, 1963, he proposed a new Civil Rights bill to the Congress, and said a speech on television regarding 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 believed all Americans, regardless of their skin color, should enjoy life in the United States. (7).
One of the challenges that JFK had to face during his time as president, were the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. He was aware of the possibility of a nuclear war between the two countries. When President Kennedy found out that the Soviets were building missile sites in Cuba, and that they were a threat for the United States, he blockaded the island of Cuba.
The next few days were very tense, and nuclear war could have erupted at any minute, but then the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles in Cuba if Kennedy promised not to invade the island and agreed to remove the U.S. missiles from Turkey. In July 1963, JFK “won his greatest foreign affairs victory when Khrushchev agreed to join him and Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in signing a nuclear test ban treaty.” (1). The tensions between the United States and the Soviet union could have turned into a nuclear war at any time, but thanks to Kennedy’s good judgment and God’s will, the tensions were resolved.
Another challenge that Kennedy faced was known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The Bay of Pigs Invasion was a mission to overthrow the communist leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro. On April 15, 1961, Kennedy approved a plan to send 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban exiles to Cuba to start a rebellion. The mission failed and almost all of the exiles were either killed or captured. (2). This was one of his most embarrassing mistakes.
On November 21, 1963, President Kennedy flew to Texas to give several speeches. The next day, on November 22, as his car drove past cheering crowds in Dallas, in a convertible, a warehouse worker named Lee Harvey Oswald, a former marine, shot the president twice. Kennedy was wounded and died a short time later, at the age of 46. Within a few hours of the shooting, police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald and charged him with the murder. On November 24, a man named Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald.
The only person who could have offered more information about the shooting was now dead. (7). This assassination gave birth to many conspiracy theories. Kennedy was a hero to many, but he was not without his flaws.