Father: Invincible Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. – head of SEC and U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. Mother: Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy – Boston socilate. Siblings: Nine; five sisters(Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Jean and three brothers (Joseph Patrick, Jr., Robert, and Edward). Wife: Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy – Rich socilate and photographer. Children: Caroline and John Fitzgerald, Jr.
Only president born after U.S. entry into a war; born May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts. Grew up in wealthy family, but was ill as a child and had health problems that would continue through the rest of his life. Went to private schools his entire life, which included famous prep school, Choate. Went to Harvard University (1936-40) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he studied Political Science; was active undergraduate and graduated cum laude (with great honor).
Served in Navy during World War II, ending his time as lieutenant; was granted control of PT-109. He and his crew were thrown into the water when the ship was attacked by a Japanese destroyer. Managed to swim four hours, saving himself and crewman, but suffered back injury. Was presented Purple Heart and Navy and Maine Corps Medal and was honored for his heroism.
Worked temporarily as journalist before he ran for House of Representatives; he won and was re-elected two times. Proved to be independent thinker; did not always pursue party line. Was subsequently elected Senator of Massachusetts, serving from 1953-60; again, he did not always follow Democratic majority. Critics were troubled that he did not stand up to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. Also wrote Profiles in Courage (1955), which was awarded Pulitzer Prize, despite some question about its actual authorship.
Was nominated by Democratic party to run for presidency against Republican candidate Richard Nixon, Dwight D. Eisenhower‟s VP. Put forward ideas of “New Frontier”, modification of Eisenhower‟s Massive Retaliation, during acceptance speech for Democratic nomination . Nixon made error of encountering Kennedy when the former advanced as young and vital. Kennedy won over Nixon in smallest margin of votes since 1888; won by merely 118,574 votes, but secured 303 electoral votes.
Was mortally injured while riding in motorcade through Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Kennedy‟s identified assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, also shot and injured Texas Governor John Connally, who accompanied Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline; Oswald was himself shot and killed by Jack Ruby on November 24 before he could be placed on trial. Warren Commission was subsequently asked to investigate Kennedy‟s assassination and determined that Oswald was the only one involved in killing Kennedy, despite ongoing conspiracy theories by House Committee investigation, since at least 1979, that Oswald was assisted in the plot; FBI and 1982 study did not agree, but speculation persists to this day.
John F. Kennedy was more prominent for his iconic character than for his legislative actions. His many influential speeches, including his Inaugural Address (“My fellow Americans- ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”) and his 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech (“All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words „Ich bin ein Berliner‟”). His young vigor and stylish First Lady are praised as American royalty; his short, yet inspirational tenure in office was nicknamed “Camelot”. Kennedy‟s assassination was taken on mythical attribute; this led many to allege that possible government conspiracies involving anyone from Kennedy‟s VP Lyndon B. Johnson to Mafia to Fidel Castro. His ethical leadership of Civil Rights was significant part of the movement‟s ultimate success.
Had difficult time pushing many of his domestic programs through Congress, but acquired increased minimum wage, improved Social Security benefits, and passed urban renewal package. Established Peace Corps in March 1961, and his objective of going to the moon by the end of the 60s was largely supported. Originally did not confront Southern Democrats on Civil Rights agenda; Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., was convinced that it was moral obligation for African Americans to break unjust laws and accept necessary consequences to expose true character of their treatment. Everyday, Press reported brutality against African Americans resulting from non-violent protests and civil disobedience. Kennedy resorted to executive orders and personal appeals to help the movement, but his legislative programs would not pass until the years following his death.
Kennedy‟s foreign policy began in fiasco with Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961, in which a small force of Cuban exiles were asked to wage revolution in Cuba to remove Fidel Castro from power, only to be captured; U.S. reputation was severely damaged. Kennedy‟s encounter with Nikita Khrushchev at the summit in Vienna in June 1961 led to building of Berlin Wall; further, Khrushchev started constructing missile bases in Cuba, and Kennedy, in response, ordered a blockade of Cuba, warning that any attack from Cuba would be perceived, by Soviet Union, as act of engaging in war. The ensuing direct confrontation in October 1962 led to dismounting of missile silos in return for promises that the U.S. would not invade Cuba; Kennedy also agreed to Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963 with Great Britain and Soviet Union. Two other significant events during Kennedy‟s short term were Alliance for Progress (the U.S. sent aid to Latin America) and problems in Southeast Asia. North Vietnam sent troops via Laos to participate in fighting in South Vietnam; its leader, Ngô Đình Diệm, proved inefficient. U.S. increased “military advisors” from 2,000 to 16,000 during this time. Diệm was deposed in coup and assassinated on November 2, 1963, by South Vietnamese generals, but new leadership did nothing to stop any problems; when Kennedy was assassinated, Vietnam was nearing worsening point.