President John F. Kennedy

By: Linda Chen

Early Life

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline Massachusetts. Both the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys were wealthy, prominent Irish Catholic Boston families. Kennedy grandfather (Father's side) P.J. Kennedy, was a wealthy banker and liquor trader and his other grandfather (mother's side) , John E. Fitzgerald was a skilled politician who served as a congressman and as the mayor of Boston. JFK's mother Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald was a Boston debutante and his father Joseph Kennedy Sr. was a successful banker who made a fortune on the stock market after World War I.


As a young child Kennedy was a poor student and a mischievous boy. He attended a Catholic boys boarding school in Connecticut called Canterbury. In school he excelled at English and history because these were the subjects he enjoyed but about flunked Latin in which he had no interest learning.


After graduating from Canterbury and spending one semester at Princeton Kennedy was then transferred to Harvard University in 1936. There he excelled occasionally in the classes he enjoyed.

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After College

After graduating from Harvard Kennedy joined the U.S. Navy and was assigned to command a patrol torpedo boat in the South Pacific. On August 2, 1943 his boat, (PT-109) was rammed by a Japanese warship and split in two. Two sailors died and Kennedy badly injured his back. Carrying another wounded sailor by the strap of his life vest Kennedy led the survivors to a nearby island where they were rescued six days later. This earned him the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for extremely heroic conduct and a Purple Heart for the injuries he suffered.

Journal to Presidency

In 1946, at the age of 29 Kennedy decided to run for the U.S. House of Representatives from a working class district of Boston a seat already being held by Democrat James Michael Curly. Supported by his status as a war hero, his family connections and his father's money, Kennedy won the election handily. Serving 3 terms from 1946-1952 Kennedy claim that this job was just too dull for him.


In 1952 seeking greater influence and a larger platform Kennedy challenged Republican incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge for his seat in the U.S. Senate. Once again backed by his father's vast financial resources Kennedy hired his younger brother Robert as his campaign manager. Nonetheless Kennedy won this election also. People claimed that it was this time when the citizens wanted someone like Kennedy, smart, handsome, and well educated.


In 1956, Kennedy was almost selected as Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson's running mate, but was passed over for Estes Kefauver from Tennessee. Four years later, Kennedy decided to run for president.


In the 1960 Democratic primaries, Kennedy outmaneuvered his main opponent, Hubert Humphrey. Selecting Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate Kennedy faced Vice President Richard Nixon in the general election. The election was displayed on a series of televised national debates which Kennedy beat Nixon. Kennedy who was an experienced and skilled debater and by appearing relaxed and healthy on screen compared to his tense opponent. On November 8, 1960, Kennedy defeated Nixon by a thin margin to become the 35th president of the United States of America.

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JFK's Family

Shortly after the election of winning the senate position Kennedy met a young beautiful woman named Jacqueline Bouvier at a dinner party. In Kennedy's own words "I leaned across the asparagus and asked her for a date." They were married on September 12, 1953. They had three children: Caroline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr. and Patrick Kennedy.

Accomplishments

  • Kennedy was the 2nd youngest president after Roosevelt. Kennedy who was 43 and Roosevelt who was 42.
  • Kennedy created the Peace Corps by executive order in 1961. By the end of the century over 170,000 Peace Corps volunteers would serve in 135 countries.
  • Kennedy created the Alliance for Progress to foster greater economic ties with Latin America, in hopes of helping poverty and minimizing the spread of communism in the region.
  • April 15, 1961 Kennedy authorized a covert mission to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro with a group of 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban refugees. (Bay of Pigs Invasion) the mission proved an failure, causing Kennedy great embarrassment.
  • October 1962 discovering that the Soviet Union had sent nuclear missiles to Cuba, Kennedy blockaded the island and vowed to defend the United States at any cost.
  • After several of the tensest days in history during which the world seemed on the edge of nuclear war, the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles in return for Kennedy's promise not to invade Cuba and to remove American missiles from Turkey.
  • In June 1963, Kennedy successfully negotiated the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with Great Britain and the Soviet Union, helping to ease Cold War tensions. It was one of his proudest accomplishments.

Death/Assassination

On November 21, 1963, President Kennedy flew to Dallas, Texas for a campaign appearance. The next day Kennedy along with his wife and Texas governor John Connally, rode through cheering crowds in downtown Dallas in a convertible. From an upstairs window of the Texas School Book Depository building a 24-year-old warehouse worker named Lee Harvey Oswald fired upon the car hitting the president twice. Kennedy died at Parkland Memorial Hospital shortly thereafter, at the age of 46.