John F. Kennedy


Election of Kennedy

- 1961-1965

- Democratic

- Ran against Richard M. Nixon

- Vice President: Lyndon B. Johnson

- One of the closest elections in American history

- The New Frontier (his platform) was aimed towards getting America moving again by improving the economy and catching up to the USSR in the Space Race

The Cold War

"Flexible Response"

- Problems for US foreign policy emerged from the decolonization of European oversees posessions after WWII

- Violence in African Congo after they gained independence from Belgium

- US was "picking up the tab" for UN operations while the organization was becoming dominated by emerging nations in Asia and Africa

- Violence in Laos after they gained independence from France (Laotian Civil War)

- These frequent violent wars pushed for a need for "massive retaliation"

- Flexible Response: creating many military options that would match the crisis at hand

- Increased spending on military forces and Special Forces

Kennedy and Vietnam

- Crisis in Vietnam exposed weaknesses of Flexible Response

- Diem government struggling because of the Anti-Diem agitators (threatened to take them down because they were pro-American)

- 1961: Kennedy ordered for an increase in US troops in South Vietnam

- US got involved in a long process of political disintegration


- Cuba resented the power of the US

- 1961: Kennedy extended the Alliance for Progress to Latin America but ineffective

- US wanted to close rich and poor gap in Latin America and stop communist agitation

- US wanted to stop Fidel Castro by invading Cuba and creating an uprising but on April 17, 1961 it proved unsuccessful with the Bay of Pigs Blunder

- Kennedy and Kruschev Cuban Missile Crisis

Berlin Crisis and construction of the Berlin Wall

- August 1961: USSR began to construct the Berlin Wall to plug the heavy population drain from East Germany to West Germany through Berlin

- Wall was an ugly scar symbolizing post-WWII division of Europe

- Kennedy focused attention of Western Europe

- December 1989: the Wall came down symbolize the end of the long Cold War and the unification of Germany

Kennedy and Civil Rights

- Kennedy campaigned with a strong appeal to black voters

- Took JFK a long time to fulfill promises of eliminating racial discrimination in housing

- Sceptic of MLK Jr.

- SNCC and other civil rights groups inaugurated a Voter Education Project to register the South's historically disfranchised blacks

- Strongly supported civil rights

- Integrating southern universities threatened to provoke wholesale slaughter, forcing military protection

- By the time of his death his civil rights bill was not making much progress and blacks were growing increasingly impatient

Kennedy's Assassination

- November 22, 1963

- Shot and died in seconds while driving through Dallas, TX

- Lee Harvey Oswald was the alleged assasin

- Vice President LBJ was sworn in as president on a plane on the way back to Washington DC with JFK's body