John F. Kennedy

Election of 1960

  • Richard Nixon of California (R), former Vice-President of 8 years under Eisenhower, VS. Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy (D).
  • Americans asked whether or not Kennedy would place national interest above the wishes of the pope. Kennedy assured that he would commit to a solid separation of church and state.
  • Nixon decided to not bash Kennedy's religion, but rather his inexperience (with the threat of communism rising, America could not afford a president that had too much to learn), and stressed his own commitment against communism.
  • Kennedy stressed his WWII heroisms, courage, and character. To broaden his scope, he named Democratic opponent Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate, due to the fact that Johnson was from Texas. He hoped this would strengthen his popularity in the south.
  • Perhaps the most decisive events of the election were the televised debates. Kennedy looked comfortable talking in front of the country, while Nixon looked very nervous.
  • Kennedy won the popular vote by only 100,000 votes, a slim 0.2% margin. He would also win the electoral vote 303 to 219, despite Nixon winning more states.
  • At age 43, Kennedy would become the youngest President in the nation's history, as well as the first Catholic.

The New Frontier

  • "Camelot"
  • In his inauguration speech he said "Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."
  • Enchanted by Kennedy's bravado, many Americans joined the Peace Corps or volunteered to work toward social justice.
  • The newest frontier was space, and after the USSR launched Sputnik, Congress created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), but the US was falling behind the Soviets
  • Kennedy challenged America to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade
  • Congress responded by conjuring up billions of dollars, and in 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on the moon. Kennedy was not there to see it, but America had completed his challenge.
  • Kennedy also signed legislation to increase minimum wage and Social Security benefits, and approved the Civil Rights movement

The Cold War

  • Americans were concerned about the spread of communism, as it had reached as close as Cuba
  • Kennedy believed that the US needed a "Flexible Response" to communism. America needed a variety of military options because Communism was an entity that required maximal preparation. As a result, conventional forces were upgraded, and special forces units were created.
  • He endeared himself to Western Europe when he gave a speech in West Berlin (recently split from communist East Berlin) and said "I am a citizen of West Berlin"
  • Bay of Pigs - a group of CIA-trained Cuban were sent to Cuba in hopes of creating a revolution that would throw Fidel Castro from power. However, the mission failed, and created embarrassment for the US.
  • When Kennedy got word that the Soviet Union moved nuclear missiles to the Cuban coast, he ordered a naval quarantine of Cuba
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest instance of direct confrontation during the Cold War

Civil Rights

  • Supported James Meredith's attempt to enroll at the University of Mississippi
  • Ordered Attorney General Robert Kennedy (his brother) to protect freedom riders in the south
  • Sent several thousand troops to an Alabama air base during and sped up the writing of a civil rights bill
  • Integrated the University of Alabama
  • guaranteed equal access to public facilities, end segregation in schools, and provide federal protection of the right to vote


  • On November 22nd, 1963, while in campaigning in Dallas, shots rang out in Dealey Plaza. Kennedy was shot in the head and neck, and Texas governor John Connally was also badly injured.
  • Kennedy would be rushed to Parkland Hospital, and pronounced dead at 1:00 pm.

  • At 1:50 pm, Lee Harvey Oswald, believed to be the assassin of President Kennedy, was arrested in a nearby theatre.
  • 2 days later, when being transported from the Dallas Police headquarters, Oswald was shot and killed by local nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

  • There are many theories as to who is responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy.
  • Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded Kennedy.