JFK: The Road to a Better America

By: Caleb Bortner, Cooper Church, Ben Stambaugh

JFK Background

John was a privileged child due to his wealthy family consisting of his father Joe Kennedy who was a politician, his brothers Robert Kennedy who served as a Senator, Joe Kennedy Jr. who served as a lieutenant in the Navy, and Ted Kennedy who was also a Senator. He had a mother named Rose Kennedy as well as many other sisters. He also was in an elite private/boarding school with other wealthy kids. He then attended Harvard University for college with honors. JFK was in the Navy and received the purple heart for braving the conditions and helping his ship's crew get to land safely after an attack by the Japanese. A little while down the road he got married to Jaqueline Kennedy. He then was in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
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Kennedy in his Naval uniform.

The Election of 1960

John Kennedy was the Democratic candidate in the election of 1960 with his Vice President Lyndon Johnson going against Richard Nixon who was the Republican candidate and his Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Some of Kennedy's challenges for the election were his lack of experience due to his young age and the fact that he was Catholic. He also was not in tip top shape as far as health went due to Addison's Disease which is a very rare chronic disorder in which the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient steroid hormones. Though he did have some advantages that would help him win the election. He was visually appealing which helped him get most of the female vote. This was also the first election to have the debates broadcasted on television which helped people see that he was a formal, serious, and very persistent person.
1960 - Kennedy Campaign ad from Nixon Debate

JFK's Domestic Agenda

Kennedy's proposals to improve the economy, assist the poor, and speed up the space program were all defined by the term "New Frontier." To try and keep from the continuing recession Kennedy was very quick to act on certain things such as steel companies trying to increase the price of steel per ton. This however caused the stock market to fall into its deepest drop since 1929. In 1963 JFK proposed a large tax cut over three years to try and help end the economic slump before it could get any worse. This tax cut would reduce government income and create a budget deficit at first. With the extra cash in the wallets of the taxpayers, it would hopefully stimulate the economy and bring in some added tax revenues. However as with many other proposals by JFK this got stuck in Congress. Kennedy also wanted to try and put an end to poverty and inequality. He hoped to help the poor by stimulating the economy and eventually apply federal education aid, and medical care for the elderly. Some things did happen to make it through Congress but proposals such as these did not. One thing that Congress did pass was an increase in the minimum wage and the Housing Act of 1961, which provided $4.9 billion for the renewal of urban areas. Eventually Congress would make it so that all employees doing substantially the same work in the same workplace must be given equal pay. This would go on to slowly but surely help some people crawl out of poverty. As previously stated Kennedy's biggest struggle in trying to improve the economy and help others was Congress. But like other presidents Kennedy still sought to achieve his goals through executive orders. Some of these orders consisted of providing equal opportunity in housing and establishing and expanded program of food distribution to needy families as well as the President's Committee on Equal Employment, the President's Commission on the Status of Women, etc. All of these things helped create a Camelot or the energetic, idealistic feel of the Kennedy White House.
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A quote by JFK stating that the economy only lets a privileged few reap the benefits leaving the rest in poverty.


Kennedy was also very successful in his efforts to expand the space program. After the launch of the Soviet Union's "Sputnik" satellite in 1957 government and private agencies worked very closely with NASA to launch a manned space shuttle in orbit around the earth. The Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin was the first to orbit the earth which made the United States fear even more that its technology was falling way behind. On May 5th, 1961 the U.S. made an attempt to launch someone into orbit. While he did not orbit the earth Alan Shepard made a 15 minute flight that reached an altitude of 115 miles. This convinced Kennedy to move forward and challenge the nation to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. The nation of course accepted the challenge and NASA's funding was raised. Less than a year later, on February 20th, 1962, John Glenn orbited the earth three times and landed in the Atlantic Ocean near the Bahamas. Later in the year Kennedy outlined the reasons for American space exploration. Then finally on July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon but unfortunately Kennedy would not live to see his challenge completed.

The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy

On November 22nd, 1963, Kennedy was in Texas to mobilize support for his reelection campaign and met up with the Governor of Texas John Connally and his wife. They met at the Dallas airport and from there they rode through the streets of downtown Dallas in an open limousine that was surrounded by Secret Service agents. Previously news papers had printed out the route that the President and the Governor would be taking so it was absolutely crowded with people. The rally of cars slowed down as it turned a corner in front of the Texas School Book Depository. All of the employees had been sent out on lunch break so they could watch as Kennedy and Governor Connally drove by but one of the employees stayed behind. From a sixth floor window he aimed his rifle and fired. Shots were no sooner heard and both Connally and Kennedy had been struck although Connally would be able to recover from his injuries. Kennedy drooped over his wife Jacqueline's lap mortally wounded. The motorcade sped to the nearest hospital where doctors made a hopeless attempt to save the President. JFK was pronounced dead at 1:00pm the same day. Lyndon Johnson his Vice President was informed and news spread like wildfire through television and newspaper. People were taken back by this and America was shattered. The prime suspect in Kennedy's murder was Lee Harvey Oswald, a former marine and supporter of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. He was arrested within an hour of the death of Kennedy but did not give the police much to work with. Two days later Oswald was being transported from one jail to another while the whole world watched Jack Ruby step through the crowd of reporters and fatally shoot Oswald. On November 29th, President Johnson appointed The President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy better known as the Warren Commission after its chairman, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. After months of investigation the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald had acted alone in the assassination of JFK. The commission concluded that nobody was in a conspiracy to commit the crime.


JFK Assassination Footage with Dallas DPD Sound