John F. Kennedy

Sarah Gonzalez


  • He was elected in 1960 as the 35th president of the United States.

  • He parlayed an elite education and reputation as a military hero into a successful run for Congress.

  • Kennedy confronted mounting war tensions in Cuba, Vietnam and elsewhere.

  • He led a renewed drive for public public service and eventually provided federal support for the growing civil rights movement.

  • His assassination sent shock waves around the world and turned Kennedy into a larger than life heroic figure.
John F. Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts. Despite health problems throughout his childhood and teenage years, he led a privileged youth and attended private schools. As a student at Harvard University, he had traveled to Europe as his father's secretary. Kennedy joined the U.S. Navy in 1941 and was later sent to the South Pacific. He then left the Navy in 1944 and a year later he was back in Boston preparing for a run for Congress. He won his party's nomination and carried the most working-class Eleventh District by nearly three to one over his Republican opponent. Kennedy had also won reelection to the House of Representatives and successfully ran for Senate. In Kennedy's general election he was faced a difficult battle against his Republican opponent, Richard Nixon. He benefited from his performance in his first ever televised debates, which was watched by millions of viewers. Kennedy won by a narrow margin becoming the youngest man and first Roman Catholic to be elected president of the United States. He had called on his fellow Americans to work together in the pursuit of progress and elimination of poverty.

An early crisis in the foreign affairs arena occurred in 1961, when Kennedy approved the plan to spend 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles in an amphibious landing at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. The missions ended in failure with nearly all of the exiles captured or killed. Kennedy had met with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna to discuss the city of Berlin. Two months later, East German troops began erecting a wall to divide the city. He sent an army convoy to reassure West Berliners of U.S. support, and would deliver one of his most famous speeches in West Berlin. Kennedy again clashed with Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy then announced a naval blockade in Cuba. This lasted nearly two weeks until Khrushchev agreed to dismantle Soviet missile sites in Cuba.
President John F. Kennedy had expressed his belief in the domino theory, stating that "We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw." He would increase the commitment of U.S. resources in support of the Ngo Dinh Diem regime in South Vietnam and of non-communist forces fighting a civil war in Laos. Kennedy had backed away from support of Diem himself but publicly reaffirmed belief in the domino theory and the importance of containing communism in Southeast Asia. Three weeks after Diem was murdered in a military coup, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.