President Kennedy

1961-1963

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Election of Kennedy

  • Election of 1960, one of the closest elections in American history

  • Republican candidate was Richard Nixon and the democratic candidate was John F. Kennedy, former Senator of Massachusetts

  • Kennedy was youngest person ever to be elected President

  • Many people believed Kennedy’s religious affiliation of Roman Catholicism would be an issue in the campaign but he pledged a solid commitment to the separation of church and state

The New Frontier:

  • Proposals such as medical assistance for the aged and increased federal aid to education

  • Won a first round in his campaign when he forced an expansion of the all-important House Rules Committee

  • New Frontier did not expand quickly

  • Campaigned on the theme of revitalizing the economy and tried to hold the line against crippling inflation

  • Support of a general tax-cut bill

  • promoted multibillion-dollar project to land an American on the moon
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The Cold War

Flexible Response:

  • Organization itself becoming dominated by numerous nascent nations emerging in once-colonial Asia and Africa, some critics of U.S. foreign policy

  • Eisenhower had drenched jungle kingdom with dollars but did not cleanse the country of communist element

  • Kennedy’s military advisors seriously considered sending in American troops to the Laotian Civil War

  • The “brushfire wars” intensified the pressure for a shift away from the doctrine of “massive retaliation.”

  • President Kennedy increased spending on conventional military forces and bolstered the Special Forces

Kennedy and Vietnam:

  • Diem government had ruled shakily since the partition of Vietnam in 1954

  • Anti-Diem agitators threatened to topple the pro-American government

  • Kennedy ordered a sharp increase in the number of “military advisers” in Southern Vietnam

  • American forces allegedly entered to foster political stability

  • The U.S. ironically contributed to a long process of political disintegration

  • Kennedy still told the South Vietnamese that it was “their war.”

Cuba:

  • In 1961, President Kennedy extended the American hand of friendship to Latin America with the Alliance for Progress, called the Marshall Plan for Latin America

  • A primary goal was to help the Latin American countries close the gap between the rich and the poor, and thus quiet communist agitation.

  • Results were disappointing as America had few positive impacts on Latin America's immense social problems.

  • On April 17, 1961, 1,200 exiles landed at Cuba's Bay of Pigs.

  • President Kennedy was against the direct intervention of the overthrow of Fidel Castro in Cuba, failing to provide air support for the exiles

  • The invasion therefore failed as the exiles were forced to surrender.

  • In October 1962, it was discovered that the Soviets were secretly installing nuclear missiles in Cuba.

  • Kennedy rejected air force proposals for a bombing strike against the missile sites. Instead, on October 22, 1962, he ordered a naval "quarantine" of Cuba and demanded immediate removal of the weapons.

  • On October 28, Khrushchev agreed to a compromise in which he would pull the missiles out of Cuba. The American government also agreed to end the quarantine and not invade the island.

  • In late 1963, a pact prohibiting trial nuclear explosions in the atmosphere was signed.

  • In June 1963, President Kennedy gave a speech at American University, Washington, D.C. encouraging Americans to abandon the negative views of the Soviet Union. He tried to lay the foundations for a realistic policy of peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union.

Berlin Crisis and Construction of the Berlin Wall:

  • Soviet leader Krushchev threatened to make a treaty with East Germany and cut off Western access to Berlin

  • President refused to be bullied

  • Soviets suddenly began to build the Berlin Wall in August 1961

  • It was designed to plug the heavy population drain from East Germany to West Germany through the Berlin funnel

  • Ugly scar that symbolized the post-World War 2 division of Europe into two hostile camps

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Kennedy and Civil Rights

  • He had pledged to eliminate racial discrimination

  • Groups of Freedom Riders fanned out to end segregation in facilities serving interstate bus passengers

  • white mob torched a Freedom Ride bus and Robert Kennedy’s personal representative was beaten unconscious in an anti-Freedom Ride riot

  • Washington dispatched federal marshals to protect the Freedom Riders

  • Administration joined hands with civil rights movement

  • SNCC and other civil rights groups inaugurated a Voter Education Project to register the South’s disfranchised blacks

  • Violent opposition was seen at southern universities such as University of Mississippi

  • Relationship between King and the Kennedys was fruitful

  • Civil rights protestors often attacked by prejudice people and police

  • Kennedy delivered memorable speech to nation about the “moral issue” and he committed to finding a solution

  • He called for new civil rights legislation to protect black citizens

  • Still the violence continued and by the time of his death his civil rights bill was making little headway

Kennedy's Assassination

  • While riding in an open limousine in downtown Dallas, Texas, Kennedy was shot in the brain by a concealed rifleman and died within seconds

  • Assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was shot to death by Jack Ruby

  • Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was quickly sworn in as President on a waiting airplane