John F. Kennedy



Election of 1960

Democratic Candidate: John. F. Kennedy

  • Kennedy was a senator from Massachusetts and he came from wealth
  • Kennedy faced prejudice for his young age and his religion (Catholicism)
  • The New Frontier: Kennedy's plan to supports civil rights, push for a space program, cut taxes, and increase spending for defense and military
  • gained the black vote by stating that he would pass civil rights legislation

Republican Candidate: Richard Nixon

  • supported moderate reform

  • everyone thought he would become president

  • barely lost

Outcome of election

Popular Vote:

  • Kennedy won 49.9% of popular votes
  • Nixon won 49.6% of popular votes
Electoral Vote:
  • Kennedy won 303 electoral votes
  • Nixon 219 electoral votes

The Cold War

"Flexible Response"

  • Kennedy abandoned Eisenhower's theory of massive nuclear war
  • in favor of a military that could respond quickly to any situation, at any place, in different ways
  • Pushed by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara
  • Strategy in response to the foreign conflicts including

- 1954: Laos gained its independence from France and erupted in violence

- 1960: African Congo receiving independence from Belgium and immediately exploding in violence

-the US had to sent troops and pay to pacify the conflict

-1962: Geneva conference which imposed peace of Laos

  • Kennedy increased spending on conventional military forces
  • provided a mechanism for a progressive stepping up of the use of force in Vietnam

Kennedy and Vietam

  • 1961: Kennedy increased the number of "military advisors" in South Vietnam
  • Strove to help protect Diem from the communists long enough to allow him to enact basic social reforms favored by the Americans
  • Kennedy got fed up with the US economic aid being embezzled by Diem
  • November 1963: Kennedy encouraged a successful coup and killed Diem


  • 1961: Kennedy extended the American hand of friendship to Latin America with the Alliance for Progress
  • Strove to help the Latin American nations close the gap between the rich and poor (quieting communist agitation)
  • Few results came with the Alliance for Progress
  • April 17, 1961: 1,200 exiles landed at Cuba's Bay of Pigs
  • Kennedy was against the direct intervention of the overthrow of Fidel Castro in Cuba, failing to provide air support for the exiles (invasion failed and exiles surrender)
  • Bay of Pigs blunder pushed the Cuban leader further into Soviet embrace

Cuban Missile Crisis

  • 1962
  • Russians were secretly building nuclear missile launch sites in Cuba, which could have been used for a sneak attack on the US
  • Kennedy discovered this and announced a quarantine of Cuba (really a blockade but could not be called that due to international law)
  • 13 days of confrontation lead to the brink of nuclear war
  • Khrushchev backed down and agreed to dismantle sites
  • 1963: pact prohibiting trial nuclear explosions in the atmosphere was signed
  • June 1963: Kennedy gave a speech encouraging Americans to abandon the negative views of the Soviet Union
  • tried to lay the foundations for a realistic policy of peaceful coexistence with the Soviets

Berlin Crisis

  • 1961
  • Occupational crisis of Berlin between the Communist East Germany and the Capitalist West Germany
  • Thousands of high educated fled from East to West, which hurt the East German economy
  • East declared all Germany belonged the East Germany (ultimatum)
  • Lead to the building of the Berlin Wall

Construction of the Berlin Wall

  • the Soviet Union was under the control of Nikita Khrushev at the time of construction
  • the Soviet Union erected a wall between East and West Berlin
  • Purpose: to keep the people from fleeing from the East
  • afterwards, Kennedy asked for an increase in defense funds to counter Soviet aggression

Kennedy and Civil Rights

  • 1960: groups of Freedom Riders spread out across the South to end segregation in facilities serving interstate bus passengers
  • May 1961: a white mob torched a freedom ride bus near Anniston, Alabama
  • Southern officials officials proved unwilling to stop the violence
  • federal marshals were dispatched to protect the freedom riders
  • the Kennedy Family and the Kind Family had a good relationship
  • SNCC and other civil rights groups inaugurated a Voter Education project to register the South's historically disfranchised blacks
  • Spring 1963: Martin Luther King Jr. launched a campaign against discrimination in Birmingham, Alabama (most segregated big city in America)
  • Civil rights marchers were repelled by police with attack dogs and high-pressure water hoses
  • June 11, 1963: Kennedy delivered a speech to the nation in which he dedicated himself to finding a solution to racial problems
  • August 1963: Martin Luther Kind Jr. led 200,000 black and white citizens on a peaceful "Match on Washington" in support of the proposed new civil rights legislation

Kennedy's Assassination

  • November 22, 1963
  • President Kennedy was shoot while riding in an open limousine in Dallas, Texas
  • the alleged gunman was Lee Harvey Oswald
  • Self-appointed avenger, Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald
  • Vice president Lyndon B. Johnson became president