Presidents: John F. Kennedy

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John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Anyone born before 1960, can more than likely tell you where they were on November 22, 1963 when they heard the tragic news of the events in Dallas, Texas. A nation was glued to a nation in a way it never had been before.

That was the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and that still resonates with many Americans more than fifty years later.

John Kennedy had only been president for roughly 1,000 days when an assassins bullet changed the presidency and our nation. He is our only Catholic president, a fact that was a big deal in the 1960s.

John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was the second son and child of nine children born to Joseph Patrick and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald Kennedy.

The Kennedy family spent summers at their home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and Christmas and Easter holidays at their winter home in Palm Beach, Florida.

He spent his high school years in a boarding school in Connecticut, often in the shadow of his brother. He worked on the yearbook committee and was voted “Most likely to succeed” when he graduated. While in high school, in 1934, he was diagnosed with colitis, which is an inflammation of the colon.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

After several false starts due to illness, he enrolled in Harvard College in 1936. He joined the varsity swim team and sailing team. In 1939 he toured much of Europe, the Soviet Union and Middle East for his senior honors thesis. He graduated cum laude in 1940 from Harvard.

On September 24, 1941, he joined the U.S. Navy. He had tried the year before but was denied for medical reasons. When the boat he was commanding, PT-109, collided he towed his crewmen through the water to a nearby island and later to a second island where they were rescued on August 8, 1943. He was hailed as a hero and promoted to lieutenant that October. Afterward he was on a medical leave due to a back injury.

On August 12, 1944, his older brother, Joe Jr. was killed while piloting a hazardous air mission for the Navy. Jack retired from the Navy on March 1, 1945.

In 1947, John “Jack” Kennedy was elected to the U.S. House of Representative from Massachusetts.

His sister, Kathleen, was killed in a plane crash in the U.K. on May 13, 1948.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

In 1953, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He underwent several spinal operations, was critically ill and as a Catholic, received last rites during this time.

While a congressman, Jack met a roaming reporter, Jacqueline Lee “Jackie” Bouvier. The couple were married on September 12, 1953. The couple had four children together, but only two lived to adulthood.

In 1956, while convalescing, he wrote and published his book, Profiles in Courage. He would win a Pulitzer Prize for his book. That August, Jackie had a stillborn daughter, Arabella.

In 1957, Jack and Jackie’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy was born.

In early 1960, he announced his intention to campaign for president. He earned the Democratic nomination, but the campaign was a tight race with the Vice President Richard Nixon {to President Dwight Eisenhower}. Their debates were the first presidential debates broadcast on TV.

Kennedy won the presidential election after a heated race and became the youngest man ever elected president.

After winning the election, their son, John Jr was born on November 25, 1960.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

He was sworn in on January 20, 1961 when he gave his famous speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Kennedy hired his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, as his Attorney General. The only time a family member has been hired in such a capacity until Donald Trump’s administration.

During the summer of 1962, Kennedy had a secret taping system set up in the White House, most likely to aid his future memoir.

The Bay of Pigs Invasion began in Cuba in April 1961. The goal was to overthrown the Cuban government. The incident failed to have the desired results.

In October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis put the entire world on edge. After two weeks of negotiations the Soviets agreed to dismantle their missile sites.

As one of his first presidential acts, Kennedy asked Congress to create the Peace Corps. His brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, was its first director.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Kennedy was a big supported of Israel and worked to strengthen security ties with the nation.

Kennedy was the first of six presidents to have served in the U.S. Navy, and one of the enduring legacies of his administration was the creation in 1961 of another special forces command, the Navy SEALs, which Kennedy enthusiastically supported.

In June 1963, he traveled to his ancestral home of Ireland. All four of his grandparents were Irish immigrants. He also went to Germany that year where he gave his famous “I am a citizen of Berlin” speech.

The economy turned around and prospered during the Kennedy administration.

The 1960s were a turbulent time of Civil Rights. In September 1962, he sent troops to the University of Mississippi as the first African American tried to enter. In 1963, he sent troops into Alabama. His proposals became part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Kennedy also proposed for a man to be put on the moon by the end of the decade.

Kennedy and his wife were younger in comparison to the presidents and first ladies who preceded them, and both were popular in the media culture in ways more common to pop singers and movie stars than politicians, influencing fashion trends and becoming the subjects of numerous photo spreads in popular magazines.

In August 1963, their son Patrick Bouvier Kennedy was born five weeks early. He died two days after his birth. Jackie grew deeply depressed and took time to holiday out of the country before returning in October 1963. However, losing their child had a positive impact on the marriage, bringing the couple closer together in their shared grief.

John Kennedy asked his wife to accompany him on a political trip to Texas in November. This was the first time she had joined her husband on such a trip in the U.S.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

On November 22, 1963, Kennedy went to Dallas, Texas as he began campaigning in hopes of re-election the following year. While riding in an open motorcade he was shot and assassinated by a man later determined to be Lee Harvey Oswald. He was pronounced dead a short time later at Parkland Hospital. His wife, Jackie, was with him and led the nation through the weekend of mourning and the public funeral.

John F. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery where the eternal flame was lit. William Howard Taft is the only other president buried at Arlington.

The infant bodies of the Kennedy children Arabella and Patrick were re-interred beside him. When Jackie died in 1994, she was buried with her husband.

Since his death, information concerning Kennedy’s private life has come to light, including his health problems and allegations of infidelity.

After her husband’s death, Jackie Kennedy termed his administration as the Camelot Era.

Today Americans regularly vote him as one of the best presidents, in the same league as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

35th President of the United States
(January 20, 1961 to November 22, 1963)Nickname: “JFK”, “Jack”

Born: May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts
Died: November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas

Father: Joseph Patrick Kennedy
Mother: Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald Kennedy
Married: Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (1929-1994), on September 12, 1953
Children: Caroline Bouvier Kennedy (1957- ); John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. (1960-99); Patrick Bouvier Kennedy (1963)

Religion: Roman Catholic
Education: Graduated from Harvard College (1940)
Occupation: Author, public official
Political Party: Democrat


  • Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1947-53
  • United States Senator, 1953-61

Presidential Salary: $100,000/year + $50,000 expense account (refused by Kennedy)

  • 1960
    • The first joint radio-television broadcast of a U.S. Presidential debate was held on September 26. It was between Kennedy and tiny U.S. flag Richard M. Nixon.
  • 1961
    • The U.S. sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba was attempted without success.
    • Nikita Khrushchev, the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union, ordered the creation of the Berlin Wall in June to divide Soviet-controlled East Berlin from West Berlin, which was part of the free and democratic West Germany.
  • 1963
    • The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed on August 6 by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
    • President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas Texas.

  • Kennedy’s speech to the students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on October 14, 1960 was the start of the Peace Corps.
  • In his speech to a Joint Session of Congress on May 25, 1961, Kennedy set the goal of landing a man on the moon by 1969 for the United States’s Space Program (NASA).
  • Kennedy gave a famous speech in West Berlin in June 1963 that emphasized the importance of the “free world” fighting the “Communist world”. Two memorable phrases that he spoke in German were: “Lass�sie nach Berlin kommen,” or “Let them come to Berlin”; and “Ish bin ein Bearleener,” or “I am a Berliner.”
  • Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas Texas. He had spent little more than a thousand days in office before being assassinated.
  • In 1965, the report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (also known as the Warren Commission) found that a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, fatally shot Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Three other government investigations were later conducted. All three agreed with the Warren Commission’s conclusions that Oswald’s shots did kill Kennedy. However, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1979 also concluded that another shooter fired upon Kennedy from the Dealey Plaza grassy knoll and missed. The existence of a second shooter and many other conclusions in these investigations are very controversial.

 

1917 John F. Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts

1934 Dust Bowl begins

1939 Germany invades Poland; World War II begins

1940 John F. Kennedy was educated at Harvard College (graduated 1940)

1941 Attack on Pearl Harbor
U.S. enters World War II

1945 Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Germany and Japan surrender, ending World War II

1946 The Cold War began between the United States and the Soviet Union

1947-53 JFK became a Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1947-53

1949 NATO formed

1950 Senator Joseph McCarthy gains power and start Communist witch hunts (1950-1954)
Korean War begins

1953 Armistice in Korea

1953 John F. Kennedy (JFK) was married to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedyon September 12, 1953. Children: Only Caroline and John Jr survived infancy

1953-61 JFK became a United States Senator, 1953-61

1954 SEATO alliance

1955 Warsaw Pact

1956 US installs Diem as leader of South Vietnam

1957 Civil Rights Act of 1957
Russians launch Sputnik

1958 NASA formed

1959 Cuban Revolution

1960 Greensboro sit-in
Civil Rights Act of 1960

1961 JFK became the President of the United States of America

1961 The Peace Corps were created (1961)
Bay of Pigs (1961)
Berlin Wall built (1961)
Alan Shepard became the first American in space (1961)

1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)

1963 John F. Kennedy was assassinated and died on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. The assassin was believed to be Lee Harvey Oswald who was killed two days later in the Dallas city jail by Jack Ruby.