John Fitzgerald Kennedy
(1917-1963), 35th president of the United States (1961-63).
Kennedy was born at 83 Beals St. Brookline, Massachusetts, on Tuesday May 29, 1917, the second son of financier Joseph P. Kennedy, who served as ambassador to Great Britain during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He graduated from Harvard University in 1940, winning note with the publication of Why England Slept, an expansion of his senior thesis on Britain's lack of preparedness for World War II. Upon graduation Kennedy enlisted in the United States navy and was commissioned as an officer in October of 1940. In August of 1943, as commander of the U.S. Navy torpedo boat PT-109, he rescued ...view middle of the document...
Early Political Success
Upon his return home to Boston with a citation for valor, the rich and ambitious young veteran joined the Democratic party and successfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1946. Massachusetts voters elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1952. In 1953 he married Jacqueline Bouvier; they were the parents of two children who survived infancy, Caroline Bouvier and John F., Jr.. During recuperation from spinal surgery, Kennedy completed Profiles in Courage (1956), biographical sketches of political heroes, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1957.
After an unsuccessful attempt to win the vice-presidential nomination on the ticket of Adlai E. Stevenson in 1956, Kennedy began to plan for the presidential election of 1960. He assumed the leadership of the Democratic Party’s liberal wing and gathered around him a group of talented young political aides, including his brother and campaign manager, Robert F. Kennedy. He won the nomination on the first ballot and campaigned with Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas as his running mate against Vice President Richard M. Nixon, the Republican nominee. The issues of defense and economic stagnation were raised in four televised debates in which Kennedy's poised and vigorous performance lent credence to his call for new leadership. Kennedy won the election by a narrow margin of 113,000 votes out of 68,800,000 cast, but had to accept reduced Democratic majorities in Congress. He was the youngest president ever elected and the first Roman Catholic.
The New Frontier
President Kennedy's inaugural address set a tone of youthful idealism that raised the nation's hopes. "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," he exhorted. An early executive order of the New Frontier, as the administration called it, established a Peace Corps of Americans volunteering for service abroad.
In 1961, his first year in office, Kennedy was battered by a series of adverse international developments. Inheriting from the previous administration a secret plan to overthrow the Cuban regime of Premier Fidel Castro, Kennedy approved an invasion of Cuba in April by refugees operating with the help of U.S. agencies. The abrupt failure of the invasion at the Bay of Pigs resulted in personal embarrassment for the president. Later in the spring Kennedy pondered sending U.S. troops into Laos, which was being threatened by Communist insurgents. He flew to Vienna in June to meet with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. The two leaders agreed on a neutralized Laos, but Kennedy was chilled by Khrushchev's grim warning that West Berlin was "a bone in my throat." When the wall between the eastern and western sectors of Berlin was erected in August, Kennedy responded by sending 1500 U.S. troops over the land route to Berlin to reaffirm access rights there. Cold war tensions were further aggravated when the Soviet Union sent the first man into space in April and resumed...