John F. Kennedy - US Presidents in History

A portrait of JFK on the 50 cent piece.
A portrait of JFK on the 50 cent piece.

5. Early Life

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29th, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts. His was a family whose origins were of pure Irish descent. From an early age on, he was immersed in both the religious teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the political values of the Democratic Party. Although he was often sick and was treated with extensive medical care throughout most of his childhood, he was a very bright student. He graduated from Harvard College with a Bachelor of Science, with first degree honors in International Affairs, in 1940. He then joined the US Navy in 1941 and was sent to the South Pacific Theater of World War II.

4. Rise to Power

After being discharged from the Navy in 1945, Kennedy soon decided to pursue a political career of his own. He first ran for Congress in 1946, and was elected with an overwhelming success. He was only 29 at that time. He served three consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, from 1947 to 1953. Young and ambitious, he then ran as a Senator, and was successfully elected for two terms in the "upper house" of the US Congress. After such marked success, Kennedy then decided it was time to run for the office of US President, against the Republican candidate Richard Nixon. Kennedy was elected as the 35th president of the United States. He was the youngest man, and the first Roman Catholic, ever to be elected to the Presidency of the United States.

3. Contributions

As President, Kennedy made remarkable contributions to his nation, in terms of both domestic policy and foreign relations alike. Domestically, Kennedy promoted the ambitious and overarching "New Frontier" domestic program, implemented with the intent to grant federal funding for agriculture, infrastructure, education, unemployment benefits, and medical care for the elderly, as well as broadening the scope of state-funded programs in the time of recession. He also signed executive orders prohibiting racial discrimination, and laid a solid foundation for the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act that would be passed in 1964. Furthermore, in terms of administering foreign relations, Kennedy managed to solve crisis after crisis in the time of the heightened Cold War.

2. Challenges

The biggest challenge at the time to the US was the Soviet Union and its Communist allies. The disastrous US attempt to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the Bay of Pigs invasion led to the Soviet buildup of missiles in Cuba, which lay only 90 miles off the southern coast of Florida. The two superpowers were then at the verge of starting a global nuclear war in 1962. Through skillful diplomacy, eventually Kennedy managed to solve the crisis by coming to an agreement with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Upon being promised that the US would not invade Cuba, Khrushchev eventually agreed to remove the Soviet missiles from Cuba. The spread of Communism in Vietnam, on the other hand, made Kennedy decide to intervene by sending US troops there, though many say he did so begrudgingly.

1. Death and Legacy

President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, November 22nd, 1963, on his trip to attempt to appease frictions within the Democratic Party. Shortly after being taken into emergency medical treatment, he was pronounced dead at an age of only 46 years old. A Requiem Mass was held for Kennedy on November 25th, 1963. Though he only served for less than a single term, Kennedy remains an immensely popular president and an iconic figure of America worldwide today. His rejection of segregation and support for racial equality and the Civil Rights Movement earned him high regard on moral grounds. He is also remembered as the President whose dedication to the US Space Program helped the nation to achieve its goal of landing a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s, just as he had said they would.


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