John F. Kennedy Jr.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th president of the United States. He was the youngest president ever to be elected, the first Roman Catholic president, and the first president to be born in the 20th century. Although he didn’t get the chance to live out his term and possibly another one, he impacted the entire world. No other president was so popular, especially with the young people. John F. Kennedy was born May 29th, 1917, the child of Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy. John had eight brothers and sisters: Joseph P. Jr. (1915), Rosemary (1918), Kathleen (1920), Eunice (1921), Patricia (1924), Robert F. (1925), Jean (1928), and Edward M. (1932). All of the children were born in Brookline, Massachusetts. They were all very competitive due to their parents. The only thing that was important to them was winning. John grew up in the nineteen twenties and thirties at his birthplace of Brookline, Massachusetts.
John had once stated, life is unfair,1 yet for him, the statement was definitely not true. His childhood consisted of many things. Coming from a wealthy family let him the freedom to do what most kids couldn’t. That still didn’t keep him from behaving like other kids. He and his brothers and sisters all participated in things such as sailboat races, tennis matches, or even just a simple game of touch football. All family members were always encouraged to get involved with government issues. Small talk wasn’t allowed at the Kennedy dinner table2. They discussed world and national issues. The impact of these discussions wouldn’t be seen until later. Joseph and Rose were trying to prepare their sons for public life and prepare their daughters for marriages to distinguished young men.
In 1937, the Kennedy family moved to Great Britain so that John’s father could become the American ambassador there for three years. John stayed in the United States for an education at Harvard University. John was a very good student at Harvard, yet he didn’t make the high grades that his brother had. So, John joined two clubs and spent most of his time working on a newspaper published at Harvard, Crimson3. When he had finished his school term his father decided to let him tour Europe. When he was there he started to become interested in wars and politics, after noticing Hitler’s actions. John went back there the following summer and saw how Hitler never gave up and continued to strengthen his army. He knew of the war that was soon coming. The United States had sided with Great Britain, so he knew he would have to go into the war. So, he went to enter the Air Corps but was turned away because of his back problems.
Instead, he went for the position of a naval officer and passes the health analysis. He was assigned to the intelligence division, he thought it was very boring. Shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked, John was sent for motor torpedo (PT boat) training4. Officer Kennedy soon became Lieutenant Kennedy. In Tulagi, John was assigned to a dirty old looking boat that had already been through nine months of combat. John experienced his first real combat when his boat was attacked by a Japanese fighter plane. Only two men were injured at that time. They continued to stay there until one night when a full-size Japanese ship came full speed at Kennedy’s boat.
The boat was demolished and the Japanese thought that all of the men had been killed. All of the men were forced to swim to Plum Pudding Island, three and one-half miles away, with Kennedy leading them. After his triumph, he was promoted to Full Lieutenant and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for saving his crew. He also received a Purple Heart for the severe back injury he suffered from the collision. After that, he took command of another PT boat and took part in many more missions. For John one particularly bad thing happened in this war, his brother died. Which impacted his life so greatly. The family had expected his brother Joe to run for public office. Now that he was gone, John was now the eldest son and it was now his responsibility. In 1946, he had the chance to run for Congress. Though he was still weak from his war injuries, he campaigned aggressively. He won that election that November, he was only 295.
He served three terms as a Democratic Congressman, from 1947 until 1953. In 1952 he ran for U.S. senate against Henry Cabot Lodge. He won that election and less than a year later he enhanced his appeal to the people. He married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier on September 12, 1953. He was a very popular and successful Senator. He had almost become Stevenson’s vice presidential running mate in 1956. His speech on concession brought him into over 40 million homes in America. He quickly became one of the most famous political figures in the country. Already his campaign for the 1960 nomination had begun. Kennedy had to make extreme efforts toward this campaign. People were saying that no Roman Catholic man could ever become president. His mission was to prove them wrong. The press loved him, he and his wife appeared on magazine covers, and photographers followed them everywhere. He had to do a number of speeches and appearances. So, to transport him and his staff around the country, his father bought him a forty-passenger Convair aircraft6. In January 1960, Kennedy formally announced his presidential candidacy.
His rivals were Senators Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota and Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. Kennedy knocked Humphrey out of the way and was still battling the rumors of a Catholic president. He dealt with that by winning the primary in West Virginia, which is primarily Protestant. He was nominated on the first ballot and chose Johnson as his running mate. Kennedy narrowly won the general election against Nixon. He was inaugurated on January 20, 1961. At the inauguration is where he made his famous speech. The speech was about America’s revolutionary heritage. This is when he made this famous quote, Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.7 Kennedy’s first year in office brought him considerable success. Congress passed a bill increasing the minimum wage, and Congress passed his bill to create the Peace Corps. Which was an agency to perform social and humanitarian services overseas.
The program’s goal was to create peace and friendship with nations. Within two years the Peace Corps were working in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Kennedy ran into some problems after the conservative Republicans joined with the Southern Democrats to stop legislation they didn’t like. A Medicare bill, a civil rights bill, and a bill to create a Cabinet-level Department of Urban Affairs were all defeated8. Kennedy didn’t lose all of his approval because he get some of his bills passed. Congress passed a bill to lower tariffs, authorized a purchase of over $100 million in United Nations bonds, and Congress appropriated more than $1 billion dollars to send a man to the moon. Kennedy began to lose popularity after he started forcing universities in the south to accept black students. People thought that he was limiting their rights as citizens. He continued to speak out against segregation and lost even more popularity.
In 1959, after several attempts, a revolution led by Fidel Castro finally overthrew the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar. During the next two years, Castro became very hostile toward the United States. After some problems with $1 billion dollars in properties and companies owned by the U.S., Castro began to proclaim his belief in Communism. Cuba then became part of the cold war. Kennedy approved an invasion of Cuba by CIA-trained Cuban exiles. In April 1961, more than 1000 exiles landed in Cuba at a place called the Bay of Pigs. Their plan was to move inland and join with anti-Castro forces to stage a revolt. Castro’s forces were there to meet the invaders, and the revolt didn’t happen.
The CIA promised air support, but that never came. The exiles were taken as prisoners. The prisoners were released in exchange for food and medical supplies valued at $53 million. In March 1961, Kennedy introduced the Alliance for Progress, which would strengthen democratic institutions in the Latin American nation to prevent them from doing what Cuba did. In August it was established by the charter of Punte del Este. This would be a Latin American version of the Marshall Plan. All Latin American nations except Cuba joined, pledging to bring our people accelerated economic progress and broader social justice within the framework of personal dignity and individual liberty.9 This brought the U.S. popularity in Latin America. On June 3, 1961, in Vienna, Austria, Kennedy, and Khrushchev met and reviewed the relationship between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. . There was a lot of hostility, considering that there was a shooting down of a U.S. spy plane in Soviet air space. The Bay of Pigs invasion created hostility too.
NO agreements were reached on any important issues. The Soviet premier actually made it clear that the policies toward the United States would be even more strict. In August 1961, the Communists ordered that there be a wall put up between East and West Berlin. West Germany was under the control of the US, France, and Britain. Those countries protested the wall, but since East Germany was Communist, it was done anyway. Allied forces weren’t even allowed to travel through Berlin. This was the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This was the closest the world’s ever been to nuclear war. Khrushchev decided to supply Cuba with nuclear missiles that would be in the range of the Eastern United States. He denied it when asked if he was supplying Cuba with missiles, but in the summer of 1962 there a US spy plane photographed a construction site managed by the Soviets and then spotted a missile on October 14th.
For seven days Kennedy met with advisors on how to handle and respond to this, while the administration carried on as if nothing was wrong. On October 22nd, Kennedy told the nation about the missiles, demanded that the USSR remove the missiles, and declared the water around Cuba a quarantine zone. Kennedy warned the USSR that if Cuba attacked the US it would be considered an attack on the US by USSR itself. Troops were sent to Florida to prepare for invading Cuba and air units were alerted. American vessels blockaded any Soviet ships that looked suspicious and searched them.
For several days Soviet ships avoided the quarantine zone while Kennedy and Khrushchev discussed this. On October 26th Khrushchev agreed to remove all of the missiles. Before the US could respond to that note, Krushchev sent another trying to negotiate other terms. The USSR removed and dismantled all of the mistled and offered the US an on-site inspection. Kennedy promised not to invade Cuba and to remove missiles from Turkey. Cuba, angry at the Soviet submission refused the promised inspection. US spy planes revealed that the missile bases were being dismantled. Kennedy was a hero, he had avoided nuclear war and possibly World War III. As a result of him displaying courage and strength. On November 22, 1963, President and Mrs. Kennedy were in Dallas, Texas. They were trying to win support from the state that Kennedy had barely carried in 1960. AS the motorcade approached an underpass, two shots were fired in rapid succession. One bullet passed through Kennedy’s neck and struck Governor Connally in the back. The other bullet hit the president in the head. His car sped to Parkland Hospital. At 1:00PM he was pronounced dead, he had never regained consciousness. Less then 2 hours after the shooting, on the residential plane, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the 36th president of the United States. That afternoon, Lee Harvey Oswald, who was employed in the warehouse, was arrested in a movie theatre and charged with murder. On November 24 the body of President Kennedy was carried on a horse drawn carriage from the White House to the Rotunda of the Capitol.10 Hundreds of thousands of people filed passed the coffin of the president. The grave was marked by an eternal flame that was lit by his wife and his brothers.