- Facts about John F. Kennedy’s private life
2 His life as a Politician
- What was his political influence on the people?
3 His life during his presidency
- What did people thought about him during his presidency?
4 His assassination
- Who killed the 35th President of the United States?
5 Self evaluation
- What did I learned about John F. Kennedy?
John Fitzgerald Kennedy came from a family of Irish Catholics who had immigrated to America in the 19th century. He was born in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1917, the second son of nine children of Joseph P. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. His father was a very wealthy businessman and ambitious politician. His mother was the daughter of the major of Boston. They had high ambitions for their children. John almost died of scarlet fever when he was three years old, and would suffer from bad health throughout his life. He went to a boarding school in Connecticut called Choate. His favorite subjects were history and English, and he played many sports. He later attended Princeton and Harvard University, and graduated in 1940. While at Harvard, he injured his back playing football, an injury that would bother him for the rest of his life. His father was the United States Ambassador to England during his student years, and he became interested in European politics. He wrote his thesis on why England was unprepared for the war. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1941, and served in World War II. He performed heroically when his boat was sunk by the Japanese in 1943. He lost his older brother in the war.
His life as a Politician
After the war, Kennedy became a congressman when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1946 and reelected in 1948 and 50. He was a Democrat. He managed to become senator in 1952, winning the election against the Republican candidate even though the Republicans won the presidential election in Massachusetts as well as the country as a whole. Because of his bad back, he was seriously ill in 1954-55, and therefore unable to play an important part in government. He wrote a book during his illness; published in 1956, it won a Pulitzer Prize. He tried to become the vice-presidential candidate for the Democrats in 1965, but failed. He was reelected to the Senate in 1958, with the largest majority in the state’s history. He continued to back social legislation, like a compromise civil rights bill in 1957, and devoted efforts to labor legislation.
In 1953, Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier, a journalist 12 years younger than him. They had a daughter, Caroline Bouvier, in 1957, and a son, John Fitzgerald Jr., in 1960. A third child died in infancy. He wanted to run for president in 1960, and put together a well-financed and highly organized campaign. He managed to beat all the other candidates, and became the Democratic presidential candidate. His Republican opponent was Richard Nixon, who was Vice-President at the time. He performed well in television debates. He promised tougher defense policies and progressive health, housing and civil rights programs. He received also support from blacks, because he had worked to release Martin Luther King Jr.
His life during his presidency
Kennedy won the election by a narrow margin, and became the 35th President of the United States. He became the first Catholic president, and the youngest, at only 43 years old. His famous speech at his inauguration as President on January 20th 1961 contained the words “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.
So Kennedy moved into the Whitehouse with his wife Jacqueline, or “Jackie” as she was called. They brought two small children with them to the Whitehouse: the daughter Caroline Bouvier had been born in 1957, and the son John Fitzgerald Jr. in 1960. He was a very popular president, and he and his wife enjoyed as much fame and glamour as any movie star. Young people especially liked him. He became part of popular culture. The most famous instance is when Marilyn Monroe sang for the president at a large birthday party in Madison Square Garden in 1962. He had a good sense of humor. As the first president born in the 20th century, he brought something new and fresh to the Whitehouse, and expressed the values of 20th-century America. He attracted brilliant young people to government service.
But the Kennedys also had personal problems. John still had his bad back. Jacqueline had a miscarriage in 1955, gave birth to a stillborn daughter in 1956, and their third living child, a son born in 1963, died shortly after birth. John is said to have carried affairs during his presidency, most famously with Marilyn Monroe.
Anyways, it says that the civil rights movement was strong and important during Kennedy’s presidency. Black Americans no longer tolerated discrimination, and Kennedy tried to help them. He did not allow universities in southern states to deny black people, and spoke out against segregation. He asked Congress to pass a civil rights bill that would guarantee blacks the right to vote, to attend public school, to have equal access to jobs, and to have access to public. He supported the civil rights movement even though this caused him to lose popularity.
He was a very hard-working president. But he had difficulties putting his liberal policies in effect, such as federal aid to education and Medicare, as he lacked majorities in the Congress. He was better able to act on his strong anti-communism, as it was the height of the cold war. He ordered the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961. The plan had been developed by the CIA under the Eisenhower administration, but did not go as planned. It was a failure, and didn’t help relations with Cuba. He tried to diminish anti-Americanism abroad by backing Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps program. He met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, but they were not able to work out their differences, and the Soviets erected the Berlin wall. The Soviet Union where ahead of the United States when it came to space exploration, something Kennedy was determined to rectify. He started the Apollo program, spending huge amounts of resources on the space race, leading to the landing on the moon in 1969.
The biggest and most serious problem Kennedy faced as President was the Cuban missile crisis. In October 1962, U.S. intelligence discovered that the Russians were constructing missile bases in Cuba, where nuclear missiles would be in close nearness. Kennedy ordered a naval. His military advisors recommended an immediate air strike, and the world was on the brink of nuclear war. But the situation was resolved, with the Russians withdrawing their missiles form Cuba and the United States promising not to invade Cuba. And in 1963 a treaty was signed to stop atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. But the cold war continued, and Kennedy stepped up the effort to stop the communists in Vietnam. By November 1963, the United States had sent 16,000 military soldiers to Vietnam, for what was later to become a disastrous war for the U.S.
The assassination became a point of conflict as many believe there must have been something more behind it, like a plot from other powers in government. Critics demand that Oswald was either part of a plot, or framed. Kennedy is said to have had ties to the mafia and other powerful people, something he also shared with his mistress Marilyn Monroe. She had died in a suspicious suicide the year before. Mary Pinchot Meyer, another of Kennedy’s mistresses, was shot dead less than a year later. This murder has never been solved. President Johnson created the Warren Commission to investigate Kennedy’s assassination. It concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin. A later investigation in the 1970s by the House Select Committee on Assassinations also concluded that Oswald was the assassin, but that there was a "probable conspiracy" as well.
Kennedy’s presidency, as well as his life, got a very dramatic end. Visiting Texas, he was driving through Dallas in a motorcade on November 22nd, 1963. He was assassinated, shot through the head and dead within an hour. 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the killing. No motive was established, and Oswald was himself killed shortly afterwards.
Whatever the case was, John F. Kennedy was only 46 years old, and his death shocked the whole nation, even the world. People still remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. And Kennedy continues to be remembered as one of the best, most-loved presidents in history, despite his short time in office and his mistakes.