Kennedy John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the 35th president of the United States in 1961. At the age of forty-three, he was the youngest man ever elected president. He was also the first Roman Catholic ever elected to the oval office. Rich, handsome, charming, elegant, articulate, and from a well known family, Kennedy became a natural recipiant of admiration both in the United States and abroad. His assassination in Dallas, Texas on November 23, 1963 resulted in public outrage and widespread mourning throughout the nation and the World.
Kennedy’s term in office was too short to allow history to pass fair and acurate judgement on his accomplishments as president. Their is little doubt, however, that the image and philosphy, he brought to the oval office not only influenced the generation he governed, but also continues to influence today’s generation and politics in general. Indeed, “Camelot”, the name given to the idyllic time during Kennedy’s presidency, is not a dead mythology but a living idealogy that continues in American society today. John Fitzgerald Kennedy (he latest gained the nick name Jack) was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was Joseph & Rose Kennedy’s second son. His father was a multimillionaire businessman, who had became a bank president at the age of 25, and made his fortune through investments in stocks, importing, shipbuilding, and moviemaking.
Joe Kennedy’s political experince was limited to being appointed the first chairman of the newly created Securities and Exchange Commission (1934-1935) by president Franklin D. Roosevelt, and having served as the head of the U.S. Maritime Commission (1937), as well as being the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain (1937-1940). Even though Joseph Kennedy never ran for an elected office himself, he and his wife had large ambitions for their nine children. John Kennedy was groomed for a career in politics from an early age. Growing up Kennedy was small for his age and suffered through several childhood diseases.
As a child he was quite and shy, a far cry from his personality traits in his later years. During his childhood his older brother Joe helped and protected him, and served as a role model for young Jack. From an early age the Kennedy children were taught by their parents that the United States had been good to the Kennedy’s and that whatever the U.S. did for them must be returned by some service to the country. Jack took this idea to heart.
Later it became the basis for a famous line from his inaguration speach in which Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” In school Kennedy excelled in history and english, but was a poor speller and struggled in math and science. Kennedy’s sixth grade teacher noted his humor and competitive spirit. Kennedy graduated from Choate High School in Wallingford Connecticut and briefly attended Princeton University before enrolling in Harvard in 1936. While attending Harvard Kennedy wrote a brilliant honors thesis on British Foreign policies in the 1930s called “Why England Slept”, which was later published. He graduated in 1940 and was voted most likely to suceed by his classmates. In 1941 Kennedy entered the the U.S. Navy shortly before the United States entered World War II.
Following Pearl Harbor he applied for sea duty and became the commander of PT 109, a Navy torpedo boat. In 1943, while on active duty of the Pacific, the boat he commanded was rammed and sunk by the Japanese. In an act of heroism, Kennedy rescued and lead his crew ashore, but in doing so aggravated an old back injury and contracted malaria. He was discharged from the Navy in 1945. Kennedy returned home to Boston from the war with a citation for valor to began persuit of the political career his parents had envisioned for him.
In 1946, the rich and ambitious young veteran joined the Democratic party and successfully ran for a Boston-based seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was reelected to the seat in 1948 and 1950. As a congressman Kennedy supported social legislation that benefited his working-class constituents. It was during his tenure in congress that he began to advocate a strong anti-communist foreign policy, which he continued to promote for the remainer of his life.
During this time Kennedy was especially critical of what he considered a weak policy against communism, especially communist China, by president Truman. Kennedy become restless in the House and in 1952 ran for the U.S. Senate. He faced a strong opponent in the form of republican incumbent senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. Although the republican presidental candidate, Dwight Eisenhower, won in Massachusetts as well as the country as a whole, Kennedy demonstrated his remarkable voter appeal by defeating Lodge.
One year later, on September 12, 1953, Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier. The couple had three children: Caroline Bouvier, John Fitzgerald Jr., and a second son who died in infancy. Kennedy proved to be a relatively ineffectual senator. During parts of 1954 and 1955 he was seriously ill with back ailments and for that reason was unable to play an important role in government. Kennedy’s critics observed that he made no effort to ooppos the anti-civil-libertarian excesses of Sen.
Joesph McCarthy. His friends and staff later argued that he would have voted to censure McCarthy if he had not been hospitalized at the time. During his sickness Kennedy wrote a book of biographical studies of American political heroes. It was published in 1956 under the title “Profiles in Courage” and won a Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957. Like his earlier book on British foreign policy, the book revealed Kennedy’s admiration and respect for forceful politcal figures.
In 1956 Kennedy, with his family’s input, once again decided it was time to further his political ambitions. He bid unsuccessfully for the Democratic vice-presidential nomination. Following the setback, he set his sights on the presidency, especially following his reelection to the senate in 1958. He continued during these years to support a strong anti-communist foreign policy. Regarding domestic issues Kennedy was a cautious liberal, backing a compromised civil rights bill in 1957. He also devoted special efforts to labor legislation.
By the time of the 1960 presidential election Kennedy was only one of many Democrats with aspiriations for the party’s presidential nomination. During the democratic race Kennedy once again showed his political shrewdness by putting together a well-financed, highly organized campaign and won the nomination on the first ballot. In another politically clever move, as a Roman Catholic from the North, he selected Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas as his running mate in order to stregthen his weak support in the South. Kennedy faced a strong challenge from republican nominee and sitting vice-pre …