JFK

JFK

John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th president
of the United States, the youngest person ever to be elected president.

He was also the first Roman Catholic president and the first president
to be born in the 20th century.

Kennedy was assassinated before he completed
his third year as president. Therefore his achievements were limited. Nevertheless,
his influence was worldwide, and his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis
may have prevented war. Young people especially liked him. No other president
was so popular. He brought to the presidency an awareness of the cultural
and historical traditions of the United States. Because Kennedy expressed
the values of 20th-century America, his presidency was important beyond
its political achievements. John Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts.

He was the second of nine children.

Kennedy announced his candidacy early in

1960. By the time the Democratic National Convention opened in July, he
had won seven primary victories. His most important had been in West Virginia,
where he proved that a Roman Catholic could win in a predominantly Protestant
state.

When the convention opened, it appeared
that Kennedy's only serious challenge for the nomination would come from
the Senate majority leader, Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. However, Johnson
was strong only among Southern delegates. Kennedy won the nomination on
the first ballot and then persuaded Johnson to become his running mate.

Two weeks later the Republicans nominated

Vice President Richard Nixon for president and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.,
who was ambassador to the United Nations and whom Kennedy had defeated
for the Senate in 1952, for vice president. In the fast-paced campaign
that followed, Kennedy made stops in 46 states and 273 cities and towns,
while Nixon visited every state and 170 urban areas.

Another important element of the campaign
was the support Kennedy received from blacks in important Northern states,
especially Illinois and Pennsylvania. They supported him in part because
he and Robert Kennedy had tried to get the release of the civil rights
leader Martin Luther King, Jr. King, who had been jailed for taking part
in a civil rights demonstration in Georgia, was released soon afterward.

The election drew a record 69 million voters
to the polls, but Kennedy won by only 113,000 votes. Kennedy was inaugurated
on January 20, 1961. In his inaugural address he emphasized America's revolutionary
heritage. 2"The same ... beliefs for which our forebears fought are still
at issue around the globe," Kennedy said.

3"Let the word go forth from this time
and place to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a
new generation of Americans-born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined
by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage-and unwilling
to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this
nation has always been committed and to which we are committed today at
home and around the world."

Kennedy challenged Americans to assume
the burden of "defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger." The words
of his address were, 4"Ask not what your country can do for you-ask what
you can do for your country."

Kennedy sought with considerable success
to attract brilliant young people to government service. His hope was to
bring new ideas and new methods into the executive branch. As a result
many of his advisers were teachers and scholars. Among them were McGeorge

Bundy and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., both graduates of Harvard.

Kennedy's most influential adviser was

Theodore C. Sorenson, a member of Kennedy's staff since his days in the

Senate. Sorenson wrote many of Kennedy's speeches and exerted a strong
influence on Kennedy's development as a political liberal, 5 a person who
believes that the government should directly help people to overcome poverty
or social discrimination.

The president and Mrs. Kennedy attempted
to make the White House the cultural center of the nation. Writers, artists,
poets, scientists, and musicians were frequent dinner guests. On one occasion
the Kennedy's held a reception for all the American winners of the Nobel

Prize, people who made outstanding contributions to their field during
the past year. At the party the president suggested that more talent and
genius was at the White House that night than there had been since Thomas

Jefferson had last dined there alone.

At a meeting with the leader of the Union
of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Nikita Khrushchev, Kennedy asked
the name of a medal Khrushchev was wearing. When the premier identified
it as the Lenin Peace Medal, Kennedy remarked, 6"I hope you keep it." On
another occasion he told a group of Republican business leaders, 7"It would
be premature to ask for your support in the next election and inaccurate
to thank you for it in the past."