John Fitzgerald Kennedy
John F. Kennedy ( JFK ) was known throughout the world for
his heroic deeds. He has helped many Americans many different
ways from saving a mans life and keeping him from drowning, to
helping African Americans. He had come from a very political
family, and knowing that he felt that he had to carry on the tradition
of that after his brother Joe had past away.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts
on May 29, 1917, the second oldest in a family of nine children.
Although their families had not come to the United States with much
money, both of John Kennedy's grandfathers became political leaders
in Boston. One of them, John Fitzgerald (for whom he was named),
was elected mayor in 1905. John Kennedy's father, Joseph Patrick
Kennedy became a very wealthy businessman, an adviser to
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the United States Ambassador
to Great Britain from 1938 to 1940. John Kennedy (his family called
him "Jack") moved to New York when he was ten years old. Since the
family spent the summer months at their home in Hyannis, Cape
Cod, Jack still lived a good part of his life in Massachusetts. As a boy
and a young man, he traveled to other parts of the United States and
to other countries. After graduating from the Choate School in
Connecticut in 1935, he went on to Harvard College and graduated in
1940. That same year he wrote a best-selling book, Why England Slept,
about some of the decisions which led to World War II.
Kennedy described himself as an idealist without illusion .
He considered his best quality to be curiosity, and he worst
irritability. Kennedys charm, grace, and wit were to a great extent
responsible for his immense popularity as president. He remained a
bit detached from things in order to counter his extremely sensitive
side, for the most part he controlled his temper.
Kennedy met his future wife at a dinner party in
Washington, D.C. Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was the daughter of a
wealthy Wall Street broker, John V. Bouvier III. She had attended
Vassar College and the Sorbonne in Paris. When she met Kennedy,
she was a student at George Washington University in Washington.
Later, she worked as an inquiring photographer for the Washington
Times-Herald. She and Kennedy were married on September 12,
1953. A daughter was still-born on August 23, 1956, and was
unnamed. Their daughter Caroline was born November 27, 1957.
Their son John F. Jr., was born on November 25, 1960. Another son,
Patrick Bouvier, was born prematurely August 7th, 1963. He died
August 9, 1963. Five years after Kennedy's death, Mrs. Kennedy
married Aristotle Onassis, a Greek millionaire.
John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President on January
20, 1961. In his Inaugural Address, he spoke of the need for all
Americans to be active citizens. "Ask not what your country can do
for you, ask what you can do for your country," he said. He also
asked the nations of the world to join together to fight what he called
the "common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war
One of President Kennedy's first important actions was creating
the Peace Corps. Americans who join the Peace Corps go as
volunteers to countries requesting assistance. They serve as teachers
and provide help in areas such as farming, health care, and
During the next year, Kennedy and Khrushchev set up
a "Hot Line," a special telephone connection between the
President's office in the White House and the Soviet leader's
office at the Kremlin in Moscow. They hoped this Hot Line
would prevent a war from beginning by mistake. In August
1963, the United States and the Soviet Union signed a treaty
that outlawed nuclear bomb tests in the air, under water, and in
outer space. The treaty did not prevent the two countries from
building more weapons, but it did protect the world from the
harmful effects of nuclear tests. Kennedy also asked the
American people to think more about making peace with the
Soviet Union. "We all inhabit this small planet," he said. "We all
breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future, and
we are all mortal."
While international issues demanded a lot of attention,
Kennedy also had to deal with serious problems here in the
United States. In most southern states, schools, buses,
restaurants, and other public places were racially segregated.
There were separate schools, separate seats on buses, and
separate areas in restaurants for whites and for blacks. State
and local laws also prevented black Americans from voting.
Since the 1950s, many people--black and white--had been
working to change these laws. Kennedy called Corretta Scott
King, offering any help, after her husband was taken to jail, for
leading the civil rights movement. Many of the African
Americans then voted for him.
On November 21, 1963, President Kennedy flew to Texas to
give several political speeches. The next day, as his car drove
slowly past cheering crowds in Dallas, shots rang out. Kennedy
was seriously wounded and died a short time later. Within two
hours of the shooting, police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald and
charged him with the murder. On November 24, a Dallas man,
Jack Ruby, shot and killed Oswald before there was a chance to
put him on trial. Although Oswald denied that he shot
Kennedy, most of the evidence indicates that he really did. To
this day, however, many people disagree about the facts of
JFK's assassination. Some people insist, for example, that there
was a second gunman firing at Kennedy, and that he and Ruby
were part of a conspiracy. None of these theories have ever
President Kennedy's death caused enormous sadness and
grief among all Americans. Most people still remember exactly
where they were and what they were doing when they heard
the news of the murder. Hundreds of thousands of people
gathered in Washington for the President's funeral, and
millions throughout the world watched it on television.
President Kennedy has made many changes in the United
States that people may not have realized. He helped people
out, not just the world, but also individuals, like the African
Americans. He treated people equally, no matter who they
were or what color there skin was.
As the years have gone by and other Presidents have written
their chapters in history, John Kennedy's brief time in office stands
out in people's memories--for his leadership, personality, and
accomplishments. Many respect his coolness when faced with
difficult decisions--like what to do about the missiles in Cuba. Others
admire his ability to inspire people with his eloquent speeches. Still
others think his compassion and his willingness to fight for new
government programs to help the poor, the elderly and the ill were
most important. Like all leaders, John Kennedy made mistakes, but
he was always optimistic about the future. He believed that people
could solve their common problems if they put their country's
interests first and worked together.
Michael D. Cole John Kennedy President of New Frontier Springfield,
Andrew Langley John F. Kennedy New York, 1985
Zachary Kent Encyclopedia of Presidents John F. Kennedy Chicago,
Scott Fetzer Company The World Book Encyclopedia Chicago,
London, Sydney Toronto, 1992Words
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