John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States, the youngest man elected to the office and is a leader remembered for challenging the American people. JFK insisted the nation be the first to put a man on the moon, abandon racial prejudices and to loyally serve one another.
John F. Kennedy was born in Brookline Massachusetts, on May 29, 1917 to an Irish-Catholic family. Although struggling through grade school, Kennedy flourished after being accepted to Harvard. He graduated with high honors and a social science degree by 1940, but Kennedy decided to join the navy after leaving Harvard. In 1943, Kennedy's patrol boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer. JFK despite suffering injuries of his own, led the survivors through enemy territory and to eventual safety.
Returning to the U.S. a war hero, JFK soon found himself as a Democratic Congressman representing the Boston area. By 1953, Kennedy was elected as a Massachusetts senator and later in the married twenty-four year old Jacqueline Bouvier. At the time Bouvier was a prominent writer and photographer with the Washington Times-Herald. Shortly into their marriage, while recovering from surgery, JFK finished his first book, Profiles in Courage. Profiles in Courage is a Pulitzer Prize winning collection of true stories of eight heroic acts performed by patriots throughout critical points in United States history.
John F. Kennedy also wrote A Nation of Immigrants in 1958 – a spectacular and concise outline of how clumsily, hypocritically and outright poorly, the U.S. has dealt with immigration. The book is relevant today more so than ever.
By 1960, JFK was a first-ballot nominee for President. Millions watched his television debates with Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon. Winning the popular vote by a slim margin, Kennedy became the first and only Roman-Catholic President in U.S. history. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address offered the infamous challenge: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.“
As President, he set out to fulfill his campaign pledge of returning America to unparalleled productivity. His economic initiatives launched the country on its longest sustained expansion after World War II. Responding to desire’s of the American people, Kennedy pursued equality by continually calling for new civil rights legislation. His vision for the United States included a strong belief in culture and a need for arts in a flourishing society. He is quoted for saying “When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.” John F. Kennedy also acknowledged the U.S. needed to return to it’s original mission – a nation dedicated to the progress of human rights. With the Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps, JFK introduced American idealism to developing nations. JFK began plans attacking persisting pockets of privation and poverty, which was continued by Lyndon Baines Johnson.
JFK's legacy includes the role played during the Cold War and tactics during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1961, Kennedy initially supported an unsuccessful CIA-organized invasion of the Cuban islands (also known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion) to remove Fidel Castro from power. The attempt to overthrow Castro’s regime was an utter failure and mistake by the United States. The Soviet Union responded by revitalizing its campaign in Europe, specifically West Berlin. John F. Kennedy retaliated by reinforcing the Berlin garrison and bolstering U.S. military strength – including pursuits in space. Confronted by U.S. militarization, the Soviet Union, loosened its presence in central Europe. Instead the Soviet Union sought to capitalize on Castro’s socialist regime and install nuclear missiles in Cuba. When this was discovered by air recon in October 1962, Kennedy imposed a quarantine on all offensive weapons bound for Cuba. While the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war, the Russians gradually backed down and agreed to remove missiles. The U.S. response to the Cuban crisis was enough to persuade the Soviet Union the futility of nuclear blackmail.
Kennedy openly contended that both nations had a vital interest in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and slowing an arms race. His conviction contributed to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963. The months following the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy’s administration began progressing toward his promises of a world of free choice and justice and without war and coercion. Although barely a 1000 days into his Presidency, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. JFK's legacy is remembered for hope of equality among Americans and peace throughout world.