35th President of the United States

Born: May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts
Served: March 4, 1961 - November 22, 1963
Died: November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas 
Buried: in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia

JFK        John Fitzgerald Kennedy, often referred to as J.F.K., was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald. After attended a couple of elite New England prep schools, he graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in international affairs in June 1940. Interestingly, Kennedy almost was a graduate of Princeton University instead of Harvard. he enrolled there first, but was forced to leave because of an illness.

       In 1940, Kennedy wrote his honors thesis, entitled "Why England Slept," about the British dealings concerning the Munich Agreement. His thesis was published in 1940 and became a bestseller.

       He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II (he voluntered for the Navy in the Spring of 1941 before the attack on Pearl Harbor after the Army turned him down because of his back problems) and became a lieutenant, commanding a patrol torpedo (PT) boat.

       On August 2, 1943, Kennedy's boat, the PT-109, was taking part in a nighttime military raid near New Georgia (near the Solomon Islands) when it was rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri cutting the boat in two. Kennedy was thrown across the deck, injuring his already-troubled back. Still, Kennedy somehow towed a wounded man three miles across open water to a deserted island (called Plub Pudding Island but has since been renamed Kennedy island) where his crew was subsequently rescued. For these actions, Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

       After World War II, Kennedy entered politics, partly to fill the void of his popular brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., on whom his family had pinned many of their hopes but who was killed in the war during a bombing misson. In 1946, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from a heavy Democratic district and served three terms. In 1952, he defeated incumbent Republican Henry Cabot Lodge for the U.S. Senate. Kennedy married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier on September 12, 1953. During this period, he published Profiles in Courage, highlighting eight instances in which U.S. Senators risked their careers by standing by their personal beliefs. The book was awarded the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

Kennedy grave

       In 1960, Kennedy declared his intent to run for President of the United States. In the Democratic primary election, he faced challenges from Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas and Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic nominee in 1952 and 1956, who was not officially running but was a favorite "write-in" candidate. On July 13, 1960, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Kennedy was nominated for President. Kennedy asked Johnson to be his Vice-Presidential candidate, despite clashes between the two during the primary elections. He needed Johnson's strength in the South to win what was considered likely to be the closest election since 1916. During the campaign, Kennedy had to overcome the fact he was a Catholic. In September and October, Kennedy debated Republican candidate Vice President Richard Nixon in the first televised U.S. presidential debates. In the election on November 8, 1960, Kennedy beat Nixon in a very close race.

       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.

       As one of his first presidential acts, Kennedy created the Peace Corps. This was his belief that non-military power could improve the world. Through this program, Americans volunteered to help underdeveloped nations in areas such as education, farming, health care, and construction.

        On April 17, 1961, Kennedy gave orders allowing a previously planned invasion of Cuba to proceed. With support from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in what is known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, 1,500 U.S.-trained Cuban exiles, called "Brigade 2506", returned to the island in the hope of deposing Fidel Castro. Due to mistakes and miscalculations by the CIA, the invasion turned into a disaster. The incident was a major embarrassment for Kennedy, but he took full personal responsibility for the debacle.

       The Cuban Missile Crisis began on October 14, 1962, when American U-2 spy planes took photographs of a Soviet intermediate-range ballistic missile site under construction in Cuba. Over the objections of many military officials who wanted an air assault on Cuba, Kennedy ordered a naval blockade in which the U.S. Navy blocked Soviet ships with missles from going to Cuba. He began negotiations with the Soviets and, a week later, he and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev reached an agreement. Following this incident, which brought the world closer to nuclear war than at any point before or since, Kennedy was more cautious in confronting the Soviet Union.

       Determined to stand firm against the spread of communism, Kennedy continued the previous administration's policy of political, economic, and military support for the unstable South Vietnamese government, which included sending military advisors and U.S. Special Forces to the area.

       On June 26, 1963, Kennedy visited West Berlin and gave a public speech criticizing communism. The speech is considered one of Kennedy's best, and a notable moment of the Cold War. It was a great morale boost for West Berliners, who lived in an enclave deep inside East Germany and feared a possible East German occupation. Kennedy used the construction of the Berlin Wall as an example of the failures of communism: "Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in." He went on to say, "All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner!" The Germans loved the speech and even erected a plaque on the spot where it was given.

       Kennedy was eager for the United States to lead the way in the space race by supporting the Apollo Program. He gave a speech saying, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." On July 20, 1969, almost six years after Kennedy's death, the Project Apollo´s goal was realized when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to land on the moon.

Hudson Catholic JV at Kennedy's grave       Kennedy called his domestic program the "New Frontier." It ambitiously promised federal funding for education, medical care for the elderly, and government intervention to halt the recession. Kennedy also promised an end to racial discrimination. He sent troops to help a Black man, James Meridith, enroll at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). Kennedy intervened when Alabama Governor George Wallace blocked the doorway to the University of Alabama to stop two black students from enrolling. Later, Kennedy proposed what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

[PHOTO: The Hudson Catholic JV hockey team made a trip to Washington D.C. in 2002 and visited Kennedy's gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery]

       Kennedy and his wife "Jackie" were very young in comparison to earlier Presidents and first ladies, and were both extraordinarily popular in ways more common to pop singers and movie stars than politicians, influencing fashion trends and becoming the subjects of numerous photo spreads in popular magazines. The Kennedys brought new life and vigor to the atmosphere of the White House. They believed that the White House should be a place to celebrate American history, culture, and achievement, and they invited artists, writers, scientists, poets, musicians, actors, Nobel Prize winners and athletes to visit.Jacqueline Kennedy also bought new art and furniture and eventually restored all the rooms in the White House. The White House also seemed like a more fun, youthful place, because of the Kennedys' two young children, Caroline and John Jr. The charisma of Kennedy and his family led to the figurative designation of "Camelot" for his administration.

        Personally Kennedy was never a very healthy person and lived in almost constant pain, a fact kept from the general public. He had been diagnosed as a young man with Addison's Disease. In 1937, Kennedy was prescribed steroids to control his colitis, which only increased his medical problems causing him to develop osteoporosis of the lower lumbar spine.

        On November 22, 1963, Kennedy and his wife Jackie traveled on a political trip to Dallas, Texas. While travelling in an open limosine in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza, Kennedy was shot and fatally wounded in the back and side of the head. A gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, was arrested and charged with the assassination (Oswald was fatally shot less than two days later in a Dallas police station). Kennedy was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital where he was declared dead. His body was returned to Washington D.C. aboard Air Force One. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (who had been riding two cars behind Kennedy in the motorcade through Dallas and was not injured) took the oath of office on board Air Force One just before it departed Love Field in Dalles.

       Kennedy was placed in the East Room of the White House for 24 hours. On the Sunday after the assassination, 300,000 people watched a horse-drawn caisson, which had borne the body of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Unknown Soldier, carry Kennedy's flag-covered mahogany casket down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol rotunda to lie in state. Over the span of 18 hours, 250,000 people, some waiting for as long as 10 hours in a line that stretched 40 blocks up to 10 persons wide, personally paid their respects as Kennedy's body lay in state. In all, 220 foreign dignitaries, including 19 heads of state and government, and members of royal families, from 92 countries, including the Soviet Union, attended the funeral on Monday, November 25. Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cardinal Cushing, celebrated the Requiem Mass at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington D.C. The casket was borne again by caisson on the final leg as the late president was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

       Television became the primary source by which people were kept informed of events surrounding John F. Kennedy's assassination. U.S. networks switched to 24-hour news coverage for the first time ever. Kennedy’s state funeral procession was broadcast live in America and in other places around the world.

        On March 14, 1967, Kennedy's body was moved to a permanent burial place and memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1994, Kennedy's wife Jackie was interred with him and their deceased children. Her stone has Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. His two brothers Robert and Ted Kennedy are buried nearby. His grave is lit with an "Eternal Flame." Of all the Presidents in U.S. history, Kennedy has the most public schools named after him.              

Here are some webpages of interest:

The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library and Library
White House Biography of John F. Kennedy
The Internet Public Library Biography
The American President Biography

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