John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy, White House photo portrait, looking up.jpg
John F. Kennedy in February 1961
35th President of the United States
In office
January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson
United States Senator
from Massachusetts
In office
January 3, 1953 – December 22, 1960
Preceded by Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.
Succeeded by Benjamin A. Smith II
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 11th district
In office
January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1953
Preceded by James Michael Curley
Succeeded by Tip O'Neill
Personal details
Born John Fitzgerald Kennedy
(1917-05-29)May 29, 1917
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died November 22, 1963(1963-11-22) (aged 46)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Cause of death Assassination
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (m. 1953)
Relations See Kennedy family
Children Arabella Kennedy
Caroline Bouvier Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr.
Patrick Bouvier Kennedy
Alma mater Harvard College
Profession Politician
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
Allegiance   United States of America
Service/branch   United States Navy
Years of service 1941–1945
Rank US Navy O3 infobox.svg Lieutenant

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), commonly referred to by his initials JFK, was an American politician who served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. Kennedy served at the height of the Cold War, and much of his presidency focused on managing relations with the Soviet Union. He was a member of the Democratic Party who represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate prior to becoming president.

Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, to Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Kennedy. A scion of the Kennedy family, he graduated from Harvard University in 1940 before joining the United States Naval Reserve the following year. During World War II, Kennedy commanded a series of PT boats in the Pacific theater and earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his service. After the war, Kennedy represented Massachusetts's 11th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1947 until 1953. He was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate and served as the junior Senator from Massachusetts from 1953 until 1960. While serving in the Senate, he published Profiles in Courage, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. In the 1960 presidential election, Kennedy narrowly defeated Republican opponent Richard Nixon, who was the incumbent Vice President.

Kennedy's time in office was marked by high tensions with communist states in the Cold War. He increased the number of American military advisers in South Vietnam by a factor of 18 over President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In April 1961, he authorized a failed joint-CIA attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. [2] He subsequently rejected Operation Northwoods plans by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to orchestrate false flag attacks on American soil in order to gain public approval for a war against Cuba. In October 1962, U.S. spy planes discovered that Soviet missile bases had been deployed in Cuba; the resulting period of tensions, termed the Cuban Missile Crisis, nearly resulted in the breakout of a global thermonuclear conflict. Domestically, Kennedy presided over the establishment of the Peace Corps and supported the civil rights movement, but he was largely unsuccessful in passing his New Frontier domestic policies. Kennedy continues to rank highly in historians' polls of U.S. presidents and with the general public. His average approval rating of 70% is the highest of any president in Gallup's history of systematically measuring job approval. [3]

On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the state crime, but he was never prosecuted due to his murder by Jack Ruby two days later. Pursuant to the Presidential Succession Act, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president later that day. The FBI and the Warren Commission officially concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin, but various groups challenged the findings of the Warren Report and believed that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy. After Kennedy's death, Congress enacted many of his proposals, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Revenue Act of 1964.

Early life and education

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, at 83 Beals Street in Brookline, Massachusetts, [4] to businessman/politician Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy and philanthropist/socialite Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald Kennedy. His grandfathers P. J. Kennedy and Boston Mayor John F. Fitzgerald were both Massachusetts politicians. All four of his grandparents were children of Irish immigrants. [1] Kennedy had an elder brother, Joseph Jr., and seven younger siblings; Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, Jean, and Ted.

Kennedy's birthplace in Brookline, Massachusetts

Kennedy lived in Brookline for the first decade of his life and attended the Edward Devotion School, the Noble and Greenough Lower School, and the Dexter School through 4th grade. Joe Kennedy's business had kept him away from the family for long stretches of time, and his ventures were concentrated on Wall Street and Hollywood. In September 1927, the family moved from Boston to Riverdale, Bronx, New York. [5] [6] Young John attended the lower campus of Riverdale Country School, a private school for boys, from 5th to 7th grade. Two years later, the family moved to suburban Bronxville, New York, where Kennedy was a member of Boy Scout Troop 2 and attended St. Joseph's Church. [1] [7] The Kennedy family spent summers and early autumns [8] at their home (rented in 1926, then purchased in 1929) [9] in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and Christmas and Easter holidays at their winter home in Palm Beach, Florida, later purchased in 1933. In September 1930, Kennedy—then 13 years old—attended the Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut, for 8th grade. In April 1931, he had an appendectomy, after which he withdrew from Canterbury and recuperated at home. [10]

The Kennedy family at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, in 1931 with Jack at top left in white shirt. Ted was born the following year.

In September 1931, Kennedy attended Choate, a boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut, for 9th through 12th grade. His older brother Joe Jr. had already been at Choate for two years and was a football player and leading student. He spent his first years at Choate in his older brother's shadow, and compensated with rebellious behavior that attracted a coterie. They carried out their most notorious stunt by exploding a toilet seat with a powerful firecracker. In the ensuing chapel assembly, the strict headmaster, George St. John, brandished the toilet seat and spoke of certain "muckers" who would "spit in our sea". The defiant Kennedy took the cue and named his group "The Muckers Club", which included roommate and friend Kirk LeMoyne "Lem" Billings. [11]

During his years at Choate, Kennedy was beset by health problems that culminated with his emergency hospitalization in 1934 at New Haven Hospital, where doctors thought he might have had leukemia. [12] In June 1934, he was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota; the ultimate diagnosis there was colitis. [12] Kennedy graduated from Choate in June of the following year, finishing 64th in a class of 112 students. [6] He had been the business manager of the school yearbook and was voted the "most likely to succeed". [11]

In September 1935, Kennedy made his first trip abroad when he traveled to London with his parents and his sister Kathleen. He intended to study under Harold Laski at the London School of Economics (LSE), as his older brother had done. Ill-health forced his return to America in October of that year, when he enrolled late and spent six weeks at Princeton University. [13] He was then hospitalized for observation at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. He convalesced further at the Kennedy winter home in Palm Beach, then spent the spring of 1936 working as a ranch hand on the 40,000-acre (160 km2) Jay Six cattle ranch outside Benson, Arizona. [14] It is reported that ranchman Jack Speiden worked both brothers "very hard". [15] [16]

In 1935, Kennedy briefly attended Princeton University, but had to leave after two months due to a gastrointestinal illness. Later, in September 1936, Kennedy enrolled at Harvard College and his application essay stated: "The reasons that I have for wishing to go to Harvard are several. I feel that Harvard can give me a better background and a better liberal education than any other university. I have always wanted to go there, as I have felt that it is not just another college, but is a university with something definite to offer. Then too, I would like to go to the same college as my father. To be a 'Harvard man' is an enviable distinction, and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain." [17] He produced that year's annual "Freshman Smoker", called by a reviewer "an elaborate entertainment, which included in its cast outstanding personalities of the radio, screen and sports world." [18] He tried out for the football, golf, and swimming teams and earned a spot on the varsity swimming team. [19] Kennedy also sailed in the Star class and won the 1936 Nantucket Sound Star Championship. [20] In July 1937, Kennedy sailed to France—taking his convertible—and spent ten weeks driving through Europe with Billings. [21] In June 1938, Kennedy sailed overseas with his father and older brother to work at the American embassy in London, where his father was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James's. [22]

In 1939, Kennedy toured Europe, the Soviet Union, the Balkans, and the Middle East in preparation for his Harvard senior honors thesis. He then went to Czechoslovakia and Germany before returning to London on September 1, 1939, the day that Germany invaded Poland to mark the beginning of World War II. Two days later, the family was in the House of Commons for speeches endorsing the United Kingdom's declaration of war on Germany. Kennedy was sent as his father's representative to help with arrangements for American survivors of the SS Athenia before flying back to the U.S. from Foynes, Ireland, to Port Washington, New York, on his first transatlantic flight.

When Kennedy was an upperclassman at Harvard, he began to take his studies more seriously and developed an interest in political philosophy. He made the Dean's List in his junior year. [23] In 1940, Kennedy completed his thesis, "Appeasement in Munich", about British participation in the Munich Agreement. The thesis became a bestseller under the title Why England Slept. [24] In addition to addressing Britain's failure to strengthen its military in the lead-up to World War II, the book also called for an Anglo-American alliance against the rising totalitarian powers. While Kennedy became increasingly supportive of U.S. intervention in World War II, his father's isolationist beliefs resulted in the latter's dismissal as ambassador to the United Kingdom, creating a split between the Kennedy and Roosevelt families. [25]

In 1940, Kennedy graduated cum laude from Harvard College with a Bachelor of Arts in government, concentrating on international affairs. That fall, he enrolled at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and audited classes there. [26] In early 1941, Kennedy left and helped his father write a memoir of his three years as an American ambassador. He then traveled throughout South America; his itinerary included Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. [27] [28]

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