John F. Kennedy grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts with nine siblings. He was the second child born to Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph Kennedy Sr. He attended a catholic all boys school but didn’t really care about his academics. John F. Kennedy was also a very sick child having suffered severe colds, flu, scarlet fever, and many more severe undiagnosed diseases. Due to the many illnesses he had it caused him to have to miss months of school. Kennedy graduated and attended one semester at Princeton and then transferred to Harvard in 1936. John F Kennedy was an excellent student when he attended Harvard. He was on the swimming team, and he won a sailing championship with his brother Joe (Raatma). Kennedy wanted to play football and was on the team but injured his back causing him to not be able to continue playing. During Kennedy’s time at Harvard he wrote a paper about Great Britain’s Actions in the months leading up to world war ll (Raatma). Kennedy graduated from Harvard in 1940 and in that same year he published a book called Why England Slept, it was one of the best-selling books in the United States. After graduating Harvard Kennedy decided to enter a business program at Stanford University in California, but at the same time young men all over the United States were being called to serve in the military. In the summer of 1941, John F Kennedy chose to enlist in the U.S. navy.
Getting to be able to enlist into the navy was a struggle for Kennedy because of all his health issues. At first, they assigned Kennedy a office job, until December of 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (Raatma). Kennedy was trained on power torpedo boats; these small boats could quickly approach enemy ships and fire torpedoes at them (Raatma). By 1943, Kennedy was commanding his own boat, the PT 109 (Raatma). Kennedy and his crew were traveling near the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific Ocean when shortly after midnight their boat was rammed by the Japanese and split into two. Two of Kennedy’s men were killed and the other eleven held on to what was left of the PT 109 (Raatma). Kennedy was a hero in the war after taking these actions but was still more interested in writing about public affairs (Dallek). Finally, him and his crew were able to get help and Kennedy earned his U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Medal.
After World War ll ended Kennedy was a reporter for a little while but then decided to run for office for a seat in the House of Representatives. The Kennedy family were proud to be part of the democratic party and they were big supporters of Harry S. Truman. By, 1946, John F Kennedy was back in Massachusetts and ready to run for office. His entire family was for him running for office and every family member did all they could to help him campaign. As in 1946, Joe, Kennedy’s brother, put his financial resources behind Kennedy’s campaign and made Robert Kennedy, JFK’s younger brother, the campaign manager (Dallek). In the end, John F Kennedy’s people skills worked well. People found him witty, intelligent, and charming (Raatma and Dallek). He ran as a democratic candidate and beating out the Republican opponent in the election and at age twenty-nine, John F Kennedy became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (Raatma). He done his job very well for the next few years, but he did not do anything that really stood out.
John F Kennedy really struggled with his health the entire time he was in office. due to his health issues he sometimes struggled to make up his mind about issues. Still, the people backed him, and he was reelected in 1948 and in 1950 (Raatma). In 1947, doctors had finally figured out what was wrong with John F Kennedy, he had Addison’s disease (Raatma and Dallek). Due to having Addison’s disease it caused him to be tired and weak all the time and is what had caused many of his health issues in the past. After Kennedy found out what was wrong with him, he immediately started to get treated for it. He kept it hide from the public and eventually he began to get his energy back. The state of Kennedy’s health was a closely guarded secret and apparently only his parents, his brother Bobby, and his doctors knew the full extent of his illness (Dallek). After Kennedy’s sister was killed in a plane crash he decided that it was time for him to make a real difference in the world.
It was then that he decided he would run for Senator. This meant running against a powerful Republican Senator named Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. Again, all the Kennedys joined in to help, with Bobby running the campaign (Raatma). He traveled all over the state campaigning and soon the Kennedy name was becoming well known. People in Massachusetts became eager to shake hands with the handsome young candidate (Raatma). On election day Kennedy beat Lodge by more than 70,000 votes.
In 1951, Kennedy met a special young woman, but at that time he was to busy campaigning and did not pay her much attention. She was a photographer and her name was Jacqueline “Jackie” Lee Bouvier. After the election Kennedy was able to spend time with the young woman and on September 12, 1953, they were married (Raatma). Come to find out Kennedy’s wife Jacqueline Kennedy would become someone very helpful in Kennedy’s political career.
By 1954, Kennedy’s disease had caused him to have more back pain now then he had ever had. So, in October of that year, he had surgery. Kennedy had a hard time recovering from the operation and at one-point doctors feared he might die (Raatma). After a few months went by they had to perform a second operation on Kennedy’s back, it went well, but it was many months before he finally started to feel better. It was not until May 1955 that he returned to his senate office. He found service in the Senate only a little more satisfying then service in the House (Dallek). Kennedy made use of his time while recovering. He wrote a book called Profiles in Courage, which described the lives of several Americans who had shown courage in standing up for their beliefs (Raatma). The book was published in 1956 and received great reviews (Raatma). The following year Kennedy was able to win the Pulitzer Prize for biography, this award was one of the highest honors in literature. In the same year Kennedy and his wife lost a child but got pregnant not long after and had their first child, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy born November 27, 1957.
The people of Massachusetts reelected Kennedy in 1958. He represented the people of Massachusetts well, but also started to focus on the problems around the world. All this time, Kennedy was a rising star in the Democratic Party, and soon he made it known that he wanted to be president (Raatma). Many politicians and people believed that Kennedy was to young to be president and they believed that a Roman Catholic couldn’t be president, because the United States was mostly Protestant. Kennedy set out to prove everyone wrong (Raatma).
In 1960 Kennedy competed against Lyndon Johnson to become the Democratic candidate for president. Kennedy beat Johnson easily, but he chose him to be the Democratic candidate for vice president (Raatma). The Republican candidate that year was Richard M. Nixon, he was the vice president under President Dwight Eisenhower at the time and the Republican candidate for vice president was Henry Cabot Lodge, the senator Kennedy had defeated in Massachusetts (Raatma). While campaigning Kennedy attacked Eisenhower for the way he was leading the country and he didn’t believe that they were doing enough to make sure everyone shared the nation’s good fortune (Raatma). Kennedy’s view on the current U.S. leaders were that they were not looking at where the country was going in the future. He believed that they needed to find better and more efficient ways to deal with the country’s problems. He talked about a plan that he called the New Frontier and he said it was time “America started moving again” (Raatma).
Television was becoming a big thing around this time and Americans got excited when Kennedy and Nixon would meet for debates on T.V. the people of America believed that Kennedy won the election because of the debates. He came across as charming and well-spoken and people were eager to hear his new ideas (Raatma and Dallek). Kennedy gained the support of the African Americans and was a big supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. He worked hard to get Martin Luther King out of jail and because of these actions it helped him to win a close race. President Kennedy believed that there could be, and should be, a world of diversity (Luther). He believed that everyone should have equal rights no matter the color of their skin or the way they believe. It was a close race with Kennedy winning by only 49.7 percent of the popular vote while Nixon had 49.6 percent. At age forty-three, Kennedy became the thirty-fifth president of the United States, the youngest man ever elected to be president (Raatma and Dallek).
John F. Kennedy was sworn in on January 20, 1961 and the speech he gave was inspiring. Kennedy challenged the American people to take part in their government and to serve their country, many of his statements, including “Ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country” (Raatma). Focused almost exclusively on foreign challenges, the speech was a call to national commitment and sacrifice (Dallek). While Kennedy was in the White House his wife thoroughly enjoyed entertaining people from many different cultures and welcoming writers and artists, and any other visitors to the White House. They knew the important role the arts play in defining the culture of a country and Mrs. Kennedy worked hard to include artists in important events (Raamta). People all over the world admired the Kennedy’s and what they were doing for the people.
A few months in office and Kennedy was already taking action in improving the problems the country faced. On March 1st, 1961 Kennedy established the Peace Corps, enlisting young Americans “to help foreign countries meet their urgent needs for skilled manpower” (Dallek). Many Americans were eager to join the peace corps and within two years there were more than five thousand volunteers signed up to work in many different countries. In the 1960s the civil rights movement was a big issue and Kennedy believed that all Americans should have the same rights even the African Americans. President Kennedy proposed a civil rights bill that would give black Americans the same basic rights that other Americans enjoyed, and he stated that “race has no place in American life or law” (Raamta). Due to these actions Kennedy was taking it caused him to lose major support from the people in the South.
Kennedy then had to deal with what Cuba was planning on doing to the U.S. Fidel Castro was the leader of Cuba at the time and was mad about man U.S. companies owning sugar plantations in his country, so he took control of those lands. Castro also supported the idea of communism (Raatma). By the early 1960s, the most powerful communist country in the world was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the U.S. was completely against communism (Dallek). This disagreement between the USSR and the United States is what led to the beginning of the Cold War. During the Cold War the U.S. and USSR competed against each other in many of ways, both interested in exploring space (Raamta). The two also competed with each other in preparing for wars in the future. Kennedy began to get a big supply of weapons, including nuclear weapon that could destroy huge areas. Kennedy also started a ten-year program called Alliance for Progress to aid Latin American countries and hoped that if America helped these countries, they would not become communist (Raatma).
In April 1961, Kennedy came up with a plan to invade Cuba and for a large number of Cubans that lived in the U.S. to invade Cuba at a spot called the Bay of Pigs. There they would join others in Cuba who did not like Castro and take over the Government, unfortunately the plan failed (Raamta and Dallek). Many Cubans involved were captured and taken prisoner until a year later they were set free in exchange for food and medical supplies. This embarrassed Kennedy and the United States (Raatma). In June 1961, Kennedy met with Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the USSR, they had long, and intense conversations and Khrushchev tried to intimidate Kennedy, but he wasn’t intimidated by the Soviet leader.
Later in 1961, John F Kennedy faced a situation in Germany and at that time Germany was split into two different countries, East Germany and West Germany. East Germany was communist; West Germany was not (Raatma). At that same time Berlin was split and in the same situation. The communist leaders were upset that many of their people in East Berlin was crossing over into West Berlin to have more freedom. To stop this, the East Germans built the Berlin Wall and they had communist armed guards to stay stationed at the wall to keep people from leaving there part of the country (Raatma). Kennedy promised the people of West Berlin that the United States would always protect them and in one famous speech, Kennedy said, “Ich bin ein Berliner, “or “I am a Berliner,” by this, Kennedy was trying to say that he stood by the people of Berlin in their struggle for freedom (Raatma).
Kennedy faced many more struggles dealing with Cuba during his presidency and in October 1962, Kennedy had to face the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Unites States had gotten information about the USSR having installed nuclear missiles in Cuba and the government decided that the missiles were probably going to be used on attacks on the United States in the future. For several weeks, Kennedy met with his advisers and talked about what to do and on October 22, he went on television and told the American people about the weapons (Rattma). He said, “The cost of freedom is always high and Americans have always paid it and on path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender.” Kennedy then let the USSR know that they better not attack the U.S or any other noncommunist country or he would have troops invade Cuba if necessary. After a few tense days, they came to an agreement and Khrushchev agreed to remove all missiles from Cuba, but in return, the United States agreed to remove some of its older missiles stored in Turkey, near the USSR, and promised not to invade Cuba (Raatma). Many people of the United States believed that was one of Kennedy’s greatest accomplishments.
One of Kennedy’s last major deal he was going to sign was an agreement with the USSR. This nuclear test ban outlawed some testing of nuclear weapons and after facing the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy believed the agreement was an important step towards world peace and was considered another of his greatest achievements (Raamta). But four short months after that Kennedy’s presidency came to an end. On November 22, 1963, he and his wife were in Dallas Texas they were traveling through the city in an open limousine, waving at the cheering crowds that had lined the streets, when suddenly three shots rang out (Raamta and Kasier). John F Kenned was hit in the neck and in the head and governor Connally was hit in the back. Kennedy died less than half an hour later (Raatma). That afternoon the Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in and would take Kennedy’s place for the rest of his presidency term. The person who killed Kennedy was a man by the name Lee Harvey Oswald. It is thought that he assassinated Kennedy for a large sum of money, but the truth never came out because he was killed a few days after Kennedy was shot (Kasier).
John F Kennedy accomplished many wonderful things while being in the White House but what most people remember the most about him is how he encouraged everyone to better our country and to always help one another. Kennedy did not get to serve a long term but some of the things he said, and his actions stick with Americans today and help the country succeed. “Ask not what your country can do for you…ask what you can do for you country,” John F Kennedy.