John F. Kennedy was born on May 29th, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was born into a wealthy family, where his dad was so rich that he gave Kennedy and his other eight siblings one million dollars after they turned twenty-one years old (Scholastic Encyclopedia of the Presidents 174). Growing up, he had no plans of getting involved in politics, unlike his older brother, Joe, who wanted to pursue a career in government. After attending Harvard from 1936 to 1940, he went on a tour of Latin America and Europe with no specific career plans. However, his travels expanded understanding of world politics, such as the threat of Communism, which was spreading to developing countries (Smith 220).
This broad understanding would later affect his decisions during his presidency with the Communist Soviet Union’s involvement in Cuba during the Cold War, where Kennedy was willing to risk going into a nuclear war with the Soviet Union to stop the importation of nuclear missiles from Russia to Cuba; however, in the end he made an offer in 1962 with the Soviet premier that ended the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1941, Kennedy enters the U.S. armed forces, becoming a PT boat commander in World War II. During an attack, his boat was cut in two by a Japanese destroyer, but he was able to save his crew of ten. For his courage and heroism, he earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal (Smith 220). After serving in the war, Kennedy began working for the International News Service for several months, covering the Potsdam Conference, a United Nations conference, and the British elections of 1945.
However, journalism had lost its appeal for him because “a reporter is too much the spectator and too little the doer,” and felt he had no direction of a career he wanted to go into (Carr, “A Successor to Curley”). After the death of his brother Joe, who was dedicated to politics, Kennedy felt obligated to take his place, and became fully committed to working for the government.In November 1946, Kennedy was elected to the House of Representatives. Then after serving three terms, he was elected to the Senate, defeating Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., in November 1952. Ten months later, on September 12, 1953, JFK married Jacqueline Bouvier.
Jacqueline, or “Jackie,” graduated from George Washington University and met Senator John Kennedy at a dinner party in Georgetown while working as a journalist and photographer (“John F. Kennedy Marries”, 2009). Their first child, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, was born on November 27, 1957. Also during the year of 1957, Kennedy was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his book Profiles in Courage, which he wrote two years prior in 1955, about the history of heroic American senators. Three years after the birth of Caroline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Jr.
was born on November 25, 1960 (“John F. Kennedy”, 2017). His marriage and being a father to two children would affect the public perception in the 1960 election by creating an image of a family man who was a caring and devoted husband. Kennedy began campaigning for the 1960 nomination right after the Democratic convention in 1956.
After winning over seven primary states, Kennedy won the nomination, with Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate. The Republicans nominated Richard M. Nixon as their candidate for the presidency. Nixon had the advantage after having been vice president under Dwight D.
Eisenhower, an extremely popular president, compared to Kennedy’s disadvantages; disadvantages included his youth, his family’s wealth, his inexperience in foreign affairs, and his religion, Roman Catholicism (Smith 222). His religion was considered a disadvantage at the time because of the long history of resistance in America to the Catholic faith; many people believed that a Catholic president would not be able to separate church from state. Some feared that if Kennedy was president he would change marriage laws, where all must be performed by a Catholic priest, and schools, where there would be no more public schools and the law would require students to attend Catholic schools. However, Kennedy and his attractive wife were appealing to the public. The televised debates with Nixon, which marked the first time that presidential candidates debated issues face to face, showed a charming and confident Kennedy to millions of viewers. He defeated Nixon by fewer than 115,000 popular votes, but won a clear majority in the Electoral College, receiving 303 votes to 219 for Nixon (Smith 222). On January 20, 1961, JFK is inaugurated as the thirty-fifth president of the United States, making him the first Catholic president. The election of the first Catholic president would later affect the politics in America by providing more tolerance for different religions to run for high offices in the government.
For example, Catholics who would later run for office, would be Geraldine Ferraro, who ran for vice president in 1984, and John Kerry, for president in 2004. It even led to a Muslim being elected into Congress (“Texas Faith”, 2013). In his inaugural address, Kennedy promised to work for freedom around the world, called for a renewed quest for peace, and asked the American people to give something of themselves, by stating, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
“Just over a month after John F. Kennedy was sworn in, on March 1, 1961, he created the Peace Corps, which sent more than ten thousand young volunteers to developing nations around the world during the next five years. Living in simple quarters, these volunteer health-care workers, teachers, and engineers helped improve local conditions, particularly in agriculture and public health (The United States in the 20th Century 118). In doing this, Americans have made great strides in helping third world countries and made global interaction a priority, making the creation of the Peace Corps one of Kennedy’s greatest accomplishments. During his second year of his term, on October 16, 1962, U.
S. spy planes took photos of Soviet nuclear missile sites under construction in Cuba. Kennedy demanded that the Soviets remove the missiles immediately. He then ordered a naval blockade of Cuba to stop Soviet ships from reaching the Caribbean island to prevent the importation of any other nuclear missiles from Russia.
Twelve days later on October 28, the Cuban Missile Crisis ended when President Kennedy accepted an offer made by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. The Soviets agreed to remove their missiles from Cuba if the United States removed its missiles from Turkey and promised not to invade Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. Another one of Kennedy’s greatest accomplishment was the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, on October 7, 1963, when he signed a treaty with the Soviet Union banning nuclear testing in the atmosphere, space, or underwater, which was an important step toward the control of nuclear weapons