John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often 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 the majority of his work as president concerned relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba. A Democrat, Kennedy represented Massachusetts in both houses of the U.S. Congress prior to becoming president.Kennedy was born into a wealthy, political family in Brookline, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University in 1940, before joining the U.S. Naval Reserve the following year. During World War II, he commanded a series of PT boats in the Pacific theater and earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his service. After a brief stint in journalism, Kennedy represented a working-class Boston district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953. He was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate and served as the junior senator for Massachusetts from 1953 to 1960. While in the Senate, Kennedy published his book, Profiles in Courage, which won a Pulitzer Prize. In the 1960 presidential election, he narrowly defeated Republican opponent Richard Nixon, who was the incumbent vice president. Kennedy’s humor, charm, and youth in addition to his father’s money and contacts were great assets in the campaign. Kennedy expertly presented his platform and himself using a new medium, television. Kennedy was the first Catholic elected president.Kennedy's administration included high tensions with communist states in the Cold War. As a result, he increased the number of American military advisers in South Vietnam. The Strategic Hamlet Program began in Vietnam during his presidency. In April 1961, he authorized an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro in the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. Kennedy authorized the Cuban Project in November 1961. He rejected Operation Northwoods (plans for false flag attacks to gain approval for a war against Cuba) in March 1962. However, his administration continued to plan for an invasion of Cuba in the summer of 1962. The following October, U.S. spy planes discovered 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. He also signed the first nuclear weapons treaty in October 1963. Kennedy presided over the establishment of the Peace Corps, Alliance for Progress with Latin America, and the continuation of the Apollo space program with the goal of landing a man on the Moon. He also supported the African-American civil rights movement, but was only somewhat successful in passing his New Frontier domestic policies.On November 22, 1963, he was assassinated in Dallas. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the presidency upon Kennedy's death. Marxist and former U.S. Marine Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the state crime, but he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby two days later. The FBI and the Warren Commission both concluded Oswald had acted alone in the assassination, but various groups contested 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 and the Revenue Act of 1964. Despite his truncated presidency, Kennedy ranks highly in polls of U.S. presidents with historians and the general public. His personal life has also been the focus of considerable sustained interest following public revelations in the 1970s of his chronic health ailments and extramarital affairs.
The Kennedy family is one of the most established political families in the United States, having produced a president, three senators, three ambassadors, and multiple other representatives and politicians, both at the federal and state level. While a Congressman, Kennedy embarked on a seven-week trip to India, Japan, Vietnam, and Israel in 1951, at which point he became close with his then 25-year-old brother Bobby, as well as his 27-year-old sister Pat. Because they were several years apart in age, the brothers had previously seen little of each other. This 25,000-mile (40,000 km) trip was the first extended time they had spent together and resulted in their becoming best friends. Bobby would eventually play a major role in his brother's career, serving as his brother's Attorney General and presidential advisor. Bobby would later run for president in 1968 before his assassination, while another Kennedy brother, Ted, ran for president in 1980.Kennedy came in third (behind Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa) in Gallup's List of Widely Admired People of the 20th century. Kennedy was a life member of the National Rifle Association.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born outside Boston in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 29, 1917, at 83 Beals Street, to Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., a businessman and politician, and Rose Kennedy (née Fitzgerald), a philanthropist and socialite. His paternal grandfather, P. J. Kennedy, served as a Massachusetts state legislator. Kennedy's maternal grandfather and namesake, John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, served as a U.S. Congressman and was elected to two terms as Mayor of Boston. All four of his grandparents were children of Irish immigrants. Kennedy had an elder brother, Joseph Jr., and seven younger siblings: Rosemary, Kathleen ("Kick"), Eunice, Patricia, Robert ("Bobby"), Jean, and Edward ("Ted").Kennedy lived in Brookline for the first ten years of his life. He attended the local St. Aidan's Church, where he was baptized on June 19, 1917. He was educated through the 4th grade at the Edward Devotion School, the Noble and Greenough Lower School, and the Dexter School; all located in the Boston area. JFK's earliest memories involved accompanying his grandfather Fitzgerald on walking tours of historic sites in Boston and discussions at the family dinner table about politics, sparking his interest in history and public service. His father'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 1927, the Dexter School announced it would not reopen before October after an outbreak of polio in Massachusetts. In September, the family decided to move from Boston by "private railway car" to the Riverdale neighborhood of New York City. Several years later, his brother Robert told Look magazine that his father had left Boston because of signs that read: "No Irish Need Apply." The family spent summers and early autumns at their home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, a village on Cape Cod, where they enjoyed swimming, sailing, and touch football. Christmas and Easter holidays were spent at their winter retreat in Palm Beach, Florida. Young John attended the Riverdale Country School – a private school for boys – from 5th to 7th grade, and was a member of Boy Scout Troop 2 in Bronxville, New York. In September 1930, Kennedy, then 13 years old, was shipped off to 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.In September 1931, Kennedy started attending Choate, a prestigious 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. Their most notorious stunt was exploding a toilet seat with a powerful firecracker. In the next chapel assembly, the strict headmaster, George St. John, brandished the toilet seat and spoke of certain "muckers" who would "spit in our sea". Defiantly Kennedy took a cue and named his group "The Muckers Club", which included roommate and lifelong friend Kirk LeMoyne "Lem" Billings.During his years at Choate, Kennedy was beset by health problems that culminated with his emergency hospitalization in 1934 at Yale New Haven Hospital, where doctors suspected leukemia. In June 1934, he was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota; the ultimate diagnosis there was colitis. Kennedy graduated from Choate in June of the following year, finishing 64th in a class of 112 students. He had been the business manager of the school yearbook and was voted the "most likely to succeed".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 the United States in October of that year, when he enrolled late and attended Princeton University but had to leave after two months due to a gastrointestinal illness. He was then hospitalized for observation at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. He convalesced further at the family winter home in Palm Beach, then spent the spring of 1936 working as a ranch hand on the 40,000-acre (16,000-hectare) Jay Six cattle ranch outside Benson, Arizona. It is reported that ranchman Jack Speiden worked both brothers "very hard".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." 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".He tried out for the football, golf, and swimming teams and earned a spot on the varsity swimming team. Kennedy also sailed in the Star class and won the 1936 Nantucket Sound Star Championship. In July 1937, Kennedy sailed to France—taking his convertible—and spent ten weeks driving through Europe with Billings. 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.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 SS Athenia before flying back to the U.S. from Foynes, Ireland, 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. In 1940 Kennedy completed his thesis, "Appeasement in Munich", about British negotiations during the Munich Agreement. The thesis eventually became a bestseller under the title Why England Slept. In addition to addressing Britain's unwillingness 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. Kennedy became increasingly supportive of U.S. intervention in World War II, and his father's isolationist beliefs resulted in the latter's dismissal as ambassador to the United Kingdom. This created a split between the Kennedy and Roosevelt families.In 1940, Kennedy graduated cum laude from Harvard 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. In early 1941, Kennedy left and helped his father write a memoir of his time as an American ambassador. He then traveled throughout South America; his itinerary included Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
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The Bell System, in cooperation with NASA, developed the Telstar satellite and participated in the launch and subsequent successful transmission of signals to and from the earth and space.
President Kennedy’s Birthday Salute
President Kennedy's birthday celebration was held at the third Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, and more than 15,000 people attended, including numerous celebrities. The event was a fundraising ...
A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy
There is a tour of the White House. John F. The First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Kennedy, was on a tour of the recently renovated White House. On February 14, 1962, it was broadcast on CBS and NB...
A film was made about the primary elections. Kennedy and Humphrey were together in 1960. Primary is the first documentary to use light equipment in order to follow their subjects in a more intimate wa...
1 TV show
Startime is an anthology show of drama, comedy, and variety, and was one of the first American television shows broadcast in color. The program was aired Tuesday nights in the United States on the NBC...
1 TV show
Person to Person
Person to Person is a popular television program in the United States that originally ran from 1953 to 1961. Edward R. Murrow hosted it until 1959, interviewing celebrities in their homes from a comfo...
3 Movies · 1 TV show
A Place in History
There is a documentary at the library.
The host revisits historic United States National Party Conventions, highlighting key players and policy presentations, ultimately shaping the next elected president of the United States.
The Unelected Statesman
Billy Graham had an unmistakable voice and was known for his love and devotion to Jesus Christ. His role as a leader of the United States is not well known. Despite never holding public office, Graham...