Early Life & Education
Kennedy was born on 29 May 1917 in Brookline in Massachusetts to Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald and was their second son. Kennedy attended Brook line’s Public Edwards Devotion School and Nobel and Greenough Lower School before moving into its successor Dexter school. He graduated from Choate in June 1935 and then went to London in an attempt to study at the London School of Economics (LSE) as his elder brother had studied. He, however, returned to America in October 1935 and enrolled at Princeton University to stay for just six weeks before being hospitalized for two months of observation for possible leukemia at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston.
In 1936 he was admitted to Harvard College and till 1940 he had traveled throughout South America. In 1940, Kennedy completed his thesis about British participation in the Munich Agreement and attended classes at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in the same year. After Education Kennedy, who always wanted to be in US army volunteered to get an entry in the Navy and got an admission there after initial rejection. It was then the Japanese attack occurred on the Pearl Harbor and Kennedy, who was serving in the US navy, emerged as a War Hero.
Entry into Politics
Aftermath of the Second World War, Kennedy, who wanted to be a journalist, decided to step into politics despite the fact that he had never thought about it seriously. In 1946, he contested Congressional elections and defeated his rival Republican by a huge margin and remained in the congress for 6 years before entering the Senate in 1952. In the 1956 presidential election, Kennedy was given a choice for the vice presidential nominee race but finished second in the party. Although, he failed in his run for the post, he received a lot of exposure which proved to be valuable for his political career later. In the same year his book Profiles of Courage was published. The book which described eight events in which U.S. Senators risked their careers by sticking to their personal beliefs, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957. In 1958, Kennedy defeated his Republican opponent by a huge margin and subsequently was re-elected for his second term in the Senate.
On January 2, 1960, Kennedy officially declared that he wanted to take part in the race for President of the country despite his lower position within the party.
In the first televised debate among the Presidential candidates in the US history, a cool and calm, yet always alert Kennedy debated Republican candidate and Vice President Richard Nixon. As it appeared during the debate, in the national popular vote he defeated Richard Nixon; though by a very narrow margin of 0.2%. John F. Kennedy took oath as the 35th President of the United States on 20 January 1961. In his inaugural speech he called for the people of America to fight against the common evils of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war.
One of the most sensitive issues during his presidency was the Cuba Missile Crisis which began on 14 October 1962 when Kennedy was informed of a serious nuclear threat from Cuba. An agreement was reached between the Soviets and the U.S. according to which the Soviets agreed to remove the missiles if America promised never to invade Cuba and removed its missiles stationed at Turkey. The crisis which could have led to a nuclear war between these two countries cautioned the U.S. President against the USSR.
Vietnam crisis took place in early 1963 with Kennedy increasing the number of U.S. military in Vietnam fearing its tie up with communists. Though is believed that he had decided to withdraw the U.S. troops after the 1964 presidential elections, the real situation remains unclear as he was assassinated in the late 1963. John F. Kennedy held strong view against communism and following the division of Germany, Kennedy visited West Berlin on 26 June 1963, where he gave a speech criticizing communism.
Kennedy was believed to have a leading hand in instigating a coup against the government of General Abdel karim Qaseem in Iraq, who had captured the power by overthrowing the Western-allied Iraqi Monarchy. The Kennedy administration helped the new established Baath Party government in the mass killing of suspected communists, which included doctors, teachers, lawyers and political figures.
The Kennedy government’s domestic program the ‘New Frontier’ provided funds for education, health and for the elderly and brought tax reforms, revising the income tax cuts. His major step came with his proposal for a new immigration policy that became known as the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
John F. Kennedy had assumed the power with the promise to end the racial segregation in America and during his two-year presidency he openly supported the African Civil Rights Movements. His constant efforts and intervention resulted in the abolishment of racial segregation in schools, buses and hotels and secured the early release of Martin Luther King from jail. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, just a year after his death.
It was John F. Kennedy who dared to set a goal for his nation as high as landing on moon for the first time in world’s history. He negotiated with the Soviet Union- who was far ahead of America in terms of space technology- in 1961 and 1963 and persuaded Sergei Khrushchev for the joint venture of moon landing. The agreement could not be formalized because of Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 and the first man landed on moon after six years of his death, on 20 July 1969.
Assassination and Funeral
John F. Kennedy was assassinated on 22 November 1963 in Dallas, Texas. He was on a political trip when the assassin Lee Harvey Oswald shot him twice in the neck and head. Lee Oswald was held for the murder, but before he could be indicted or tried he was killed by Jack Ruby on 24 November. An investigation ensued which concluded that Lee Harvey was the lone conspirator though with contradictory statements of eyewitness the real cause still remains disputed. Kennedy’s body was buried at a permanent burial place at Arlington National Cemetery on 14 March 1967. His wife Jacqueline Lee Bouvier and their deceased children were buried at the same place later.
Family & Personal Life
John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier on 12 September 1953. The couple drew media attraction for their love for art and their meeting with high profile writers, intellectuals and artists in White House. The couple led a glamorous life with their popularity that was more like Hollywood Stars rather than Presidents and the First Lady. Kennedy, who was known for his sense of humor, and Jacqueline also experienced many tragedies in their personal life. Jacqueline had a miscarriage in 1955 and a still birth in 1956. Their newborn son died in 1963 just after two days of his birth. Caroline, their daughter and John Jr. were their only children to survive into the adulthood. With John dying in a plane crash in 1999, Caroline became the only surviving member of Kennedy’s family.