John F Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917–November 22, 1963), often referred to as Jack Kennedy or JFK, was the 35th (1961–1963) President of the United States. He was one of the youngest men ever elected president, the first United States President born in the 20th century, and the youngest president ever to die in office. He was assassinated after two years and 10 months as chief executive. The world mourned Kennedy's death, and presidents, prime ministers, and members of royalty walked behind the casket at his funeral.
Due to his energy, charisma, style, and Cold War leadership, as well as his untimely death, Kennedy remains one of the most popular presidents of the 20th century.
Early life and education
Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald. As a young man he attended Choate Rosemary Hall, a boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut. In the fall of 1935, he enrolled in Princeton University, but was forced to leave during Christmas break after contracting jaundice. Next fall, he began attending Harvard University. Kennedy traveled to Europe twice during his years at Harvard, visiting the United Kingdom, while his father was serving as ambassador to that country. In 1938, Kennedy wrote his honors thesis on the British portion of the Munich Pact. He graduated cum laude from Harvard in June 1940 (His thesis, however, earned a magna cum laude). In 1937, Kennedy began taking steroids to control colitis. By 1938, he had developed osteoporosis of the lower lumbar spine.  (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1276266)
In the spring of 1941, Kennedy volunteered for the U.S. Army, but was rejected, mainly because of his troublesome back. However, he had his father pull some strings and the U.S. Navy accepted him in September of that year. He participated in various commands in the Pacific Theater and earned the rank of lieutenant, commanding a patrol torpedo boat or PT boat.
On August 2, 1943, Kennedy's boat, the PT-109, was cruising west of New Georgia (near the Solomon Islands) when it was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. Kennedy was thrown across the deck, injuring his already troubled back. Still, Kennedy somehow towed a wounded man three miles through the ocean, arriving on an island where his crew was subsequently rescued. For these actions, Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal under the following citation
Kenendy's other decorations of the Second World War include the Purple Heart, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged in early 1945, just a few months before the Japanese surrender.
In May 2002 a National Geographic expedition found what is believed to be the wreckage of the PT-109 in the Solomon Islands  (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/07/0709_020710_kennedyPT109.html).
Early political career
After World War II, Kennedy entered politics (partly to fill the void of his popular brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., on whom his family had pinned many of their hopes upon but who was killed in the war). In 1946, Representative James M. Curley vacated his seat in an overwhelmingly Democratic district to become mayor of Boston and Kennedy ran for that seat, beating his Republican opponent by a large margin. He was reelected two times, but had a mixed voting record, often diverging from President Harry S. Truman and the rest of the Democratic Party.
In 1952, Kennedy ran for the Senate with the slogan "Kennedy will do more for Massachusetts." In an upset victory, he defeated Republican incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. by a margin of about 70,000 votes. Kennedy opposed fellow Senator Joseph McCarthy's aggressive campaign to root out supposed Communists and Soviet spies in the U.S. government. McCarthy had been a friend of Kennedy's father, and his younger brother Robert F. Kennedy briefly worked for McCarthy. Although Kennedy was ill during the 65–22 vote to censure McCarthy, he had helped coordinate it.
Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier on September 12, 1953. He underwent several spinal operations in the two following years, nearly dying, and was often absent from the Senate. During this period, he published Profiles in Courage, highlighting eight instances in which U.S. Senators risked their careers by standing by their personal beliefs. The book was awarded the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.
In 1956, Kennedy campaigned for the Vice Presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention, but convention delegates selected Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver instead. However, Kennedy's efforts helped bolster the young Senator's reputation within the party.
1960 Presidential election
In 1960, Kennedy declared his intent to run for President of the United States. In the Democratic primary election, he faced challenges from Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas and Adlai Stevenson II, the Democratic nominee in 1952 and 1956 who was not officially running but was a favorite write-in candidate. Kennedy won key primaries like Wisconsin and West Virginia and landed the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in 1960.
On July 13, 1960 the Democratic party nominated Kennedy as its candidate for president. Kennedy asked Lyndon Johnson to be his Vice Presidential candidate, despite clashes between the two during the primary elections. Somewhat to Kennedy's staff's dismay, Johnson accepted.
In September and October, Kennedy debated Republican candidate Vice President Richard Nixon in the first ever televised presidential debates. During the debates, Nixon looked tense and unshaven and Kennedy composed and handsome, leading many to deem Kennedy the winner, although historians consider the two evenly matched as orators. The debates are considered a political landmark: the point at which the medium of television played an important role in politics and looking presentable on camera became of paramount importance for presidential candidates.
In the general election on November 8 1960, Kennedy beat Nixon in a very close race. At the age of forty-three, he was the youngest man elected President (although Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest to be president, he first came to office by succeeding William McKinley when the latter was assassinated) and the first Roman Catholic.
John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President on January 20, 1961. In his inaugural address he spoke of the need for all Americans to be active citizens. "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," he said. He also asked the nations of the world to join together to fight what he called the "common enemies of man... tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself."
On April 17, 1961, the Kennedy administration implemented a modified version of Kennedy predecessor Dwight D. Eisenhower's plan to depose Fidel Castro, the socialist leader of Cuba. With support from the CIA, in what is known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, 1,500 Cuban exiles returned to the island to depose Castro, but the Kennedy administration had overestimated popular resistance to Castro and the exiles did not rally the Cuban people as expected.
By April 19, Castro's government had killed or captured most of the exiles and Kennedy was forced to negotiate for the release of 1,189 of them. After 20 months, Cuba released the exiles in exchange for $53 million in food and medicine. The incident was a major embarrassment for Kennedy, but he took full responsibility for the debacle (See Bay of Pigs Invasion for more information).
On August 13, 1961, the Soviet-controlled East German regime erected a wall separating East Berlin from the Western sector of the city, in order to halt the exodus of people fleeing from forced collectivization. While this action was in violation of the "Four Powers" agreements, Kennedy initiated no action to have it dismantled, and did little to reverse or halt the eventual extension of this barrier to a length of 155 km.
These events led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which began on October 14, 1962 when American U-2 spy planes took photographs of the construction site of a Soviet nuclear missile site in Cuba. Kennedy faced a dire dilemma: if the U.S. attacked the sites it would likely have led to nuclear war with Russia. If the U.S. did nothing, it would endure the perpetual threat of tactical nuclear weapons within its region, in such close proximity, that if launched pre-emptively, the U.S. may have been unable to retaliate. Another fear was that the U.S. would appear to the world as weak.
Many military officials and cabinet members pressed for an air assault on the missile sites but Kennedy ordered a naval blockade and began negotiations with the Russians. A week later, he and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev reached an agreement. Khrushchev agreed secretly to remove the missiles if the U.S. both agreed never to invade Cuba, and removed its missiles six months later from Turkey.
Following this incident, which brought the world closer to nuclear war than at any point before or since, Kennedy was cautious in confronting Soviet totalitarianism. On June 26, 1963, he visited West Berlin and gave a public speech criticizing the construction of the Berlin Wall. The speech is known for its famous phrase "Ich bin ein Berliner".
Kennedy, however, did seek to contain the spread of communism. He sensed a growing communist threat to the South Vietnamese government and sent military advisers and finally U.S. troops to the area, beginning the Vietnam War.
Arguing that "those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable", Kennedy sought to contain communism in Latin America, by establishing the Alliance for Progress, which sent aid to troubled countries in the region and sought greater human rights standards in the region.
Troubled by the long-term dangers of radioactive contamination and nuclear weapons proliferation, Kennedy also pushed for the adoption of a Limited or Partial Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited atomic testing in the atmosphere. The United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union were the initial signatories to the Treaty. Kennedy signed the Treaty into law in 1963, and believed it to be one of the greatest accomplishments of his administration.
Another example of Kennedy's belief in the ability of nonmilitary power to improve the world was the creation of the Peace Corps, one of his first acts as president. Through this program, which still exists today, Americans volunteered to help underdeveloped nations in areas such as education, farming, health care, and construction.
One of the most pressing domestic issues of Kennedy's era was the turbulent end of racial discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in 1954 that segregation in public schools would no longer be permitted. However, there were many schools, especially in southern states, that did not obey this decision. There also remained the practice of racial segregation on buses, in restaurants, movie theaters, and other public places.
Thousands of Americans of all races and backgrounds joined together to protest this discrimination. Kennedy supported racial integration and civil rights, and called the jailed Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s wife during the 1960 campaign, which drew much black support to his candidacy. However, as president, Kennedy initially believed the grassroots movement for civil rights would only anger many Southern whites and make it even more difficult to pass civil rights laws through Congress, which was dominated by Southern Democrats, and he distanced himself from it. As a result, many civil rights leaders viewed President Kennedy as unsupportive of their efforts, and some accuse it of being part of a re-election strategy.
Support of space programs
Kennedy was eager for the United States to lead the way in exploring outer space. The Soviet Union was ahead of the United States in its knowledge of space travel and Kennedy was determined that the U.S. could catch up. He said, "No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space." Kennedy asked Congress to approve more than twenty two billion dollars for Project Apollo, which had the goal of landing an American man on the moon before the end of the decade. "We choose to go to the Moon and to do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard," Kennedy said. Six years after Kennedy's death, this goal was finally realized.
Supreme Court appointments
Kennedy appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:
Image, social life and family
Both Kennedy and his wife "Jackie," were very young when compared to earlier presidents and first ladies, and were both extraordinarily popular in ways more common to pop singers and movie stars than politicians, influencing fashion trends and becoming the subjects of numerous photo spreads in popular magazines.
The Kennedys brought a new life and vigor to the atmosphere of the White House. They believed that the White House should be a place to celebrate American history, culture, and achievement and invited artists, writers, scientists, poets, musicians, actors, Nobel Prize winners and athletes to visit. Jacqueline Kennedy also gathered new art and furniture and eventually restored all the rooms in the White House.
The White House also seemed like a more fun, youthful place, because of the Kennedys' two young children, Caroline and John Jr. (who came to be known in the popular press, erroneously, as "John-John"). Outside the White House Lawn, the Kennedys established a pre-school, swimming pool, and tree-house.
Information revealed after John F. Kennedy's death leaves no doubt that he had at least one, and probably several extramarital affairs while in office, including liaisons in the White House with some female staff and visitors. In his era, though, such issues were not considered fit for publication, and in Kennedy's case, they were never publicly discussed during his life.
The "charisma" Kennedy and his family projected posthumously led to the figurative designation of "Camelot" for his administration.
Assassination and aftermath
John Connally in the Presidential limousine shortly before the assassination.
President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, while on a political trip through Texas. This was a shattering and extraordinary event in the lives of most Americans who lived through it; "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" was a frequent question in the years that followed, and could still be heard for many decades afterwards.
Lee Harvey Oswald, apprehended for the assassination, was himself fatally shot by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner with some ties to organized crime, before he could be formally charged or brought to trial. Four days after Kennedy and Oswald were killed, President Lyndon B. Johnson created the Warren Commission, chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren, to investigate the assassination. See John F. Kennedy assassination for further details of the circumstances surrounding Kennedy's death.
Kennedy's life and the subsequent conspiracy theories surrounding his death have been the inspiration for many films. Recent ones include Nigel Turner's 1988 mini series The Men Who Killed Kennedy, Oliver Stone's 1991 blockbuster, JFK, and 1993's JFK: Reckless Youth, which looked at Kennedy's early years.
In November 2002 long-secret medical records were made public, revealing Kennedy's physical ailments were more severe than previously thought. He was in constant pain from fractured vertebrae despite multiple medications, in addition to suffering from severe digestive problems and Addison's disease. Kennedy received multiple injections of procaine before public events in order to appear healthy. Kennedy's spine was subject to osteoporosis triggered by injections of corticosteroids; this led to him using a brace to help support the crumbling vertebrae of his lower back. It has been postulated that he was wearing such a brace on the day of his assassination — after being hit for the first time, his body would have normally slumped into a position in the vehicle which would have protected him from further shots. However, the brace held his body upright, giving the assassin enough time to get off the shot which caused extreme head trauma.
Kennedy's portrait appears on the U.S. half dollar.
Kennedy is the shortest-living president, at 46 years and 177 days.