- NAME: John F. Kennedy
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist, U.S. President, U.S. Representative
- BIRTH DATE: May 29, 1917
- DEATH DATE: November 22, 1963
- EDUCATION: The Choate School, Harvard College
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Brookline, Massachusetts
- PLACE OF DEATH: Dallas, Texas
- Full Name: John Fitzgerald Kennedy
- AKA: JFK
- AKA: John F. Kennedy
- Nickname: "Jack"
- AKA: Jack Kennedy
Best Known For
John F. Kennedy, the 35th U.S. president, negotiated the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and initiated the Alliance for Progress. He was assassinated in 1963.
John F. Kennedy - Full Biography (44:08)
John F. Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the second child of Joseph Patrick and Rose Kennedy. Rose Kennedy taught her son a love of American history and politics.
Considered an underdog candidate, John F. Kennedy decided to focus on looking and acting presidential. When he faced Richard Nixon in America's first televised debates, he won over the public with his confidence and charm.
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
John F. Kennedy is remembered for challenging the American people: to put a man on the moon, to put aside racial prejudices, to join a volunteer corps. This special explores the life and legacy of the 35th President.
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Bored by the Massachusetts-specific issues on which he had to spend much of his time, Kennedy was more drawn to the international challenges posed by the Soviet Union's growing nuclear arsenal and the Cold War battle for the hearts and minds of Third World nations. In 1956, Kennedy was very nearly selected as Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson's running mate, but was ultimately passed over for Estes Kefauver from Tennessee. Four years later,
Kennedy decided to run for president.
In the 1960 Democratic primaries, Kennedy outmaneuvered his main opponent, Hubert Humphrey, with superior organization and financial resources. Selecting Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate, Kennedy faced Vice President Richard Nixon in the general election. The election turned largely on a series of televised national debates in which Kennedy bested Nixon, an experienced and skilled debater, by appearing relaxed, healthy and vigorous in contrast to his pallid and tense opponent. On November 8, 1960, Kennedy defeated Nixon by a razor-thin margin to become the 35th President of the United States of America.
Kennedy's election was historic in several respects. At the age of 43, he was the second youngest American president in history, second only to Theodore Roosevelt, who was elected at 42. He was also the first Catholic president and the first president born in the 20th century. Delivering his legendary inaugural address on January 20, 1961, Kennedy sought to inspire all Americans to more active citizenship. "Ask not what your country can do for you," he said. "Ask what you can do for your country."
Kennedy's greatest accomplishments during his brief tenure as president came in the arena of foreign affairs. Capitalizing on the spirit of activism he had helped to ignite, Kennedy created the Peace Corps by executive order in 1961. By the end of the century, over 170,000 Peace Corps volunteers would serve in 135 countries. Also in 1961, Kennedy created the Alliance for Progress to foster greater economic ties with Latin America, in hopes of alleviating poverty and thwarting the spread of communism in the region.
Kennedy also presided over a series of international crises. On April 15, 1961, he authorized a covert mission to overthrow leftist Cuban leader Fidel Castro with a group of 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban refugees. Known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the mission proved an unmitigated failure, causing Kennedy great embarrassment.
In August 1961, to stem massive waves of emigration from Soviet-dominated East Germany to American ally West Germany via the divided city of Berlin, Khrushchev ordered the construction of the Berlin Wall, which became the foremost symbol of the Cold War.
However, the greatest crisis of the Kennedy administration was the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Discovering that the Soviet Union had sent ballistic nuclear missiles to Cuba, Kennedy blockaded the island and vowed to defend the United States at any cost.
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There's no such thing as royalty in the United States, but if anyone has ever come close to that level, it's the Kennedy family. For 64 years, Washington had at least one Kennedy in public office. Descended from Irish Catholics who fled the potato famine, the family has a strong tradition in the Democratic party, the most prominent member being President John F. Kennedy. In addition to fame and political power, the Kennedy clan has had more than its fair share of tragedy—several members of the family have died in accidents and assassinations, in what's been called the "Kennedy curse."
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