Kennedy was born on May 29,1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was the second of nine children of Joseph Patrick Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. "The other children in the family were Joseph, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, Jean, and Edward. "(Encarta' 95). "The Kennedys were an active family. With 11 people in the house, someone was always busy. The children took swimming, sailing, and tennis lessons. "(Potts, Steve - 7). The Kennedy family had long been active in politics. His brothers Robert and Edward Kennedy also entered politics.
Kennedy's both grand fathers had been active in politics. His father was a self-made millionaire. He served as first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and as U. S. ambassador to Great Britain during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Kennedy's family called him jack. He and his older brother Joe were strong rivals. Jack was quiet and often shy, but held his owns in fights with Joe. "The boys enjoyed playing touch football. "(The World Book Encyclopedia, 261). His childhood was full of sports, fun and activity.
This all ended when he grew up old enough to leave for school. Kennedy attended elementary schools in Brookline and Riverdale. "In 1930, when he was 13 years old, his father sent him to the Canterbury School in New Milford, Conn. " (The World Book Encyclopedia, 261). One year later, he transferred to Choate Academy in Wallingford, Coon. He graduated from Choate in 1935 at the age of 18. He was promised a trip to London as a graduation gift but he became ill with jaundice and would have to go to the hospital. He spent the rest of the summer trying to recover.
He was not entirely well when he started Princeton, several weeks later in the fall of 1935. The jaundice returned and he had to drop out of school. Before the next school year began, he told his father he wanted to go to Harvard. He entered Harvard University in 1936. There he majored in government and international relations. At Harvard, he tried to explain in his senior thesis why Britain had not been ready for war. Kennedy began to send his paper to publishers, and it was accepted on his second try. Wilfrid Funk published it under the title Why England Slept. It became a bestseller.
He became a literary sensation. "In the spring of 1941, both John and Joe, Jr. decided to enroll in the armed service. " (Reevs, Thomas C. , 37)Joe was accepted but John was turned down. He hoped to fight in the WWII but he was rejected by the U. S. Army because of his back trouble and history of illness. He reapplied after five months program of special exercise and was accepted into the Navy as a desk clerk in Washington. He was disgusted and applied for a transfer. Kennedy was sent to Naval Officers Training School at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in 1941.
Later he was sent for additional training at the Motor Torpedo Boat Center at Melville, Rhode Island. In late April 1943, he was put in command of a PT 109 in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. Kennedy saw action in the form of night patrols and participated in enemy bombings. "On August 1, 1943, during a routine night patrol, a Japanese destroyer collided in the darkness with Kennedy's craft and the PT 109 was sunk. " (Falkolf, Lucille - 7). Kennedy heroically swam back and forth rescuing his wounded crew. Two were killed in the crash.
The injury once again aggravated his back. Still, Kennedy pushed on swimming from island to island in the South Pacific hoping for a patrol to come by. Kennedy had no idea he had been in the water for eight hours. Finally, an island was spotted that could provided cover from Japanse planes. Kennedy realized that he and the crew must move on. He gathered the crew to move to another island in search of food. Kennedy swam for the next four days along a water route that he knew American ships used. Kennedy was now desperate enough to seek help from natives on a Japanese controlled island.
He persuaded the natives to deliver a message written on the back of a coconut shell to allied forces. "The coconut fell into the hands of allied scouts and a patrol was sent. "(Encarta' 95) Kennedy and his crew were finally rescued. "For his courage, endurance, and excellent leadership, Kennedy received the U. S. Navy and Marine Corps medal, awarded for heroism not involving conflict with the enemy. "(Encarta' 95). John soon contracted malaria. He became ill. Then, he returned to the United States for medical.
During recovery, Kennedy knew that his brother Joe, Jr. had been killed in action. Kennedy put his feelings onto paper and a second book was published for the family and close friends. " (Reevs, Thomas C. , 11). He called it "As We Remember Joe. " Kennedy's father had assumed that Joe, Jr. would go into politics. Both of his grandfathers had been active in politics. Now, Kennedy was the oldest Kennedy of his generation. His first chance in politics came when Congressman James Curley from the 11th District of Massachusetts decided to retire. It was his first Congressional seat by a margin of more than two to one. He was placed on the front page of the New York Times and in Time Magazine.
He was often mistaken in Congress as a Senate page or an elevator operator. Later he ran against nine other candidates. He won the primary with 42 percent of the votes. He served three terms in the House of Representatives, during the Democratic Administrations of President harry S. Truman. He supported legislation that would serve the interests of his constituents. He also joined with Republicans in criticizing the Truman administration's handling of China. Kennedy easily won reelection to Congress in 1948 and 1950.
"In 1952 he decided to run against incumbent Republican Senator henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. Because Kennedy was little know outside his congressional district. " (Encarta' 95). He began his campaign two years before the election and met thousands of people throughout Massachusetts. The entire Kennedy family took part in the campaign. Kennedy defeated Lodge by 70, 000 votes. Kennedy married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier on September 12, 1953, at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newport, Rhode Island. He had three children. One daughter and two sons. Kennedy's youngest son died in less than 48 hours after his birth. Kennedy underwent a spinal-disk operation in less than a year after his marriage.
Soon after that, a second back operation was performed. He wrote "Profiles in Courage" during this time. A book of essays on American politicians who risked their careers fighting for just but unpopular causes. It was published in 1956. This book received the Pulitzer Prize in 1957. Many people had known little about Kennedy came to admire him because of the success of "Profiles in Courage. " In 1957, Kennedy became a member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he later won a place on the Senate Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor Management Field.
His brother Robert served as chief counsel in the same Committee. In 1958, he spent many of his weekends campaigning for reelection in Massachusetts. "His Margin of victory, 874, 000 votes, was the largest ever recorded in a Massachusetts senatorial contest. " (Encarta' 95). Kennedy now began speaking out on foreign affairs. He was a severe critic of France's refusal to make concessions to its colony, Algeria. He advocated Algerian independence. Kennedy wanted the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination. He began working for it and faced several major obstacles.
Many party leaders considered him too young and too inexperienced for the presidency. Many also doubted that a Roman Catholic could win a national election in a country that was mostly Protestant. Kennedy won most of the larger states in the northeastern United States. "The election drew a record 69 million voters to the polls, but Kennedy won by only 113, 000 votes. "(Encarta' 95). He won49. 7 percent of the popular vote, and Nixon won 49. 6 percent. Kennedy received 303 electoral votes to Nixon's 219. Kennedy was inaugurated on January 20, 1961.
In his inaugural address he emphasized America's revolutionary heritage. "The same... beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe," Kennedy said. "Let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans-born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage-and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. (Encarta' 95)
The words of his address were, "Ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country. "(The World Book Encyclopedia, 268). "During Kennedy's first year in office, the Congress of the United States passed a major housing bill, a law increasing the minimum wage, and a bill granting federal aid to the country's economically depressed areas. "(Schlesinger, Arthur Meier-17). Kennedy also oversaw a bill creating the Peace Corps. After his initial success with Congress, Kennedy found it increasingly difficult to get his programs enacted into law.
Although the Democrats held a majority in both legislative houses, Southern Democrats joined with conservative Republicans to stop legislation they dislike. With one bill, however, Congress dedicated more than $1 billion to finance sending a man to the moon. The major American legal and moral conflict during Kennedy's three years in office was in the area of civil rights for black citizens. Although "Kennedy was in no way responsible for the growth of the civil rights movement, he attempted to aid the cause by enforcing existing laws.
He also asked Congress to pass a civil rights bill that would guarantee blacks the rights to vote, to attend public school, to have equal access to jobs, and to have access to public accommodations. "(Schlesinger, Arthur Meier-59). "In the late 1950s and early 1960s the government of Cuba under fidel Castro became increasingly hostile to the United States. When Castro began to proclaim his belief in Communism, many Cubans fled to the United States. " (Encarta' 95). In 1961 a secret project begun during the previous administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower culminated.
Under the training of the Central Intelligence Agency, more than 1000 Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at a place called the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). "In Cuba both the bay of pigs occurred, in which U. S. supported rebels revolted in a poorly laid out plan of events that fell out beneath them, and the Cuban Missile Crisis in which the Soviet Republic were building missile silos in Cuba, 100 miles away from Florida. "(Encarta' 95). The Space Race was in full force with both Russia and the U. S. in competition to reach the moon during this time. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the world's largest approach to nuclear war.
In 1960 Khrushchev decided to supply Cuba with nuclear missiles that would put the eastern United States within range of nuclear missile attack. In 1962 U. S. spy planes flying over Cuba spotted the first missile. Kennedy demanded that the USSR remove the weapons. United troops prepared to invade Cuba, but after a few tense days Khrushchev promised not to invade Cuba. The United States signed a limited nuclear test ban treaty with Britain and the USSR, outlawing nuclear explosions in the atmosphere or underwater, but allowing them underground.
"John F. Kennedy was shot to death by an assassin on Nov. 2. 1963, as he rode through the streets of Dallas, Texas. " (The World Book Encyclopedia, 266). Two shots were fired in rapid succession. One bullet passed through the president's neck and struck Governor Connally in the back. The other bullet struck the president in the head. His car sped to Parkland Hospital but doctors couldn't save his life. He was pronounced dead at 1:00 p. m. Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated him. Oswald was charged with the murder and arrested that afternoon. Two days after, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot Oswald while being moved from the city to the county jail.
Millions of television viewers saw Ruby kill Oswald, who was under police guard. On November 24, the body of President Kennedy was carried on a horse-drawn carriage from the White House to the Rotunda of the Capitol. Thousands of people filed past the coffin of the president. The state funeral of President Kennedy was watched on television by millions around the World. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Kennedy was the first President to be born in the twentieth century and was very much a man of his time.
He was restless, seeking, with a thirst of knowledge, and he had a feeling of deep commitment, not only to the people of the United States, but to the people of the world. Many of the causes he fought for exist today because of what he did for the rights of minorities, the poor, the very old and the very young. He never took anything for granted and worked for everything he owned. Perhaps Kennedy summed up his life best in his own inaugural speech: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country. "(The World Book Encyclopedia, 268). He was a very loved and respected president and will truly be missed.