John Fitzgerald Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

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Statesman and 35th U.S. president (1961-63), born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts; the second of Joseph and Rose Kennedy's nine children.

Kennedy was the youngest man elected president of the United States, dying from an assassin’s bullet after serving less than one term in office.



Kennedy attended private elementary schools, including a year at Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut, and four years at Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut. He spent the summer of 1935 studying at the London School of Economics. He entered Princeton University but was forced to leave during his freshman year because of an attack of jaundice. In the fall of 1936 he enrolled at Harvard University, graduating cum laude in June 1940. During World War II, he commanded a PT (torpedo) boat in the Pacific. When the boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer in August 1943, Kennedy, despite serious injuries, led the surviving crew through miles of perilous waters to safety.



After the war, Kennedy worked for several months in 1945 as a reporter for the Hearst newspapers, covering a conference in San Francisco that established the United Nations. In 1947, he became a Democratic Congressman from Boston, and in 1952, successfully campaigned against Henry Cabot Lodge in Massachusetts to advance to the Senate. He married Jacqueline Bouvier on September 12, 1953, and the couple had two children, Caroline Bouvier (born 1957) and John Fitzgerald (born 1960). Another son, Patrick Bouvier, died shortly after birth in 1963.



While recuperating from back surgery, Kennedy wrote Profiles in Courage (1956), a study of courageous political acts by eight United States senators, which won a Pulitzer Prize. Kennedy campaigned for and nearly gained the Democratic nomination for vice president in 1956, and four years later was a first-ballot nominee for president. A young, handsome and personable candidate with a beautiful wife, Kennedy enjoyed the friendship and support of many high-profile Hollywood celebrities, who helped raise money for his campaign. Kennedy engaged in a series of television debates with the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon, which were seen by millions. After winning the presidency in 1960 by a narrow margin, Kennedy became the 35th president of the United States, the youngest president ever elected, and the first Roman Catholic president.



Kennedy’s economic programs launched the country on its longest sustained expansion since World War II. He promoted social legislation, including a federal desegregation policy in schools and universities, along with Civil Rights reform.

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And in formation of the Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps, he brought Americans to the aid of developing nations.



In the height of the Cold War period, Kennedy displayed moderation and a firm hand in foreign policy. In April 1961, a force of anti-Castro Cubans, under direction of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency prior to Kennedy’s election, failed in their invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Kennedy accepted responsibility for this political misstep, which was considered an enormous setback in foreign relations. At the risk of all-out nuclear war, Kennedy engaged in a showdown with the Soviet Union over its missile installations in Cuba, which were ultimately withdrawn by the Soviets in October, 1962. Kennedy attempted to slow the arms race by negotiating a partial nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union in 1963.



On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated by rifle fire while being driven in an open car through Dallas, Texas. The alleged assassin, 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald, was shot and killed by night club owner Jack Ruby two days later, while under heavy police escort on a jail transfer. Much controversy remains concerning the Kennedy assassination, and speculation about conspiracy theories abounds, despite the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Oswald most likely acted alone.



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