John F. Kennedy: The President Who Inspired America

One of the most illustrious presidents that the United States has known, John Fitzgerald Kennedy has carved an insurmountable impact on the modern American society. More than his accomplishments as the 35th U.S. president, Kennedy has won the hearts of many with his articulateness, immeasurable charisma and his staunch governance that emphasized American patriotism and equality. This is how Kennedy transmitted his ebullience among the American people as they responded to his call to “do for your country” more widely and enthusiastically than for any president ever since.

John F Kennedy

Born in 29 May 1917, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the second son born to Joseph Patrick and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. John Fitzgerald, known as Jack to his family, was born on the second floor of a three-story wooden house at 83 Beals Street, Brookline, Massachusetts. In 1917, Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy became wealthy members of Boston’s Irish community, but that wealth did not make them acceptable to Boston’s Protestant elite. To the Boston elite, the Kennedys were still Irish immigrants (Schwab _ Shneidman, 1974, p. 13).

As a little boy, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was praised by everyone for his brightness and his interest in social studies, although his grades were not that good. However, most of his teachers advised that his parents should not worry and attributed the poor performance to the fact that he was frequently ill. Because most rich people looked down on their family, John F. Kennedy’s early education stressed preparation for advancement of a Catholic in an Anglo-Saxon, generally anti-Catholic society (Schlesinger 1985, p. 11).

Despite his “not-so-good” grades in his early education, he applied for admission to Harvard in 1935. Luckily, he was admitted in Harvard College in 1936. During his start in Harvard, John F. Kennedy was an indifferent student but became more interested in his studies following a European summer vacation after his freshman year. A longer stay in Europe in 1939 led to his senior honors paper, “Appeasement in Munich,” which was published the following year as Why England Slept. Because of his diligence, Kennedy graduated from Harvard cum laude in 1940 (Sorensen 1956, p. 11).

After graduating from Harvard in June, 1940, John Kennedy drifted. Although he stated in the Harvard Year Book that he intended to enter Law School, he did nothing about it. The next year, John F. Kennedy enlisted in the U.S. Navy (Sidey, 1964). Unfortunately, his elder brother Joseph was killed in the war. This is why John F. Kennedy took on the responsibility of pursuing his family’s political ambitions. In 1946, he won his first position in the Eleventh Congressional District of Massachusetts, a Democratic stronghold. He was easily elected in November and reelected in 1948 and 1950 (Sorensen 1956, p. 12).

However, Kennedy’s congressional record was unpopular because suffered from an assortment of physical difficulties, the most severe of which was diagnosed in 1947 as Addison’s disease, an illness caused by an adrenal gland malfunction that weakens the body’s immune system. After taking steroids that controlled his Addison’s disease and operations that corrected his back problems, Kennedy’s health improved along with his political career. A scathing speech in 1954 on the French role in Indochina gained him generally favorable publicity. In 1956, his book Profiles in Courage, examining politicians who had retained their principles despite difficult circumstances, won a Pulitzer Prize (Schwab _ Shneidman, 1974, p. 13).

During the years leading up to the 1960 presidential election, Kennedy gained popularity as he spoke frequently on issues related to national defense. He made much of the so-called “missile gap”, alleging that the United States was losing its military advantage over the Soviet Union, although later he retracted the allegation. This gained him the notch at the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination. In the elections, he faced the Republican presidential candidate, Dwight Eisenhower’s vice president, Richard M. Nixon. The election campaign then featured the first televised debates between presidential candidates. In the first debate, Kennedy won decisively. Although the results of the other three debates were more even, Kennedy clearly benefited from the exchanges by overcoming apprehensions about his youth and inexperience and by strengthening his appeal to liberals.

Ultimately, Kennedy won the race. During his presidency, he called upon Congress to reduce taxes in order to stimulate the lagging economy. He also pushed to create the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity and outlawing racial discrimination in federal agencies. When the Cuban missile crisis sparked, Kennedy led the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, jointly signed by the United States and the Soviet Union, together with Great Britain, in August 1963 (Wenger _ Gerber, 1999, p. 460).

However, while Kennedy was making his routine political trip in Dallas, his motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza shortly after noon on 22 November 1963, he was struck in the head and throat by bullets fired from a window on the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository overlooking the plaza. The president was rushed to nearby Parkland Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Shortly after the assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, who reportedly had been seen at the Texas Book Depository, was arrested at a movie theater and accused of the crime. Two days later Oswald was shot and killed at a police station by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub operator (Dallek, 2003). Although he lived a short life, John F, Kennedy lived it to the fullest as he inspired many Americans with his youth and his undying patriotism.

References

Dallek, R. (2003). An unfinished life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963. Boston: Little, Brown _ Company.

Schlesinger Jr., A.M. (1985). A Biographer’s Perspective, in K.W. Thompson (ed.), The Kennedy Presidency, Lanham, Md.: University Press of America.

Schwab, P., _ Shneidman, J. L. (1974). John F. Kennedy. Boston: Twayne Publishers.

Sidey, H. (1964). John F. Kennedy, President, New York: Atheneum.

Sorensen, T.C. (1956). Kennedy, New York: Harper and Row.

Wenger, A., _ Gerber, M. (1999). John F. Kennedy and the Limited Test Ban Treaty: A Case Study of Presidential Leadership. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 29(2), 460.

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