On May 29, 1917, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts at 83 Beals Street.
His mother, Rose Kennedy, was a very organized woman who made entries on note cards for each of her 9 children, consisting of 4 boys and 5 girls. Jack (John Kennedy’s nickname) was the second child. He was named to honor John Francis Fitzgerald, Rose’s father, who was a mayor of Boston. Jack was a sickly baby, and he suffered from childhood ailments such as measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox.
It was especially terrifying when on February 20, 1920, a barely 3-year-old Jack came down with scarlet fever, a life-threatening and contagious disease. His father, Joseph Patrick Kennedy would go to the hospital every day for about a month to be at Jack’s side until he recovered. But Jack was always sickly and he would always be until the rest of his life.
Hardworking Dad Equals A Prosperous Background
When Jack turned 3, the whole Kennedy family transferred to a new residence just a few blocks away from their previous home in Brookline, a community outside Boston. It was a beautiful house with 12 rooms.
Jack’s dad was very hardworking and became a successful businessman. He had pledged to himself while still schooling in Harvard College that he would be a millionaire by the age of 35. He was determined even though fitting in was difficult because they were Irish Catholics and there was a lot of prejudice against them.
Sibling Rivalry Between JFK and Joe
Jack had an elder brother named Joe. Then, after him 4 sisters, in sequence Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, and Patricia. Then Robert, Jean, and Teddy. There were nannies and house servants who helped Rose run the Kennedy household.
Summer was always a happy time for the Kennedys because they would all depart for their vacation place in Hyannis Port at Cape Cod. They swum, sailed, and played touch football.
The Kennedy kids, especially the boys, competed hard against each other. The Dad even encouraged this competition amongst them.
One time, Joe and Jack raced with their bicycles and they collided head-on. Joe had no injury whatsoever but Jack suffered 28 stitches. Joe was 2 years older and usually, when they compete, Joe had the upper hand. But Jack was the only real threat to Joe’s athletic superiority.
John F. Kennedy’s Schooling
John F. Kennedy went to Choate, a boarding school for teenage boys in Connecticut. He was very popular and played various sports like basketball, tennis, football, and golf. He was also an avid reader. Jack even had a daily subscription for the New York Times. He had a witty and independent mind, but he was not the best student, academically. He wouldn’t study as much as he should, in most subjects, except his favorites, English and History.
JFK finished his schooling in Choate and was admitted into Harvard in 1936 where his elder brother Joe was already studying. Jack played football but Joe always excelled more than him in this sport. In his determination to play well, Jack damaged a disk in his spine. His recovery after this incident was not really complete and his back problems continued to plague him the rest of his life.
A Twist of Fate In the Quest For Greatness
It was ironic that it was Joe who exclaimed as a young boy that he will become the first Catholic President of the country. He was pretty sure about that and many people also had this strong feeling about his ambitions. And Jack was more in the shadow of Joe, but nonetheless, he was also active in extracurricular activities and sports and he performed well specifically in his Government and History classes. But his grades were just average overall.
Left Alone Together in the USA
Joe and JFK were the only members of the Kennedy clan who were left in the States when their Dad, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, was selected as USA Ambassador to England. He brought the whole family with him to England, except the 2 who were studying at Harvard.
Due to his father’s overseas government appointment, Jack developed an interest in European politics and also world events. He eventually had a summer vacation to England and other European countries which gave him renewed vigor to elevate his history and government education. He also updated himself with the current happenings around the world.
JFK and Joe consistently received letters from their father informing them about the rising tensions and conflicts in Europe which he fears would escalate into a full-blown war. Hitler of Germany and Mussolini of Italy were the strongmen of Germany and Italy respectively and were harboring ambitions of taking over the land of other countries. And the fears of Joseph Patrick Kennedy became reality when on September 1, 1939, World War II began when Germany invaded Poland.
At around this time, Jack was graduating from Harvard. He wrote a thesis that explained why Great Britain was not prepared for war with Germany. It even became a published book titled Why England Slept.
JFK graduated from Harvard in June 1940. A cablegram from his father gave Jack praise on 2 aspects: That he was a smart guy and a swell guy at the same time.
World War II Service of John F. Kennedy
Not long after college, Jack and Joe both joined the military through the Navy. Joe was a pilot and sent off to missions in Europe. Jack was made a Lieutenant and his designation was in the South Pacific as the commander of the iconic PT-109, a patrol torpedo boat.
Lt. Kennedy, together with his 12 men, were on a mission to halt Japanese ships from transmitting supplies to their soldiers. On August 2, 1943, Jack’s crew was scouting the waters looking for Japanese ships to torpedo. An enemy destroyer came in sight at full speed towards them. Jack tried to swerve the boat away but to no avail.
The Japanese destroyer rammed their boat, splitting it in half. Instantly killed were 2 men and Jack was slammed with a hard force against the cockpit. His back pains came back again because of this. Other crew members jumped off the boat as it burst into flames.
Up until sunrise, Jack was able to find other crew members in the water and towed them back safely on a piece of the boat to a small island that was several miles away. Six days later, Jack carved out a message on a coconut shell which he gave to 2 native islanders who asked for help. The next day, rescuers had reached them.
About a year later, Joe died when his plane blew up during a war mission in Europe.
Upon returning to the USA, JFK was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his extraordinary leadership and courage. With the war about to end, Jack could choose the kind of work he wanted to do. His goals before were to be a writer or a teacher, but the whole scenario has changed with Joe’s untimely passing.
John F. Kennedy’s Political Path, Marriage, And Family
JFK had serious discussions with his father. He was eventually convinced to run for Congress to represent the 11th congressional district of Massachusetts. He won in 1946. He served for 3 terms or a total of 6 years in the House and in 1952, he became a US Senator.
Not long after becoming Senator, 36-year-old JFK married 24-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier, a writer of the Washington Times-Herald.
Early on in their marriage, his back gave him problems again and he underwent 2 major operations. While he was recovering after surgery, he wrote a book about brave US Senators who risked their political careers to fight for principles that they believe in.
That book, Profiles in Courage, was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957. It was also a memorable year for JFK’s family because it was also the year when their first child Caroline, was born.
Jack was becoming very popular in political circles. He was almost selected to run for vice president in 1956. But JFK decided he will run for president in the next election.
In the run-up to the 1960 elections, JFK worked long and hard every day, traveling around the country on weekends. Eventually, on July 13, 1960, he was nominated as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate. Jack asked Lyndon B. Johnson, a Texas senator, to be his vice president.
In the presidential election on November 8, 1960, JFK overpowered Republican Vice President Richard M. Nixon in a very tightly fought race. Jack garnered 2 firsts in becoming president: the first Catholic president and the youngest president at 43. Before he was inaugurated, John Jr., his second child was born.
John F. Kennedy, The 35th President Of The United States
January 20, 1961, was the day JFK was sworn in as president of the country. He asked the American people to know what they can do for the country, not what the country can do for them.
He also asked the people of the world to join with the USA to fight their common enemies: poverty, disease, tyranny, and war.
JFK, together with Jacqueline and their 2 kids, brought a new kind of youthful vibrancy to the White House. They believed in the White House as a place to acknowledge American history, culture, and achievement. Accomplished individuals from all fields, were invited over. Writers, actors, musicians, poets, scientists, athletes, and others were common sights in the White House.
Jacqueline also got her share of the limelight when she gathered some of the finest American art pieces and furniture. She also restored the rooms of the White House to reflect America’s creativity and history.
John F. Kennedy’s Accomplishments as President
***The Cold War
JFK worried much about the possibility of nuclear war between the USA and the Soviet Union. He knew it would be tragic because millions will die. After World War II, the former allies had turned suspicious about each other, but there never was any shooting incident between American and Soviet troops.
It was the Cold War as they called it. It actually was a confrontation between the communist government of the USSR and the democratic government of the USA. Huge amounts of money were spent on nuclear arsenal on both sides. There are many cases when nuclear war could have erupted, like during the 1962 missile crisis with Cuba in the middle which JFK handled with statesmanship and coolness that was unseen before. Or when it concerned the issue over the divided city of Berlin.
JFK was a workaholic. He woke up at 7 am and went to bed at 11 pm or 12 midnight or even later. Six newspapers were always on hand as he ate breakfast. He had meetings throughout the day and got reports from his advisers.
He wanted to get all slices of pertinent data before deciding on anything of national or international consequence. He asked the people to be the new pioneers in the New Frontier. For him, it was not a place but a new fresher way of thinking and acting.
He envisioned the USA to advance into the future with developments in science, education, economics and other fields. He championed democracy and freedom for the whole world.
***The Peace Corps
Do you know that the Peace Corps is a creation of JFK? It still exists up to today and Americans can volunteer to work anywhere in the world where they are needed for their expertise. They help in the niches of education, health care, farming, and construction. Many people throughout the world have had wonderful interactions with Peace Corps volunteers and have developed friendships with them.
When Jack became president, the Soviet Union was leading the pack in space exploration, but he was determined for the USA to catch up and eventually overtake the Soviets. Jack requested and got approved by Congress for a $22 billion budget for Project Apollo. It targeted the goal of landing an American man on the moon before the decade ended.
***Racial Equality and Civil Rights
The USA had several domestic problems during the term of JFK as president. Even though the US Supreme Court had ruled in 1954 that there would be no more segregation in public schools, many schools in the southern states still refused to obey this law. There was segregation everywhere – not only in schools.
JFK believed that holding protests in the streets would only make white people angrier and it would be next to impossible for Congress to be in agreement with him to pass Civil Rights laws. But on June 11, 1963, he asked the American people on TV to end racism, once and for all. He said that even though President Lincoln freed slaves, their heirs and grandsons are not totally free. JFK believes that all Americans, regardless of color, should enjoy a free and happy life.
A Great Presidency Cut Short
November 21, 1963 was the fateful day when JFK was assassinated. He was in Dallas, Texas to give speeches. He was shot while he was in a car waving to people on the street. He was with his wife when it happened.
Lee Harvey Oswald was charged with the murder but on November 24, Jack Ruby, also shot and killed Oswald. The only man who could have given more information has been silenced.
The Warren Commission was formed to investigate the JFK assassination to which many questions have remained until now.
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