John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Childhood and early teen years
Born on May 29, 1917, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the second of nine children born
to Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph Kennedy, Sr. Never a very healthy baby, John (called
Jack by his family) suffered from chicken pox, measles, whooping cough, and other
childhood diseases. His family was in a constant state of worry that something would
happen and they would lose their son. Growing up, Jack lived a very comfortable
life due to the success of his father and grandparents as politicians. Joseph Kennedy
Sr. encouraged his children, especially the boys, to compete with each other in
games and sports.
As he grew up, Jack attended Choate boarding school. Upon graduation, he studied
briefly at Princeton, then at Harvard and played football there as well, until he
injured his back and was unable to continue playing. During his college career,
his immediate family moved to London, where his father was the US Ambassador to
England. Jack visited his father several times in England, and became increasingly
interested in world politics. He wrote his senior thesis on Great Britain’s lack
of preparedness for the war with Germany.
Entrance into the political world
After graduating college, Jack and his older brother, Joe, both joined the Navy.
Jack became a commander of the PT-109, a patrol torpedo boat, in the South Pacific.
While he was able to survive a Japanese attack on his ship, his brother was not
nearly as lucky, as he died in a plane explosion in Europe the following year. After
the war, JFK returned home and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for courage
and leadership. He decided to run for Congress in Massachusetts, and was elected
in 1946. After serving three successful terms, he was elected to the US Senate in
On the road to presidency
When he was 36 years old, shortly after being elected senator, JFK married Jacqueline
Bouvier, 24. He then discovered he needed two serious operations on his back. While
recuperating, he wrote a book about a few US senators that later won a Pulitzer
prize. His first child, Caroline, was born in 1957. In 1956, after missing the nomination
to run for Vice President by a very close amount, JFK made it a point to run the
following election for President of the United States. Once nominated by the Democratic
party, he chose
Lyndon B Johnson to be his running mate. The pair beat Vice President Richard
Nixon in a very close competition. At the young age of 43, Kennedy was the youngest
person elected President, as well as the first Catholic. JFK and his wife had their
second child, John, shortly before JFK’s inauguration.
Ask not what your country can do for you…
From the second he took office, JFK took the nation by storm. His captivating inauguration
speech, which claimed one should “ask not what your country can do for you, ask
what you can do for your country,” resonated in the hearts and minds of many Americans.
Despite his apparent confidence, the new President had many worries. He understood
that nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union was very possible; if it were
to occur, millions would lose their lives. He walked a tedious line throughout the
entire situation, coming close to war in 1962 over the Cuban Missile Crisis. He
also had to sort through many issues dealing with racial discrimination. In 1954,
the Supreme Court stated that black and white children should attend school together.
However, many schools fought against this severely, as did restaurants, places of
retail, public transit, and the like. JFK proposed a new Civil Rights bill when
the previous one was being ignored, and he even went on TV to appeal to Americans
to end racism in our country.
A life taken too soon
Unfortunately all of the good efforts President Kennedy put forth were abruptly
ended on November 21, 1963. While in Texas giving a speech, Kennedy was shot by
Lee Harvey Oswald. Several days later, before police had a chance to extract adequate
information from Oswald, a man named Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald. Although
many aspects of his death remain a mystery, JFK left a significant impact on the
nation. His strong beliefs in civil rights, the Peace Corps, his encouragement to
move away from the death penalty, and so on would live out long lives in the hearts
of many Americans.
At this site, you can listen to some of President John F. Kennedy’s most important
speeches and peer into the Oval Office through secretly recorded conversations made
by Kennedy during his presidency.