A Political Biography On Jfk Essay Research

A Political Biography On Jfk Essay, Research Paper

John Fitzgerald Kennedy has changed the lives of many Americans and their future generations. He fought communism, seen as an evil presence in our wold, in the Soviet Union, Cuba and China. In doing so, he prevented many people of the world from being harmed. Kennedy ensured equality for all Americans, rich or poor, black or white. He led an advance in civil and human rights, and was well liked by many of the American people. He is seen as one of the most influential Presidents ever to have been elected. Many people regard JFK as legacy. He changed the views of American citizens and helped boost the economy, not only in the United States, but globally.

Beginning of political career

Faced with the problem of choosing, a career, Kennedy worked for a few months in 1945 as a reporter for the Hearst newspapers, and during this time, he covered the conference at San Francisco which established the United Nations. While there he noted the belligerent Russian attitude’ ( Lawson, 1998, p. 1) and decided to pursue a career in politics. Early in 1946, he began an aggressive campaign against nine other candidates for a seat in the House of Representatives from the Democratic 11th Massachusetts Congressional District. His election in November of 1946 was an overwhelming success. From there, Kennedy was re-elected in 1948 and 1950. He had a pattern of mixed voting, often disagreeing with many of the policies of President Truman. Kennedy agreed with the administrations Fair Deal policies, fighting for issues such as slum clearance and low-cost public housing. His views on foreign affairs were also strong, and was critical of the President for not restraining the advance of communism in China. Most of Kennedy’s views on politics were first generated and tempered here in the House of Representatives. U.S. Senate

In 1952, Kennedy announced his candidacy for the senate. His opposition was Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., who was a Republican. He once again campaigned vigorously with his new slogan being ” Kennedy will do more for Massachusetts”. (Palmer, 1994, p.86) He won the election by an overwhelming margin. As a senator, Kennedy concentrated first on making good on his campaign slogan. At the end of two years he could list a wide array of legislation he had obtained for Massachusetts businessmen. He expanded his program to cover all of New England and succeeded in uniting the senators from the area into an effective voting bloc. At the same time, he supported the St. Lawrence Seaway and the extension of the reciprocal trade program.

In 1952, shortly after his marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier, Kennedy was troubled by back problems, and as it got worse in 1954 and 1955 , he underwent spinal operations. During his long absence from the senate, he occupied himself by writing a study of notable acts of courage by eight United States senators. This book, published in 1956 entitled Profiles in Courage, received the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957.

After Kennedy returned to work in May 1955, he shifted his attention more and more towards national and international issues. He had previously told a magazine writer, with reference to critis who complain that he was not a “true liberal”, that he would be very happy to tell them that he was not liberal at all. But by 1957, he was taking mildly liberal positions on the difficult question of civil liberties. He helped arrange a compromise between Northern and Southern positions on the civil rights bill passed in 1957. In Jackson Miss., he frankly asserted that he accepted the Supreme Court decision of 1954 on desegregation of the nation’s public schools.

Campaign for president

Beginning in 1956, Kennedy aimed toward higher office. In the Democratic Convention of that year he almost retracted the vice-presidential nomination for Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. After the election he began speaking frequently throughout the country, and many writers began to speculate whether a Roman Catholic could be elected president.

In 1958, Kennedy was re-elected to the Senate by a margin of more than 874,000 votes. This firmly established him as a leading contender for the presidential nomination. In January 1960, he formally announced his candidacy. Backed again by a formidable personal organization, he defeated Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, Jr., of Minnesota and other rivals in several hard fought primaries. At the convention he deployed his forces so skillfully against those of Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas and Adali E. Stevenson that he was nominated on the first ballot. He then asked Johnson to run with him for vice-president.

In accepting the nomination, Kennedy declared that “We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier,” thus giving a name to his program. In the campaign against his republican opponent, Vice President Richard Nixon, he took positions that, while middle of the road, were somewhat more liberal than those held by Nixon, and defended them vigorously in a campaign across the nation.

When he appeared in a unique series of television debates with Vice President Nixon, his mature appearance undercut Republican arguments that he was too young and inexperienced for such high office. Although public opinion polls predicted his victory, he was elected president by a margin of only 119,450 votes out of the nearly 69 million that were cast. His electoral vote was 303 to 219 for Nixon.

Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic to become president of the United States and, at the age of 43, the youngest man ever elected to that office, though Ted Roosevelt was some months younger when he took office after the death of William McKinley in 1901. Kennedy’s Catholicism may have helped him in the Eastern industrial states, and he won most of the Democratic South despite it, but the religious question apparently hurt him in the Middle West and West.


Kennedy was inaugurated as president on January 20, 1961. He devoted his entire inaugural address to internal affairs, calling on his fellow citizens to “bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out,…against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.” His address was widely acclaimed as a classic political expression.

Kennedy chose his cabinet to represent the country’s main sections and interests. To reassure business, a Republican, C. Douglas Dillon, was appointed secretary of the treasury, and another Republican, Robert S. McNamara, who had been president of the Ford Motor Company, was named secretary of defense. Dean Rusk, who had headed the Rockefeller Foundation, became the new secretary of state, and Adali Stevenson was appointed ambassador to the United Nations. Robert Francis Kennedy, the president’s Brother, became attorney general.

Prior to the election , Kennedy had planned to present to Congress a sweeping legislative program similar to that of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first “100 days.” The closeness of the election caused him to proceed more cautiously, but in his first months, in office he sent congress a record number of messages proposing broad programs to promote more economic growth, rehabilitate depressed areas, improve upon urban housing and development, reform tax legislation, revise the farm program, conserve and develop natural resources, aid education, and provide better medical care for the aged. In effect, he was establishing his long-range goals. At the time, he obtained little more from congress than relatively short-range legislation to help pull the nation out of a mild recession in 1961.

From there, president Kennedy dealt with many national and international issues. The first came about in June 1961, and had to do with communism, East and West Berlin, the Berlin wall, and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. In October 1962, Kennedy learned of Soviet missile bases under construction in Cuba. From these bases, a nuclear attack could be launched on the U.S. So a naval and air quarantine was launched on all offensive weapons bound for Cuba, which meant U.S. ships would halt and search all Russian ships. After negotiations on Oct. 28, it was announced that the Soviet Union would dismantle and withdraw it’s weapons from Cuba. (Lawson,1998, p 5) In another area of international tension, the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union signed a nuclear test-ban treaty, forbidding atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. This marked the first limitation of arms expansion since the cold war had begun.

The failure of the Cuban invasion in 1961 had focused Kennedy’s attention to the economic distress of Latin America, which could make them more vulnerable to Castro-type revolutions. This led to a program known as the Alliance for Progress, and was signed in August 1961 by the United states and all Latin American countries except Cuba. In Southeast Asia, the perceived threat of Chinese Communist domination forced the president to strengthen the defense in that area. Although small numbers of U.S. military advisers had been sent to South Vietnam for antiguerrilla operations since 1954, they increased the numbers under the administration from about 700 to more than 15,000. On a global scale, Kennedy established the Peace Corps in March 1961. Through this program, many young Americans were encouraged to contribute their skills to “sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.” Back in the United States, Congress did not heed his urging for tax reform and aid to education, and it killed his proposals for a department of urban affairs and for medical aid for the aged. However Kennedy’s action on a proposed steel price increase worked well, and the inflation did not occur. Civil rights was the most difficult national problem to face Kennedy. In June 1963, as pressure for racial equity mounted, the president addressed the nation, declaring a “moral crisis” as a result of discontent among blacks. Later that month, he sent a special message to Congress, calling for extensive civil rights legislation. However, Congress delayed action and did not pass a comprehensive civil rights bill until 1964, after Kennedy’s death.


In November 1963, President Kennedy journeyed to Texas for a speechmaking tour. In Dallas on November 22, he and his wife were cheered on enthusiastically as their open car passed through the streets. Suddenly at 12:30 pm, an assassin fired several shots, striking the president twice, in the base of the neck and the head. The president was rushed to Parkland memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about 30 minutes later. Within two hours, Vice President Johnson took the oath as president.

On the day of the assassination, police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24 year old ex-Marine, for the president’s murder. Oswald killed Dallas policeman J. D. Tippit while resisting arrest, but two days later Oswald himself was fatally shot by Jack Ruby, in the basement of the Dallas police station.

A commission was appointed to investigate the assassination, and on Sept. 27, 1964, they reported that Oswald had indeed fired the shots that had killed the president. But it was also stated that ” The committee found no evidence that either Oswald or Ruby was part of any conspiracy, domestic or foreign, to assassinate President Kennedy.”

In 1979, however, the House assassinations committee, after two years of investigation, concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald probably was part of a conspiracy that also may have included members of organized crime.

As the years have gone by and other Presidents have written their chapters in history, John Kennedy’s brief time in office stands out in people’s memories for his leadership, personality, and accomplishments. Many respect his coolness when he was faced with difficult decisions like what to do about the missiles in Cuba. Others admire his ability to inspire people with his eloquent speeches. Still others think his compassion and willingness to fight for new government programs to help the poor, elderly and the ill were most important. Like all leaders, John F. Kennedy made mistakes, but he had always been optimistic about the future. He believed that people could solve their common problems if they put their country’s best interests first and worked together towards a better tomorrow.


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