John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th President of

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Jfk


John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States, the youngest person
ever to be elected President, the first Roman Catholic and the first to be born in the
20th century. Kennedy was assassinated before he completed his third year as President,
therefore his achievements were limited. Nevertheless, his influence was worldwide, and
his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis may have prevented the United States from
entering into another world war. Kennedy was especially admired by the younger people and
he was perhaps the most popular president in history. Kennedy expressed the values of 20th
century America and his presidency had an importance beyond its political achievements.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts where he was one of nine
children. The Kennedy family was very wealthy and provided means for the Kennedy children
to pursue whatever they chose and John F. Kennedy chose politics. John F. Kennedy was
elected to Congress in 1942 and as a new member Kennedy supported legislation that would
serve the interests of his elements. Kennedy usually backed bills sponsored by his party
but would sometimes show independence by voting with the Republicans. He also joined with
the Republicans in criticizing the Truman administration's handling of China. In China,
the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek, which had been supported by the United
States, was unable to withstand the advance of Communist forces under Mao Zedong. By the
end of 1949 government troops had been overwhelmingly defeated, and Chiang led his forces
into exile on Taiwan. The triumphant Mao formed the People's Republic of China. Truman's
critics, including Kennedy, charged that the administration had failed to support Chiang
Kai-shek against the Communists. Despite Kennedy's wavering within his own party platform,
John F. Kennedy easily won reelection to Congress in 1948 and 1950. In 1952 he decided to
run against functioning Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. Kennedy was little known
outside his congressional district therefore he began his campaign two years before the
election, meeting with hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts. "Kennedy defeated
Lodge by 70,000"1 votes despite the fact that Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican
Presidential candidate, carried the state by just over 200,000 votes. As a candidate for
the Senate, Kennedy promised the voters that he would do more for Massachusetts than Lodge
had ever done. During his first two years as senator he backed legislation beneficial to
the Massachusetts textile, fishing, watch, and transportation industries. In 1953,
however, he defied regional interests and supported the Saint Lawrence Seaway project and
later in 1955 he was the only New England senator to support renewal of the Reciprocal
Trade Agreement Act that gave the President the power to lower U. S. tariffs, or taxes on
import goods, in exchange for similar concessions from other countries. In 1957 Kennedy
became a member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he later won a
place on the Senate Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor Management Field. In
1958 he spent many of his weekends campaigning for reelection in Massachusetts senatorial
contest. Kennedy wanted the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, and almost as soon as
the 1956 election was over, he began working toward it. Kennedy announced his candidacy
early in 1960 and by the time the Democratic National Convention opened in July, he had
won seven primary victories. When the convention opened, it appeared that Kennedy's only
serious challenge for the nomination would come from the Senate majority leader, Lyndon B.
Johnson of Texas. However, Johnson was strong only among Southern delegates and Kennedy
won the nomination on the first ballot and then persuaded Johnson to become his running
mate. Two weeks later the Republicans nominated Vice President Richard Nixon for president
and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., for vice president. In the fast-paced campaign that followed,
Kennedy made stops in 46 states and 273 cities and towns, while Nixon visited every state
and 170 urban areas. The two candidates faced each other in four nationally televised
debates. Kennedy's manner, especially in the first debate, seemed to eliminate the charge
that he was too young and inexperienced to serve as president, and many believe these
debates gave Kennedy the edge he needed for victory. The election drew a record 69 million
voters to the polls, but Kennedy won by only 113,000 votes which made it the closest
popular vote in 72 years. Because Kennedy won most of the larger states in the
Northeastern United States, he received 303 electoral votes to Nixon's 219. Kennedy was
inaugurated on January 20, 1961. In his inaugural address he emphasized America's
revolutionary heritage, "The same beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at
issue around the globe,"2 Kennedy said. "Let the word go forth from this time and place to
friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generations of Americans."3
Kennedy called for "a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and
the peace preserved."4 Kennedy's first year in office brought him considerable success in
enacting new legislation. Congress passed a major housing bill, a law increasing minimum
wage, and a bill granting federal aid to economically depressed areas of the United
States. Kennedy put legislation through Congress which was a bill creating the Peace
Corps, an agency that trained American volunteers to perform social and humanitarian
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