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Ferguson Passage. Burning gasoline spewed forth from the wrecked torpedo

boat, setting the waters of the passage aflame: but Lieutenant Kennedy

retained his composure, directed the rescue of his crew, and personally

saved the lives of three of the men. Kennedy and the other survivors found

refuge on a small unoccupied island, and during the days that followed he

swam long distances to obtain food and aid for his men. Finally, on the

sixth day of the ordeal the crew was rescued.

Kennedy's bravery did not go unnoticed. For his deeds in August 1943 he

subsequently received the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

Injuries sustained during his courageous exploits and an attack of malaria

ended Kennedy's active military service, however. Later in 1943 he returned

to the United States, and in 1945 he was honorably discharged from the


After leaving the navy, Kennedy, like many other young men who had

served their country during World War II. had to make a decision about his

literature career. At Harvard he had become increasingly interested in

government. but he did hot originally plan to seek public office. Members

of the Kennedy family had expected that the eldest son. navy pilot Joseph

P. Kennedy Jr., would enter politics - a hope cut short when he was killed

in a plane crash during the war Deeply affected by his older brother's

death. Jonh Kennedy in 1945 compiled a memorial volume. As We Remember Joe.

which was privately printed. Shortly afterwards he determined to pursue the

career that had been the choice of his late brother

Appropriately. Kennedy sought his first elective office in Easl Boston,

the low-income area with a large immigrant population that several decades

before had been the scene of both his grandfathers political activities.

Announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the US House of

Representatives in the 11th Congressional District early in 1946, Kennedy,

with the assistance of his family and friends, campaigned hard and long

against several of the party's veterans and won the primary. Since the

district was overwhelmingly Democratic, Kennedy's victory in the primary

virtually guaranteed his election in the November contest. As expected, on

November 5, 1946, he easily defeated his Republican rival and at the age of

29 began his political career as a member of the House of Representatives.

East Boston voters returned Kennedy to Congress in 1948 and 1950, and

for the six years he represented the 11th District he continuously worked

to expand federal programs, such as public housing, social security, and

minimum wage laws. that benefited his constituents. However, in 1952 the

young politician decided against running for another term In the House.

Instead he sought the Senate seat held by the Republican Henry Cabot Lodge.

The incumbent Lodge was well known and popular throughout

Massachusetts; in contrast, Kennedy had almost no following outside of

Boston. But from the moment he announced his candidacy for the Senate,

Kennedy, assisted by his family, friends, and thousands of volunteers,

conducted a massive and intense grassroots campaign. This hard work brought

results: on November 4, 1952, when the landslide presidential victory of

Dwight D. Eisenhower carried hundreds of other Republican candidates into

local, state, and federal offices throughout the nation, the Democratic

Kennedy defeated Lodge by a narrow margin to become the junior senator from


On September 12,1953, Kennedy married the beautiful and socially

prominent Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, who was 12 years his junior. Shortly

after their marriage, Kennedy became increasingly disabled by an old spinal

injury, and in October 1954 and again in February 1955 he underwent serious

surgery. A product of the months of convalescence that followed was his

Profiles in Courage, a study of American statesmen who had risked their

political careers for what they believed to be the needs of their nation.

Published in 1956, Profiles in Courage immediately became a bestseller, and

in May 1957 it won for its author the Pulitzer Prize for biography.

During his years in the House and for the first half of his Senate

term, Kennedy concerned himself primarily with the issues that particularly

interested or affected his Massachusetts constituents. However, when he

resumed his congressional duties alter Ins prolonged convalescence,

national rather than local or state affairs primarily attracted his


His determination to run for higher office became evident at the

Democratic National Convention in 1956. Adam Stevenson, the party's

presidential nominee, declined to name a running male. and instead left the

choice of a vice presidential candidate to a vote of the delegates. Seizing

this opportunity. Kennedy mounted a strong, if last-minute, campaign lorshe

nomination in which he was narrowly defeated by Senator Lstes Kefauver of

Tennessee Kennedy's efforts were no entirely unrewarded however. He proved

himself to be a formidable contender and. perhaps more important, lie came

to the attention of the millions of television viewers across the nation

who watched; the eonvention proceeding. He was redeemed to the US Senate in


Shortly after defeat of Stevenson in 1956. Kennedy launched a

nationwide campaign to gain the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination.

During the tour intervening years, ihe Massachusetts senator developed the

organisation that would help him win his goal. Through his personal

appearances, ami writings, he also made himself known to the voters ol the

United Stales. Kennedy's tactics were successful He won all the state

primaries he entered in 1960 including a critical contest in West

Virginia, where an overwhelmingly Protestant electorate dispelled the

notion that a Catholic candidate could not be victorious - and he also

earned the endorsement of a number of state party conventions.

The Democratic National Convention of 1960 selected Kennedy as its

presidential candidate on the first ballot. Then, to the surprise of many,

Kennedy asked Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, who had himself aspired

to the first place on the ticket, to be his running mate. Johnson agreed,

and the Demoeralic slate was complete. For its ticket, the Republican

National Convention in I960 chose Vice President Richard Millions Nixon and

Kennedy's earlier political rival. Henry Cabot Lodge.

Throughout the fall of 1960, Kennedy and Nixon waged tireless campaigns

to win popular support. Kennedy drew strength from the organization he had

put together and from the fact that registered Democratic voters

outnumbered their Republican counterparts. Nixon's strength stemmed from

his close association with the popular President Eisenhower and from his

own experience as Vice President, which suggested an ability to hold his

own with. representatives of the Soviet Union in foreign affairs. The

turning point of the 1960 presidential race, however, may have been the

series of four televised debates between the candidates, which gave voters

an opportunity to assess their positions on important issues, and

unintentionally also tested each man's television "presence." Kennedy

excelled in the latter area and political experts have since claimed that

his ability to exploit the mass media may have been a significant factor in

the outcome of the election.

On November 8, I960, the voters of the United States cast a record 68.8

million ballots, and selected Kcnnedy over Nixon by the narrow margin of

fewer than 120,000 votes in the closest popular vote in the nation's

history. In the Electoral College the tally was 303 votes to 21 John

Fitzgerald Kennedy took the oath of office as the 35th President of the

United States on January 20, 1961. A number of notable Americans

participated in the ceremonies: Richard Cardinal Gushing of Boston offered

the invocation, Marian Anderson sang the national anthem, and Robert Frost

read one of his poems. Kennedy's inaugural address, urging Americans to

"ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your

country," was memorable. The new Chief Executive also asserted, "Now the

trumpet summons us again ... to bear the burden of a long twilight

struggle... against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease

and war itself."

Both challenges were in keeping with what observers would later mark as

Kennedy's greatest contribution: a quality of leadership that extracted

from others their best efforts toward specific goals. Many felt themselves

influenced by his later reminder to a group of young people visiting the

White House - that "the Greeks defined happiness as the full use of your

powers along the lines of excellence."

Whether because of his-leadership, the climate of the times, or the

conjunction of the two, Kennedy's term as President coincided with a marked

transformation in the mood of the nation. Before that, complacent in their

peace-time prosperity, most Americans were preoccupied with individual

concerns. Now came a widespread awareness of needs not previously

recognized. No longer could Americans ignore pressing problems that

confronted them both at home and abroad, and increasingly, they showed a

willingness to try to effect meaningful changes. The new mood was one of

challenge, but also one of hope.

As he had promised in his inaugural address, Kennedy successfully

sought the enactment of programs designed to assist the "people in the huts

and villages of half the world." The Alliance for Progress, a program-

ambitious but ultimately less than successful - for the economic growth and

social improvement of Latin America, was launched in August 1961 at an

Inter American Conference at Punta del Este, Uruguay. The Peace Corps,

which offered Americans a unique opportunity to spend approximately two

years living and working with peoples in underdeveloped countries, was a

more successful attempt to aid emerging nations throughout the world.

In the realm of foreign affairs, Kennedy's record was a mixture of

notable triumphs and dangerous setbacks. He allowed the Central

Intelligence Agency to carry out plans laid before his administration for

an invasion of Cuba by anti-Communist refugees from that island. Between

1,400 and 1,500 exiles landed on April 17, 1961, at the Bay of Pigs, but

suffered defeat when an anticipated mass insurrection by the Cuban people

failed to materialize. Severely embarrassed, the administration

nevertheless successfully encouraged the creation of a private committee,

which ransomed 1,178 invasion prisoners for $62 million.

Cuban Premier Fidel Castro, after repelling the Bay of Pigs invasion,

turned to the Soviet Union for military support and allowed the Russians to

install secret missile sites in Cuba. From these locations, 90 miles from

US soil, the USSR could launch missiles capable of striking deep into the

American heartland. Reconnaissance by US observation planes uncovered the

Soviet activities. Taking a decisive stand President Kennedy, on October

22, 1962, announced that the United States would prevent the delivery of

offensive weapons to Cuba. Kennedy demanded that the USSR abandon the bases

and threatened that the United States would "regard any nuclear missile

launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an

attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full

retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union." After a week of intense

negotiations. Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev agreed to dismantle all

the installations in return for a US pledge not to invade Cuba.

President Kennedy gave wholehearted support to American efforts in

space exploration. During his administration the nation increased its

expenditures in that area fivefold, and the President promised that an

American would land on the moon before the end of the 1960s. (On July

20,1969, two American astronauts fulfilled the President's pledge by

becoming the first human beings to set foot on the lunar surface.)

During his presidential campaign, Kennedy had stressed the necessity of

improving the American economy, which was then suffering from a recession.

His aim was to follow a fiscally moderate course, and the achievement of a

bal_anced budget was one of his major goals. As President he managed to

stimulate the sluggish economy by accelerating federal purchasing and

construction programs, by the early release of more than $ 1 billion in

state highway funds, and by putting $ 1 billion in credit into the home

construction industry.

During his administration, however, increasing hostility developed

between the White House and the business community. Anxious to prevent

inflation, the President gave special attention to the steel industry,

whose price-wage structure affected so many other aspects of the economy.

After steel manufacturers insisted on raising their prices in April 1962,

Kennedy, by applying strong economic pressure, forced the producers to

return to the earlier lower price levels. His victory earned him the enmity

of many business people, however.

Kennedy sympathized with the aspirations of black Americans, but he

included no comprehensive civil rights legislation in his New Frontier

program, fearing that the introduction into a conservative Congress of such

measures would imperil all his other proposals. The President relied,

instead, on his executive powers and on the enforcement of existing voting

rights laws. He forbade discrimination in new federally aided housing,

appointed a large number of blacks to high offices, and supported Justice

Department efforts to secure voting rights and to end segregation in

interstate commerce. In 1962 he used regular army troops and federalized

National Guard units to force the admission of a black, James Meredith, to

the University of Mississippi, and in 1963 he used federal National

Guardsmen to watch over the integration of the University of Alabama.

Despite his broad visions of the American future, Kennedy enjoyed

limited success in translating his ideas into legislative reality. A

coalition of Republicans and conservative southern Democrats in the 87th

Congress stopped many of his plans for the introduction of social measures.

And even after the Demo_ratic Party increased its majority on Capitol Hill

in the 1962 elections. Congress was slow to cooperate, although it probably

was ready to do so just before his presidency came to an end.

John F. Kennedy presided over the execlusive branch of the United

States government for only a little more than 1,000 days. During that time

American involvement in Vietnam and other areas of Southeast Asia increased

moderately, but the beginnings of a thaw in the cold war were also

noticeable, and in 1963 the. Soviet Union and the United States signed the

Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Kennedy's years in the White House were also

marked by increased social consciousness by the US government. With the

Great Society program of his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Congress

eventually enacted a number of Kennedy's proposals, including medical care

for the elderly and greater opportunities for black Americans.

In addition to his various governmental programs, Kennedy's presidency

was also no_table for a new, vital style. John and Jacqueline Kennedy and

their two children, Caroline and John Jr., quickly captured the imagination

of the nation, and their activities were widely reported by the media.

Cer_tainly the Kennedys exuded a youthful vi-brance, and their interests

seemed unending. Jacqueline Kennedy was responsible for redecorating the

public rooms of the White House and inviting a glittering array of

cul_tural and intellectual leaders to the executive mansion.

An assassin's bullet abruptly ended the life of John Fitzgerald Kennedy

on Novem_ber 22,1963, as he rode in a motorcade through the streets of

Dallas, Texas. The entire nation mourned the tragic death of the Chief

Executive. Many millions watched on television as the 35th President was

buried at Arlington National Cemetery on November 25, 1963.

Every state of the United States and almost every nation in the world

has erected memorials to Kennedy. One of the monu_ments dearest to his

family is the house at 83 Seals Street in Brookline, Massachusetts, where

the late President's parents lived from 1914 until 1921 and where four of

their chil_dren - including John - were bom. The house was repurchased by

the Kennedys in 1966 and was designated a National Historic Site by

Congress in 1967. On May 29, 1969, the 52nd anniversary of John F.

Kennedy's birth, the family turned over the deed of the house to the

National Park Service.

Both of President Kennedy's younger brothers, Robert F. and Edward M.

Kennedy, served in the Senate. Many of the former President's compatriots

hoped to see his goals and promise carried forward when Robert Kennedy, who

had served as his at_torney general and closest adviser, an_nounced early

in 1968 that he would seek the Democratic nomination for President. In

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