John Fitzgerald Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th president of the United States, the

youngest person ever to be elected president. He was also the first

Roman Catholic president and the first president 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 war. Young people especially

liked him. No other president was so popular. He brought to the

presidency an awareness of the cultural and historical traditions of

the United States. Because Kennedy expressed the values of

20th-century America, his presidency was important beyond its

political achievements. John Kennedy was born in Brookline,

Massachusetts. He was the second of nine children.

Kennedy announced his candidacy early in 1960. By the time the

Democratic National Convention opened in July, he had won seven

primary victories. His most important had been in West Virginia, where

he proved that a Roman Catholic could win in a predominantly

Proteezt state.

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. 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., who was ambassador to the

United Nations and whom Kennedy had defeated for the Senate in 1952,

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.

Another important element of the campaign was the support Kennedy

received from blacks in important Northern states, especially Illinois

and Pennsylvania. They supported him in part because he and Robert

Kennedy had tried to get the release of the civil rights leader Martin

Luther King, Jr. King, who had been jailed for taking part in a civil

rights demonstration in Georgia, was released soon afterward.

The election drew a record 69 million voters to the polls, but Kennedy

won by only 113,000 votes. Kennedy was inaugurated on January 20,

1961. In his inaugural address he emphasized America's revolutionary

heritage. 2"The same ? beliefs for which our forebears fought are

still at issue around the globe," Kennedy said. 3"Let the word go

forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike, that the torch

has been passed to a new generation of Americans?born in this century,

tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our

ancient heritage?and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing

of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed

and to which we are committed today at home and around the world."

Kennedy challenged Americans to assume the burden of "defending

freedom in its hour of maximum danger." The words of his address were,

4"Ask not what your country can do for you?ask what you can do for

your country."

Kennedy sought with considerable success to attract brilliant young

people to government service. His hope was to bring new ideas and new

methods into the executive branch. As a result many of his advisers

were teachers and scholars. Among them were McGeorge Bundy and Arthur

M. Schlesinger, Jr., both graduates of Harvard. Kennedy's most

influential adviser was Theodore C. Sorenson, a member of Kennedy's

staff since his days in the Senate. Sorenson wrote many of Kennedy's

speeches and exerted a strong influence on Kennedy's development as a

political liberal, 5 a person who believes that the government should

directly help people to overcome poverty or social discrimination.

The president and Mrs. Kennedy attempted to make the White House the

cultural center of the nation. Writers, artists, poets, scientists,

and musicians were frequent dinner guests. On one occasion the

Kennedy's held a reception for all the American winners of the Nobel

Prize, people who made outezding contributions to their field during

the past year. At the party the president suggested that more talent

and genius was at the White House that night than there had been since

Thomas Jefferson had last dined there alone.

At a meeting with the leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist

Republics (USSR), Nikita Khrushchev, Kennedy asked the name of