Born: May 29, 1917
Died: November 22, 1963
Famous For: 35th President of the United States; first Boy Scout to become President.
Key Accomplishments: Graduated cum laude from Harvard; won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, Profiles in Courage; created Peace Corps.
Significant Quote: "And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." (from Kennedy's inaugural address, January 20, 1961)
Fun Quote: "Forgive your enemies but never forget their names."
See Also Links:
- White House Biography
- JFK Library
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts, the second son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald. After spending his early years in both public and private schools, and suffering a number of health ills, Kennedy graduated cum laude from Harvard. His senior thesis became the best-selling Why England Slept (1940). His later book, Profiles in Courage (1956), won the Pulitzer Prize.
In 1941 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and after Pearl Harbor, was given command of a PT boat and assigned to the South Pacific, where he was wounded when his ship was struck by a Japanese destroyer. Kennedy was honorably discharged in 1945, just months before the Japanese surrendered. While serving, he received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the Purple Heart, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
After returning to the states, Kennedy was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives (1947 - 53) and the U.S. Senate (1953 - 61). His 1956 bid for the Democratic vice-presidential nomination was unsuccessful, but in 1960 he became the youngest man, and first Roman Catholic, to be elected U.S. president. While in office, Kennedy launched programs that supported sustained expansion, called for new civil rights legislation, actively supported desegregation and supported the arts. In 1962, he narrowly averted a nuclear war (the Cuban Missile Crisis), but in 1963 he secured a nuclear test ban treaty with the USSR. Kennedy also established the Peace Corps to aid developing nations and jump-started the U.S. space program.
Kennedy's administration is often referred to as Camelot, due to the vitality he and his wife, Jacqueline Bouvier, brought to the White House. During his time in office, the White House seemed more youthful and energetic, thanks in large part to the young ages of the President and First Lady and the presence of their young children, Caroline and John. Kennedy even established a preschool, tree house and swimming pool on the White House grounds. The president became closely associated with popular culture, but behind the glamour, the Kennedy's suffered many tragedies, including a miscarriage, a stillbirth and the death of a newborn son.
Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 while on a political trip in Dallas, Texas. He was struck by two bullets. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested after the assassination and charged with Kennedy's murder. He denied any part in the assassination, claiming he was set up. Oswald was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby in a Dallas police station. Five days after Oswald was killed, President Lyndon B. Johnson created the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination. It concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin, but to this day, conspiracy theories still abound.