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 Protestant 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 outstanding 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