By Jeff Little
When looking back on all his experiences, it is hard to believe
that John F. Kennedy only lived to be 46 years of age. A list of his
accomplishments would lead one to believe that achieving even a
fraction of them would take several lifetimes.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born May 29, 1917 in Brookline,
Massachusetts to Rose and Joseph Kennedy. One of nine children, John
(known to friends as "Jack") was part of a wealthy Irish Catholic
family with an extensive political background. Needless to say, a lot
was expected from him.
Sickly as an infant, it was feared that Kennedy would die
young. But instead, he grew into a handsome young man who would go on
to graduate from Harvard University and later serve as a lieutenant in
the United States Navy during World War II.
Kennedy's heroic exploits while serving in the South Pacific
became legendary. As commander of a PT boat, Kennedy's craft was sunk
by the Japanese in 1943 and lost 2 of its crew members. Swimming with
an injured back, Kennedy towed 1 survivor to shore and led the
remainder of the crew to safety and an eventual rescue. Later, this
adventure would be retold in the 1963 film PT-109.
At the urging of his father, Kennedy entered the political
arena shortly after the war. Elected as a congressman in 1946, Kennedy
went on to serve 3 terms representing Massachusetts until he was
elected to the U.S. Senate in 1952.
Shortly after his 1952 win, Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier,
who would later become famous in her own right as Jackie Kennedy. And
before his term as senator was up, Kennedy had won a Pulitzer Prize in
1957 for his book Profiles in Courage.
Having attained a great deal of public attention and
popularity, Kennedy was elected 35th President of the United States in
1960. Beating the odds, he had simultaneously become the first Irish
Catholic American and youngest man in U.S. history to be elected
Inaugurated January 20, 1961, Kennedy immediately encouraged
all Americans to become more active citizens. In his now famous
speech, Kennedy told Americans to "Ask not what your country can do
for you, ask what you can do for your country."
Moving into the White House with their two young children
(Caroline, 3 and John, Jr. who was only 2-months-old), the Kennedy's
brought a noticeable youthfulness to surroundings which had been
considered somewhat stuffy in past administrations. Also bringing with
them a certain charisma and sophistication uncommon to the First
Family, the Kennedy's immediately won-over the American People.
Dealing with issues like race relations, the space race, the
Vietnam War and narrowly averting wars with Cuba and the Soviet Union,
Kennedy handled his duties skillfully. And even though most historians
rate him as a "just above average" leader, the American People view
him as one of the greatest presidents in history.
Falling victim to an assassination on November 22, 1963, John
F. Kennedy's life was cut short. But just imagine what else this
remarkable man might have done had he lived.
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