WASHINGTON, May, 29, 2015 – John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts to Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. John, the second of nine children was born into one of the wealthiest families in America.
As a young boy, John was sent to the finest schools. At the age of 13, he was sent to Milford, Connecticut to attend the private boarding school Canterbury, but because of an illness he was forced to leave and did not return. Later, he attended Choate Preparatory School in Wallingford, Connecticut, and in 1935 he entered Princeton University. Again an illness forced him to leave school, but he resumed his studies the following year at Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard in 1940, and immediately entered the U.S. Navy.
Kennedy was sent to the South Pacific where he commanded a patrol torpedo boat, the famous PT109. He was seriously injured when a Japanese destroyer launched heavy attacks. Kennedy led his men to safety and was awarded the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism.
After returning to the states, Joseph Kennedy Sr. convinced John that he should run for Congress in Massachusetts’ eleventh congressional district. He won that seat in 1946. This was the beginning of Jack’s political career. As the years went on, John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, served three terms (six years) in the House of Representatives, and in 1952 he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Fast forward to 1960, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected President of the United States and was sworn into office on January 20, 1961. At the age of 43, Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic and the youngest ever to hold the highest office in the land, “President of The United States.”
President Kennedy was a staunch believer in America’s exceptionalism and the role it played in leading the world. He believed our Nation should be the beacon of light to which the rest of the world should aspire. In his inaugural address, Kennedy referred to:” the torch being passed to a new generation of Americans.” As his speech went throughout the country, Americans were filled with renewed optimism. President Kennedy had a vision for a new direction and bold ideas to re-establish America as a world leader.
Known for his eloquent and often inspiring speeches, he instilled hope in a time of uncertainty. He was convinced that as a nation, our best days were ahead of us. Kennedy had a bold vision of America being the first nation to put a man on the moon.
During a speech at Rice University, he showed his support for the fledging Apollo Program. Here is a brief excerpt from that speech.
” Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.”
At that time it was a bold and daring vision to take on such an aggressive project.
One of President Kennedy’s most challenging moments came when it was discovered that the Soviet Union delivered missiles to Cuba. On October 14, a U-2 Spy plane flew over the island of Cuba and produced photos of Russian Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles being assembled. Kennedy viewed this as an act of aggression against the U.S. and on October 22, 1962, Kennedy went before the American people and advised them of his plan to set up a Naval Blockade around Cuba.
Additionally, to create more tension, Nikita Khrushchev, Leader of the Soviet Union exacerbated the tension by ordering additional Russia ICBM’s shipped to Cuba.
On October 24, the showdown between Russia and the U.S. took place. The Soviet ships entered the waters of the U.S. Naval blockade just off the Island of Cuba stopping short of breaching the American blockade.
The standoff lasted for thirteen tense days when Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles and return the ships to Russia. In exchange, Kennedy agreed to give assurances that the U.S. would not invade Cuba. Additionally, in private, Kennedy agreed to remove American Missiles from Turkey.
President Kennedy was a visionary, someone who was able to instill optimism in the American people and unite them as a nation. President Kennedy knew America was a Great Nation and the importance of being the world’s leader.
On a beautiful November day in Dallas Texas, the Presidential Limousine carrying President and Mrs. Kennedy along with Texas Governor John B. C onnally and his wife Nellie was cheered by the throng of thousands of onlookers.
As the motorcade turned onto Dealey Plaza, shots rang out and the 35th President of the United States was assassinated. According to a lengthy study by the Warren Commission, it was determined that President Kennedy was shot by a lone gunmen, Lee Harvey Oswald. However, to this day, a cloud of suspicion looms over the accuracy of the report.
On the anniversary of JFK’s up-coming 98th birthday, we are thankful for his contribution to America and we remember with fond memory his famous quote.
“Ask not what your country can do for you but, what you can do for your country. “
It continues to resonate with the American people to this day.