Kennedy, John F(itzgerald)


Kennedy, John F(itzgerald)

biographical name

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John F. Kennedy, 1961.—AP

(born May 29, 1917, Brookline, Mass., U.S.—died Nov. 22, 1963, Dallas, Texas) 35th president of the U.S. (1961–63). The son of Joseph P. Kennedy, he graduated from Harvard University in 1940 and joined the navy the following year. He commanded a patrol torpedo (PT) boat in World War II and was gravely injured in an attack by a Japanese destroyer; he was later decorated for heroism. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1946 and the U.S. Senate in 1952, he supported social-welfare legislation and became increasingly committed to civil rights; in foreign affairs, he supported the Cold War policies of the Truman administration. In 1960 he won the Democratic nomination for president, beating out Lyndon B. Johnson, who became his running mate. In his acceptance speech Kennedy declared, “We stand on the edge of a New Frontier”; thereafter the phrase “New Frontier” was associated with his programs. After a vigorous campaign managed by his brother Robert F. Kennedy and aided financially by his father, he narrowly defeated the Republican candidate, Richard Nixon. He was the youngest person and the first Roman Catholic elected president. In his inaugural address he called on Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” His legislative program, including massive income-tax cuts and a sweeping civil-rights measure, received little support in the Congress, though he did win approval of the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Progress. In 1961 he committed the U.S. to land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. In foreign affairs he approved a plan drawn up during the Eisenhower administration to land an invasion force of Cuban exiles on their homeland, but the Bay of Pigs invasion (1961) was a fiasco. Determined to combat the spread of communism in Asia, he sent military advisers and other assistance to South Vietnam. During the Cuban missile crisis (1962) he imposed a naval blockade on Cuba and demanded that the Soviet Union remove its nuclear missiles from the island. In 1963 he successfully concluded the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty with Britain and the Soviet Union. In November 1963, while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, he was assassinated by a sniper, allegedly Lee Harvey Oswald. The killing is considered the most notorious political murder of the 20th century. Kennedy's youth, energy, and charming family brought him world adulation and sparked the idealism of a generation, for whom the Kennedy White House became known as “Camelot.” Revelations about his powerful family and his personal life, especially concerning his extramarital affairs, tainted his image in later years. See also Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on Kennedy, John F(itzgerald), visit Britannica.com.

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