John F. Kennedy won the 1960 presidential election against Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon. Kennedy was young, energetic, and handsome. He spoke of the 1960s as a “New Frontier,” and encouraged Americans to be pioneers. He said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Americans were inspired by his patriotism and his energy. Unfortunately, his time as president was short-lived. He was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Americans were shocked and stunned by his death.
- John F. Kennedy urged Americans to work harder against “the common enemies of man…tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.”
- Kennedy helped establish the Peace Corps in 1961. Americans can volunteer to spend two years abroad helping people in impoverished conditions.
- Kennedy’s wife, Jackie, was hugely popular for her grace, intelligence, and beauty. She renovated the White House, adding both modern conveniences and an appreciation for its history. Along with Kennedy, she helped establish positive diplomatic relations with leaders in other countries.
- During Kennedy’s presidency, he dealt with a contentious relationship with the Soviet Union. During this time, the Soviet Union built a wall between East and West Germany to prevent East Germans from escaping Communist rule. Kennedy promised to keep the city of West Berlin free.
- In October, 1962, Kennedy learned that the Soviets had placed missiles in Cuba, near the American coastline. His advisors suggested an air strike and ground invasion of Cuba. Kennedy feared this approach would start a nuclear war. Instead, he ordered an American fleet of 18 ships to remain in the Atlantic Ocean near Cuba. These ships would bar Soviet ships headed to Cuba. For several days, the world wondered whether Soviet leader, Khrushchev, would back down. Finally, Khrushchev turned his ships around and removed the missiles. War was avoided.
- In November, 1963, Kennedy went to Dallas, Texas to discuss his ideas about civil rights with Democrats there. As he and his wife drove in a motorcade, he was shot in the head by Lee Harvey Oswald. Kennedy died within the hour.
- Tyranny: when a leader rules with force and cruelty
- Diplomatic relations: relations between leaders of countries
- Motorcade: a line of cars that transports important leaders, their advisors, and security team
Questions and Answers:
Question: What Happened to Lee Harvey Oswald?
Answer: Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner, as police led him out of a jail in Dallas.
Visit the JFK library to see a short picture book about John F. Kennedy.