John F. Kennedy's life.

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On November 22, 1963, while being driven through the streets of Dallas, Texas, in

his convertible car, President John F. Kennedy was shot dead, evidently by the lone

gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald. The world had not only lost a common man, but a great

leader of men. From his courageous actions in World War II to his presidency, making

the decisions to turn away possible nuclear conflict with world powers, excellence can be

seen. Kennedy also found the time to author several best selling novels from his hidden

past. His symbolic figure represented all the fascination, power and hopefulness of youth

as he led a nation into a new era of well-being.

Sine the birth into the substantial Kennedy clan, much was to be foreseen of him.

Kennedy was born on May 29,1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts. His father, Joe, Sr., was

a fortunate businessman with many political contacts. Appointed by President Roosevelt,

Joe, Sr.,

was given the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission and later the

famous position of United States ambassador to Great Britain (Anderson 98). His mother,

Rose, was a loving housewife and took young John on periodic trips around Boston

learning about American history. Both parents wowed on their children that their country

had been good to the Kennedys. Whatever benefits the family received from the country

they were told, must be returned by fulfilling some service for the country (Anderson 12).

The Kennedy clan included Joe, Jr., Bobby, Ted and their sisters, Eunice, Jean, Patricia,

Rosemary, and Kathleen. Joe, Jr., was a important figure in young John's life as he was the

figure for most of John's respect. His older brother was much bigger and stronger than

John and took it upon himself to be John's coach and guardian. John's childhood was full

of sports, fun and activity. This all ended when John grew old enough to leave for school.

At the age of thirteen, John left home to attend an away school for the first time.

Canterbury School, a boarding school in New Milford, Connecticut and Choate

Preparatory in Wallingford, Connecticut finished his elementary education ("JFK" 98).

John graduated in 1934 and was guaranteed a trip to London as a graduation gift. Soon

after, John became ill with jaundice and would have to go to the hospital. He spent the

rest of the summer trying to recover. He was not completely well when he started

Princeton, several weeks later in the fall of 1935. Around Christmas the jaundice returned

and John had to drop out of school. Before the next school year began, he told his father

he wanted to go to Harvard ("JFK" 98). On campus, young people took interest in

politics, social changes, and events in Europe. The United States was pulling out of the

Great Depression. It was at this time that John first became aware of the unlimited social

and economic differences in the United States. In June 1940, John graduated cum laude

(with praise or distinction) from Harvard. His thesis earned a magna cum laude (great

praise)( "JFK" 98). After graduation, John began to send his paper to publishers, and it

was admitted on his second try. Wilfrid Funk published it under the title Why England

Slept. It became a bestseller.

In the spring of 1941, both John and Joe, Jr., decided to enlist in the armed

services. Joe was admitted as a naval air lieutenant but John was turned down by both the

army and navy because of his back trouble and history of illness ("JFK" 98). After months

of exercise and military training, John reapplied and on September 19, John was admitted

into the navy as a desk clerk in Washington. He was fed up and applied for a change. In

June 1941, Kennedy was sent to Naval Officers Training School at Northwestern

University in Evanston, Illinois and then for extra training at the Motor Torpedo Boat

Center at Melville, Rhode Island.

In late April 1943, Commander John F. Kennedy was put in order of a PT 109, a

fast, light, attack craft in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. Kennedy saw action in

night patrols and participated in enemy bombings. On August 1, 1943, during a usual

night patrol, a Japanese destroyer collided in the dark with Kennedy's craft and the PT 109

was sunk. Through human effort, the injured Kennedy heroically swam back and forth

saving his wounded crew. Two were killed in the crash. The injury had once again

bothered his back. Still, Kennedy pushed on swimming from island to island in the South

Pacific hoping for a patrol to come by. The commander had no idea he had been in the

water for eight hours. Finally, an island was spotted that could granted cover from

Japanese planes. With no edible plants or water, Kennedy brought about that he and the

crew must move on.

The next day, he once again attempted to search for rescue. After treading water

for hours, the commander was forced to admit no patrol boats were coming. He turned

back for the island but was swept away by a strong current. Kennedy fell on an island and

slept. He recovered enough energy to return to the island and gathered the crew to move

to another island in search of food. JFK was now desperate enough to seek help from

natives on a Japanese controlled island. After making contact with the natives, Kennedy

convinced the natives to deliver a message written on the back of a coconut shell to allied

forces. The coconut fell into the hands of allied scouts and a patrol was sent. The

coconut would appear again on the desk of an American President (Anderson 35).

The crew of the PT 109 were given a hero's welcome when they returned to base,

but Kennedy would have none of it. In permanent pain from the back injury, JFK soon

contracted malaria, became very ill, and lost twenty-five pounds. He was forced to give up

command and was sent home to Chelsea Naval Hospital near Hyannis Port. The

commander received the Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, and a citation

from Admiral W. F. Halsey. John's back failed to recover was an operation was done on

his spine in the summer of 1944.

During recovery, Kennedy received word that his brother Joe Jr. had been killed

in action. Joe had been qualified for home leave, but had volunteered for a special

bombing mission. The bombs had discharged early and Joe and his pilot were caught in the

detonation. Kennedy put his mind onto paper and a second book was publicized for the

family and close friends. He called it As We Remember Joe.

The family especially, JFK's father, had concluded that Joe Jr. would carry on the

family custom and go into politics. Both of his grandfathers had been active in politics

(Anderson 41). Now, instantly, JFK was the oldest Kennedy of his generation. Kennedy's

first chance in politics came when Congressman James Curley from the 11th District of

Massachusetts decided to retire in 1946(Gadney 42). JFK won his first Congressional seat

by a margin of more than two to one. At the age if twenty-nine, JFK was placed on the

front page of the New York Times and in Time Magazine. He was often mistaken in

Congress as a Senate page or an elevator operator.

It was during this time period in which Kennedy met and fell in love with

Jacqueline Bouvier. "Jackie", as she was known, came from a prosperous Catholic

background as prestigious as the Kennedys. She attended Vassar College and the

Sorbonne in Paris, France. She spoke French, Italian, and Spanish fluently. They were wed

on September 12,1953, at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newport, Rhode Island. All

seemed well, yet after three two-year terms as a Congressman, Kennedy became frustrated

with House rules and customs and decided to run for Senate.

In 1952, Kennedy ran for Senate against Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge.

Fifteen years older than Kennedy, Lodge was the official of two terms in the Senate. JFK

prevailed in the victory but was soon cursed with Addison's disease during his first year in

the Senate and had to operate on a fifty-fifty chance for survival (Gadney 52). While

recovering, Kennedy wrote Profiles in Bravery, a bestseller on examples of truthful

bravery in the lives of eight senators who endangered their careers for a great cause or

belief. Kennedy returned to Senate and participated in the powerful Senate Foreign

Relations Committee. He was also chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Labor. JFK

believed heavily in education, equal job opportunity, and the civil rights movement. His

biggest success came in the form of his Labor Reform Bill which passed by a margin of 90

to 1 in Senate dispute. Kennedy's first child, Caroline, was born during this time.

Due to his tremendous success in Congress, the Democratic party elected him for

the presidential ticket in 1960. Lyndon Johnson was chosen as the running mate with

Kennedy to secure and build upon the democratic bases in the southern states while the

Kennedys sought out the younger balloters, the factory workers, and the liberals (Gadney


During the Kennedy Administration, a great deal of events were going on.Jackie

had given birth to JFK,Jr., while all over the south, the civil rights movement was going in

full force with incidents breaking out. Specific focus gathered around a black air force

veteran, James Meredith, applied for admission to the University of Mississippi. In Cuba

both the Bay of Pigs occurred, in which U.S. supported rebels revolted in a poorly laid out

plan of events that fell out below them, and the Cuban Missile Crisis in which the Soviet

Republic were building missile silos in Cuba, 100 miles away from Florida. The Space

Race was in full force with both Russia and the U.S. in striving to reach the moon. U.S.

obligation in Vietnam was in the latter stages with plans to remove after the 1964 election.

On a trip to Dallas to stir up support for the re-election, the President's auto were

coming down elm street when three shots rang out. The first bullet entered at the base of

Kennedy's neck and exited through the back of his head. The second bullet hit Texas

Governor John Connally. Seconds later there was another shot and the back of the

president's head was severed away. The assassin- Lee Harvey Oswald with a mail-order

rifle fired from the Texas School Book Depository (Warren 5). Oswald had currently

applied for a passport to Communist Russia which led to a series of private meetings

between Oswald and the Russian Government (Warren 614). Oswald protested his

simplicity. President Johnson set up what quickly became known as the Warren

Commission headed by Chief Justice Warren to find the purpose behind the assassination,

The Commission finds the lone, depressed, mentally weak, anti-social kills an American

president ("Theories" 1). Other theories have evolved over time such as the Grassy Knoll

theory. Spectators say that a man in black was present and fired together with Oswald and

doubled the actual shots fired ("Theories" 1) Another theory is that the fired CIA director

Allen Dulles used his important middleman and plotted revenge ("Theories 2").

On Nov. 24, 1963 as Oswald was being escorted from the city jail, Jack Ruby shot

Oswald with a single shot from a Colt .38 revolver (Warren 350). Ruby was arrested and

stood trial in Dallas. He was found guilty and was sentenced to hang. He died in jail of

cancer, on January 3,1967.

Kennedy was the first President to be born in the twentieth century and was very

much a man of his time. He was excited, seeking, with a desire of knowledge, and he had

a feeling of deep assurance, not only to the people of the United States, but to the people

of the world. Many of the causes he fought for exist today because of what he did for the

rights of minorities, the poor, the very old and the very young. He assumed anything and

worked for everything he owned. Perhaps Kennedy gathered up his life best in his own

inaugural speech: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for

your country."