JFK is the only Catholic President of the United States
John F. Kennedy
A family wants to go up
John F. Kennedy, considered a political innovator, was revered like a pop star by many. When he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, millions of people around the world mourned the dead president. But "JFK" wasn't just the shining hero that many saw in him.
The second eldest son of Rose and Joe Kennedy, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts. As a child he was ailing, and in contrast to his older brother Joseph Jr., who excelled particularly through his athletic ambition, John often withdrew.
For their ambitious father, there is no question that the Kennedy boys will one day go into politics. His nine children learn from an early age that life is all about winning.
John spent his youth in New York and at the family summer residence in Hyannis Port. After school he attended various private schools and studied political science at Harvard University in 1935.
His thesis deals with the "appeasement policy" of the British government in the 1930s. The work is later published by Joe Kennedy under the title "Why England slept".
In 1941, John F. Kennedy joined the army and became a lieutenant in the navy. In the Pacific War, which began a year later, he volunteered for service on a torpedo patrol boat. During an operation, he saves a teammate.
It is unclear, however, how glorious his role in this military incident really was. But both John and his father make clever use of the story, and the young Kennedy becomes a decorated war hero.
In the mid-1940s, his older brother Joseph Jr. fell. in an airplane on a military mission for which he volunteered and dies.
In the family it quickly becomes clear that John is now taking on the role of his older brother. He is on his way to conquer the highest political office in the country. His father's money and relationships should also help him with this.
In November 1946 he ran for the Democratic Party in Boston with the slogan: "A new generation presents a leader" and was elected to the House of Representatives.
A president with handicaps
Shortly afterwards, JFK was diagnosed with Addison's disease, a disease of the immune system, the consequences of which were an extreme susceptibility to infections and permanent fatigue.
In addition, there is chronic back pain, which results from a sports accident, among other things, and an intestinal disease. Kennedy must take cortisone and strong pain relievers daily to combat symptoms.
But his physical condition, which is kept secret from the public as much as possible, does not prevent the ambitious young politician from advancing his career. Before the Senate elections, the Kennedy clan is campaigning.
With a clever strategy, in which, for example, the female voters are particularly courted, and targeted PR work, Kennedy is elected to the Senate in 1952 and becomes Senator of Massachusetts next year.
In 1953 he married Jacqueline Bouvier, whom he met at a mutual friend's house. Like John, the 22-year-old comes from the so-called upper class. The biographers argue about whether it was a love marriage. There is no dispute that Jackie is a radiant first lady who makes the White House a social center of attraction. She stays with him despite her husband's numerous affairs.
Jackie and Jack, as John F. Kennedy is also known, have four children, but only two of them survive birth.
The election workers: money, relationships, and television
John F. Kennedy remains a senator for eight years. During this time he has two major back operations behind him. While in hospital, he begins to write a book that will later appear under the title "Profiles in Courage". It becomes a bestseller and receives the Pulitzer Prize.
After recovering, he is preparing for his most important election campaign: in 1960, he will announce his candidacy for the office of president.
The bill worked and in the summer of the same year JFK was nominated by the Democratic Party. For the first time in American history, the election campaign is also taking place on television. For Kennedy, who can sell himself effectively in the media, this is a great advantage that he knows how to use in a televised debate with his Republican opponent Richard Nixon.
In this election campaign, too, JFK is supported by the entire Kennedy clan. Joe Kennedy, who remains in the background as a person, again uses his contacts to the press and finances his son's numerous trips and campaigns. He also donates large sums, for example to Protestant clergymen, who then campaign for the Catholic candidate.
Robert Kennedy, who supports his older brother as an election campaign manager and is one of his closest advisers, played a special role at this time. The effort is worth it: On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States of America by a narrow majority.
Reforms with little effect
At the time of his election, the 43-year-old politician took advantage of the optimism of the early 1960s. He calls his domestic political program "New Frontier", which is intended to appeal to the younger generation in particular. Among other things, he wants to reform the education, health and tax systems.
However, the president cannot push through any really big changes. They fail in Congress, in which the Republicans have a majority. It is similar with the civil rights law with which Kennedy wants to take action against racial discrimination: It only comes into force under his successor Lyndon B. Johnson.
Its foreign policy is only partially successful and is dominated by the Cold War. "Alliance for Progress" is the name of one of its development programs.
But his strategy of curbing the spreading communism in Latin America by fighting poverty and illiteracy remains as good as ineffective. The so-called peace corps with around 400,000 young Americans who volunteer to teach children or care for the sick in developing countries are more successful.
Kennedy's controversial foreign policy decisions also include his involvement in Vietnam. By sending military to Southeast Asia, he wants to prevent communism from spreading further.
Historians are still debating whether he created the basis for the later Vietnam War, which began in 1965 under Lyndon B. Johnson.
Kennedy and Cuba
The communist regime under Fidel Castro in Cuba has long been a thorn in the side of the US government. To overthrow it, numerous plans are made. One of them was put into practice in April 1961 when a brigade of around 1,500 Cuban exiles under the command of the CIA arrived in what is known as the Bay of Pigs.
But the invasion is crushed by the communists. Kennedy gives up, not least because he doesn't want to risk an open war.
Six months later, the situation escalated again: As a reaction to the failed invasion, the Soviets under President Nikita Khrushchev stationed medium and long-range missiles in Cuba. Kennedy and his advisory staff decide against an air strike and instead set up a naval blockade to prevent more missiles from reaching Cuba.
The threat of a third world war is omnipresent, but it does not get that far. When Soviet and American ships meet off the coast of Cuba in October, Khrushchev gives in at the last second.
Kennedy then moves away from his policy of confrontation. Among other things, he set up a "hot line", ie a permanent telex connection between Washington and Moscow, and thus contributed to defusing the Cold War.
The Dallas assassination
After only around 1000 days, the Kennedy era ended bloody and unexpectedly. On November 22, 1963, the President was visiting Dallas, Texas, and was being driven through the city center in an open car when suddenly three shots were fired.
Kennedy is hit in the neck and head and dies within minutes. When he arrives at Parkland Memorial Hospital, the doctors can only determine that he is dead.
A few hours later, warehouse worker Lee Harvey Oswald is arrested as a suspect. But two days after the attack, the nightclub owner Jack Ruby breaks into the Dallas State Prison and shoots Oswald. This means that the only suspect is dead and questioning is no longer possible.
Who murdered "JFK"?
But is Oswald really the murderer and is he the lone perpetrator? Shortly after the assassination, a commission of inquiry chaired by Judge Earl Warren concluded that Oswald was acting alone.
This is contradicted by a special committee of the US Congress, which investigated the murder again in the late 1970s. Accordingly, at least two perpetrators shot the president.
To this day it is unclear who is behind the murder of JFK. Some suspect that the CIA, the FBI, or the Secret Service are responsible. But the mafia, Cuban exiles and Fidel Castro himself are also linked to the murder.
When John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America, was in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington D.C. on November 25, 1963. is buried, millions around the world mourn him.
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