The age of great dreams

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John F. Kennedy (JFK) became the 35th president of the United States of America. Of Irish descent, he was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 29, 1917 and his parents were Joseph Patrick Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald (History Central, n.d.). JFK was not only the youngest president but also the first Roman Catholic to be elected president. JFK was also the first Naval Veteran to be elected President of the United States. He honorably served from 1941 to 1945 and during his stent in the Navy; he was an intelligence officer (White House, n.d.). During World War 2 he was relocated and given the opportunity to control a Patrol Torpedo (PT) boat. He finished out the remainder of his active duty in Florida as a PT instructor. When his military career was over he worked as a journalist for about a year. He was also given the opportunity in 1945 to cover the General Election held in Britain.

Kennedy was part of the Democratic Party and in 1946 was elected to the House of Representatives. The first couple of years he worked to establish himself as a strong supporter of Harry Truman. Throughout his term he backed taxation, the expansion of social welfare and additional low-income housing. JFK was also one of the leading challengers of the Labor-Management Relations Act or Taft-Hartley Bill. The bill was passed by Congress, over Truman's veto of 1947 where Truman then criticizes it as a "slave labor bill". Kennedy had always had an interest in foreign policy and in 1951 went to Europe. Upon his arrival to the states, he said that the US should continue its policy of helping to protect Western Europe and felt that the countries worried should provide more to the cost of the process.

In 1952, JFK was then elected to the Senate, during his term he was a strong supporter for social welfare and the civil rights. Believing that education is means to life's fulfillment, JFK also gave Federal Financial aid to education, he aided in Immigration laws and demanded full discovery of employees' pension and welfare funds.

JFK ran for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in the year 1960 and won on his first ballot. The victory was thought to be controversial since he was the first Roman Catholic to become president. Some people say he was the youngest president ever elected and there are those that say he was the second youngest.

During his campaign he vigorously argued for civil rights and that won him 70% of African American votes. Within the first few years of his presidency the only thing he did for civil rights was send Federal marshals to Alabama to guard the Freedom Riders and the African American students rights at Mississippi University in 1961. (Simkin, John) In June 1963 Kennedy's civil rights bill was finally brought forth to Congress and was nationally viewed through media. He pleaded that all citizens regardless of color should be able to attend any college without the backing of troops.

Kennedys' inaugural is considered one of the most memorable of president's with this statement: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country."(John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961) During that same address he introduced to the public the Peace Corps. His idea was to instill trust and good will to countries that were underdeveloped.

His first true test as president was brought to him by the CIA in April of 1961 and it was against Cuba, better known as the Bay of Pigs operation. The operation was an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro and put an end to communism in Cuba. The mission started out good, after air raids, the Cuban forces were down to 8 planes and 7 pilots. Two days later five merchant ships moved in to deliver 1400 Cuban exiles and supplies. (Simkin, John) This was the turning point in the operation; two of the ships were sunk, which included much needed supplies. Two planes providing air support were shot down and within seventy-two hours all troops were killed, wounded or surrendered. The mission was a total failure and as a result the director of the CIA was forced to resign.

Later that year in September a CIA agent overheard a personal pilot for Castro talking to a man about Cuba having nuclear weapons. Photographs from a U-2 spy plane revealed some strange activities that were taking place in San Cristobal. In mid-October more photographs revealed the Soviet Union setting up long range missiles and this urged Kennedy into calling a meeting on what the next step should be. Several meetings were held over several days which included some military leaders, experts on Latin America and some of his closest friends. The main focus of the meeting was to prevent another disaster like the Bay of Pigs. (Simkin, John) During this time Kennedy received two letters from Khrushchev, in one letter he stated that the Soviet Union would remove the missiles with the condition that United States would not attack Cuba. "The next letter from Khrushchev arrived challenging that the United States to eliminate their nuclear bases in Turkey. While evaluating the letters, reports notify that a U-2 plane had been shot down over USSR and military leaders demanded that Kennedy give the orders to bomb Cuba."( Simkin, John) Kennedy then agreed to the terms Khrushchev first letter. In return, Khrushchev commanded for the missiles to be dismantled. This was considered a victory for both sides and then the elections for Congress soon took place. This helped the Democrats boost their majority and it was anticipated that Kennedy would then have an additional twelve followers in Congress for his policies.

Kennedy made it clear that he would continue to support the South Vietnamese government. He felt if South Vietnam fell to communism those other countries nearby would soon follow. Based on those beliefs, JFK instructed the CIA and the military to protect South Vietnam Government leader Diem at all cost. This was all to ensure that communism would not over take the south.

A CIA operative by the name Lucien Conein gave South Vietnamese generals with $40,000 to take out Diem. President Diem was removed from power by a military coup by November, 1963. The generals then assured Diem that he would be permitted to depart the country, only they changed their minds and had him killed. (Simkin, John)

On November 22, 1963 Kennedy and his wife arrived in Dallas, Texas. They were driving through the business district along with many other of the elite and around 12:30 P.M. the motorcade of cars went through Elm Street when just a few moments' later shots rang out and Kennedy was hit in the shoulder and head area. Governor John Connally was also wounded in the attack; he was shot in the back. Kennedy was pronounced dead at around 1:00 P.M. and within two hours the police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald. While in custody Oswald stuck to his story of innocence regarding the assassination. Two days later, though, Lee Harvey Oswald was on his way to the county jail, when he then was assassinated by Jack Ruby. (Simkin, John)

The political and personal ideologies of Kennedys' life could have very easily contributed to his death. Take both the incidents in Cuba, he tried to have a communist leader killed and failed. Castro could have easily hired many people to get back at Kennedy. Civil Rights activists could have been fed up with Kennedy and the fact that he never came through with his promises to make changes. The CIA had plenty of reasons to take him out; there was total failure of the Bay of Pigs that Kennedy laid on the shoulders of the CIA. The fact he was going to pull out of Vietnam after he was reelected. The CIA had invested too much time and resources to pull out of Vietnam at that time. The Russians were taking the side of the Cuban and could have plotted to take him out. Look at Lee Harvey Oswald; he tried to defect to the Soviet Union. This could have been his way into Russia. Keep in mind, with all the events that had taken place and since Kennedys' assassination there have been several conspiracy theories available, pointing blame from the C.I.A. to the Soviet Union, even though those theories are also no more than just guesswork. We may never know the truth behind Kennedys' assassination.

When an American leader like Kennedy gets assassinated it just does not only affect the American government. It can affect the whole world from a broader prospective. (Farber, 1994)There could have been laws or bills that he was going to sign and now he is unable to. What could have saved many lives or changed things for the better is gone, along with that leader. The leader could have opposed certain bills and laws. These could have been for laid back laws against nuclear weapons, or higher taxes would then fail due to the driving force behind it being gone. Wars that perhaps should not have been fought now have a better chance to happen. When the leader is assassinated there is a chance for that leader to be for that war and sends troops to a place they do not belong. Sometimes people have to die before things can change for the better. When Kennedy was assassinated millions of people around the world mourned his death. There were about the same amount of people that celebrated his death. No matter what kind of leader we have, there will always be people who love him and there will always be people who dislike that leader for what they do, do not do and what they stand for.

References:

  • Farber, D. (1994). The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s. New York: Hill and Wang
  • History Central (n.d.) John F. Kennedy, Retrieved from History Central: Accomplishments in Office on December 13, 2009 http://www.historycentral.com/bio/presidents/kennedy.html
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961). "Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You..." Retrieved from on December, 13 2009 http://www.icmi.com.au/resource.phtml?id=10
  • Simkin, John (n.d.) Spartacus Educational, Retrieved on December 13, 2009 from http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAkennedyJ.htm
  • White House (n.d.) Presidents, Retrieved from the White House on December 13, 2009 http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/johnfkennedy

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