The 22 November, 1963, Dallas, Texas. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was visiting the American South, unofficially launching his re-election campaign, when he was shot three times by Lee Harvey Oswald.
Kennedy’s Presidency ended in the most brutal and abrupt way possible, and many Americans still feel that they were robbed of one of the greatest Presidents of all time.
Elected to the White House in November 1960, JFK was the youngest man to become President at the age of 43, having fought an incredibly close campaign against Senator Nixon. Son of the very successful business man, and former American Ambassador to Britain, Joe Kennedy, JFK was born into one of the richest families in the United States.
Jack, as he was known to his friends and family, had served in World War Two, as a Motor Torpedo Boat Commander and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for bravery after his boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, and he rescued his crew.
After choosing a career in politics and with his father’s backing, (sometimes not always welcome), Jack progressed through the House of Representatives, to Congress, before preparing to stand for the Presidency in 1960. So what is is about him that has stuck with us for the 50 years since his assassination?
Partly, the obsession has to be down to the international event which overshadows the decade; the Cuban Missile Crisis. On October 14, 1962, the CIA’s U2 spy plane flights over the Caribbean island of Cuba, revealed that the Soviet Union had started installing medium range nuclear missiles all around the island, which would have put nearly every major US city in range or nuclear attack.
The following two weeks brought the Cold War ever closer to the brink of Nuclear war, but Kennedy resisted military pressure to invade Cuba and sought the Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev’s agreement to dismantle the missiles, following an intense standoff between the Soviet and American fleets in the Atlantic. Kennedy’s approval ratings shot up from 66% to 77% following his success in Cuba, and many admirers argue that he saved humanity.
However, there is a dark side to the 35th President of the United States, blemishes which have been slowly overlooked as time has moved on. In office, Kennedy did not always get things right. The Bay of Pigs disaster nearly ended his political career, not even four months into his Presidency. Cuban rebels trained by the US were sent to invade Cuba and depose of Castro, the Cuban Leader. However, the Cuban army had been tipped off and the mission failed with the rebels suffering huge losses.
His political integrity has also been questioned in regards to his success in the 1960 election, specifically his victory in Chicago generating accusations of links with Sam Giancana, the powerful gangster and the suggestion that Kennedy’s father bribed Giancana to deliver electoral success for Jack. JFK has also become infamous for his womanising. Faithfulness in his marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier was something which he seemed completely incapable of achieving. He had affairs very frequently, and not always discreetly, he was most famously involved with Marilyn Monroe.
JFK was a very successful President who very much deserves our praise and respect. He was also however, susceptible to the failings of human nature, you can decide whether this matters.