John F. Kennedy is famous for his plans to put a man on the moon and his role as president during the Cold War. Besides that, he will be remembered by most as the president who got assassinated while driving an open limousine through Dealey Plaza in the state of Texas.
Kennedy was elected as president of the United States after a close victory on republican Richard Nixon in 1960. Racial inequality was still a big problem when Kennedy became president and the Civil Rights Movement was gaining more and more support from the public. Especially in the southern states there was still a lot of racism. Despite the inequality, the Civil Rights Movement did not get a lot of support from the president. He believed this was a matter for all states individually and not for the central government.
His foreign policy was focused on the Cold War. During the first 10 days of his presidential term he decided to send more troops to Vietnam in order to support the South-Vietnamese forces in their battle for freedom.
Kennedy was viewed by many as a gifted speaker. His speeches in Europe attracted large crowds. He held his most famous speech in Berlin on the balcony of Rathaus Schöneberg. Where he spoke the legendary words: “Ich bin ein Berliner”. Another classic saying from Kennedy: “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Which was part of his inauguration speech.
During his term as president Kennedy had a huge impact on the space program by suggesting to the congress that they should spend more money on the program. The space race between the United States and Russia played an important role in the Cold War. Both wanted to be the first to put a man on the moon. With Neil Armstrong being the first man on the moon in 1969, the U.S. won that prestigious battle with the support of Kennedy.
On the 22th of November 1963 Kennedy was murdered while campaigning for the upcoming re-elections. He became the 4th murdered president in American history. Investigations suggested Lee Harvey Oswald as the man behind the attack. Lee’s motives never became clear as police never got the chance to question him. Lee was shot by club owner Jack Ruby in the police station. This happened in front of the cameras, as Lee was supposed to be moved to a maximum security prison. So the shooting was watched by many on live television.
His tragic death meant the end of his presidential term. Kennedy was and still is a popular president; his grave is next to the Pentagon. Visited by many to bring a tribute to one of the most famous presidents in the history of the United States. His name will continue to be remembered through the John. F. Kennedy airport in New York.
- John F. Kennedy library. November 22, 1963: Death of the President. http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/November-22-1963-Death-of-the-President.aspx?p=3
- Schlesinger, A.M. A thousand days: John F. Kennedy in the white house (2002). New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Written by Pieter Klinkhamer