35th President of the United States
by Lisa Menéndez Weidman and Ellen Shea
Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on
83 Beals Street, May 29, 1917. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy had
nine children, four boys and five girls. She kept notecards
for each of them in a small wooden file box and made a point
of writing down everything from a doctors visit to the
shoe size they had at a particular age. John Fitzgerald Kennedy
was named in honor of Roses father, John Francis Fitzgerald,
the popular Boston Mayor who everybody knew as Honey Fitz.
Before long, family and friends called this small blue-eyed
baby, Jack. Jack was not a very healthy baby and on his notecard
Rose also recorded the childhood diseases he suffered from
: whooping cough, measles, chicken pox. On February
20, 1920 when Jack was not yet three years old, he became
sick with scarlet fever, a highly contagious and potentially
life-threatening disease. His father, Joseph Patrick Kennedy,
was terrified that little Jack would die. Mr. Kennedy went
to the hospital every day to be by his sons side, and
about a month later Jack took a turn for the better and recovered.
But Jack was never very healthy, and because he was always
suffering from one ailment or another his family used to joke
about the great risk a mosquito took in biting him
with some of his blood the mosquito was almost sure to die!
Jack was three, the Kennedys moved to a new home a few blocks
away from their old house in Brookline, a neighborhood just
outside of Boston. It was a lovely house with twelve rooms,
turreted windows, and a big porch. Full of energy and ambition,
Jacks father worked very hard at becoming a successful
businessman. When he was a student at Harvard College and having
a difficult time fitting in as an Irish Catholic, he swore to
himself he would make a million dollars by the age of thirty-five.
There was a lot of prejudice against Irish Catholics in Boston
at that time, but Joseph Kennedy was determined to succeed.
Jacks great-grandparents had come from Ireland and managed
to provide for their families, despite many hardships. Jacks
grandfathers did even better for themselves, both becoming prominent
Boston politicians. Jack, because of all his family had done,
could enjoy a very comfortable life. The Kennedys had everything
they needed and more.
was always something going on in the Kennedy family home. By
the time Jack was eight there were seven children altogether.
Jack had an older brother, Joe; four sisters, Rosemary, Kathleen,
Eunice, and Patricia; and a younger brother, Robert. Jean and
Teddy hadnt been born yet. Nannies and housekeepers helped
Rose run the household.
the end of the school year, the Kennedy children would go to
their summer home in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod where they liked
swimming, sailing, and playing touch football. The Kennedy children
played hard, and they enjoyed competing with one another. Joseph
Sr. encouraged these competitions, especially among the boys.
He was a father with very high expectations and wanted the boys
to win at sports and everything they tried. As he often said,
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
But sometimes these competitions went too far. One time when
Joe suggested that he and Jack race on their bicycles, they
collided head-on. Joe emerged unscathed while Jack had to have
twenty-eight stitches. Because Joe was two years older and stronger
than Jack, whenever they fought, Jack would usually get the
worst of it. Jack was the only sibling who posed any real threat
to Joes throne as the oldest child. The next in line were
girls, and Bobby and Teddy were still too young to be anything
was very popular and had many friends at Choate, a boarding
school for adolescent boys in Connecticut. He played tennis,
basketball, football, and golf and also enjoyed reading. His
friend Lem Billings remembers how unusual it was that Jack had
a daily subscription to the New York Times newspaper. Jack had
a clever, individualist mind, his Head Master once
noted, though he was not the best student. He did not always
work as hard as he could, except in history and English, which
were his favorite subjects. Now Jack, his father
wrote in a letter one day, I dont want to give the
impression that I am a nagger, for goodness knows I think that
is the worse thing any parent can be, and I also feel that you
know if I didnt really feel you had the goods I would
be most charitable in my attitude toward your failings. After
long experience in sizing up people I definitely know you have
the goods and you can go a long way
It is very difficult
to make up fundamentals that you have neglected when you were
very young, and that is why I am urging you to do the best you
can. I am not expecting too much, and I will not be disappointed
if you dont turn out to be a real genius, but I think
you can be a really worthwhile citizen with good judgment and
graduated from Choate and in 1936 he started his first year
at Harvard, where Joe was already a student. Like his brother
Joe, Jack played football. He was not as good of an athlete
as Joe but he had a lot of determination and perseverance. Unfortunately,
one day while playing he ruptured a disk in his spine. Jack
never really recovered from this accident and his back continued
to bother him for the rest of his life.
two eldest boys were attractive, agreeable, and intelligent
young men and Mr. Kennedy had high hopes for them both. However,
it was Joe who had announced to everyone when he was a young
boy that he would be the first Catholic to become President.
No one doubted him for a moment. Jack, on the other hand, seemed
somewhat less ambitious. He was active in student groups and
sports and he worked hard in his history and government classes,
though his grades remained only average. Late in 1937, Mr. Kennedy
was appointed United States Ambassador to England and moved
there with his whole family, with the exception of Joe and Jack
who were at Harvard. Because of his fathers job, Jack
became very interested in European politics and world affairs.
After his summer visit to England and other countries in Europe,
Jack returned to Harvard more eager to learn about history and
government and to keep up with current events.
and Jack frequently received letters from their father in England,
who informed them of the latest news regarding the conflicts
and tensions that everyone feared would soon blow up into a
full-scale war. Adolph Hitler ruled Germany and Benito Mussolini
ruled Italy. They both had strong armies and wanted to take
land from other countries. On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded
Poland and World War II began.
this time Jack was a senior at Harvard and decided to write
his thesis on the reasons why Great Britain was unprepared for
war with Germany. It was so good that it was later published
as a book called Why England Slept. In June 1940 Jack graduated
from Harvard. His father sent him a cablegram from London: TWO
THINGS I ALWAYS KNEW ABOUT YOU ONE THAT YOU ARE SMART TWO THAT
YOU ARE A SWELL GUY LOVE DAD.
after graduating, both Joe and Jack joined the Navy. Joe was
a flyer and sent to Europe, while Jack was made Lieutenant (Lt.)
and assigned to the South Pacific as commander of a patrol torpedo
boat, the PT-109. Lt. Kennedy had a crew of twelve men whose
mission was to stop the enemy Japanese ships from delivering
supplies to their soldiers. On the dark night of August 2, 1943
Lt. Kennedys crew patrolled the waters looking for enemy
ships to sink. A Japanese destroyer suddenly became visible.
But it was traveling at full speed and headed straight at them.
Holding the wheel, Lt. Kennedy tried to swerve out of the way,
but to no avail. The much larger Japanese warship rammed the
PT-109, splitting it in half and killing two of Lt. Kennedys
men. The others managed to jump off as their boat went up in
flames. Lt. Kennedy was slammed hard against the cockpit, once
again injuring his weak back. Patrick McMahon, one of his crew
members, had horrible burns on his face and hands and was ready
to give up. In the darkness Lt. Kennedy managed to find him
and haul him back to where the other survivors were clinging
to a piece of the boat that was still afloat. At sunrise, Lt.
Kennedy led his men toward a small island several miles away.
Despite his own injuries, Lt. Kennedy was able to tow Patrick
McMahon ashore, a strap from McMahons life jacket clenched
between his teeth. Six days later two native islanders found
them and went for help, delivering a message Jack had written
on a piece of coconut shell. The next day, the PT-109 crew was
rescued. Jacks brother Joe was not so lucky. He died a
year later when his plane blew up during a dangerous mission
he returned home, Jack was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps
Medal for his leadership and courage. With the war finally coming
to an end, it was time to choose the kind of work he wanted
to do. Jack had considered becoming a teacher or a writer, but
with Joes tragic death suddenly everything changed. After
serious discussions with Jack about his future, Joseph Kennedy
convinced him that he should make his family proud and run for
a seat in Massachusetts' eleventh congressional district, which
he won in 1946. This was the beginning of Jacks political
career. As the years went on, John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, served
three terms (six years) in the House of Representatives, and
in 1952 he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
after being elected senator, John F. Kennedy, at thirty-six
years of age, married twenty-four year-old Jacqueline Bouvier,
a writer with the Washington Times-Herald. Unfortunately, early
on in their marriage, Senator Kennedys back started to
hurt again and he had two operations. While recovering from
surgery, he wrote a book about several U.S. senators who had
risked their careers to fight for the things in which they believed.
book, called Profiles in Courage, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize
for biography in 1957. That same year, the Kennedys first
child, Caroline, was born.
F. Kennedy was becoming a popular politician. In 1956 he was
almost picked to run for Vice President. Having been defeated,
Kennedy decided that he would run for President in the next
election. He began working very long hours and traveling all
around the United States on weekends. On July 13, 1960 the Democratic
party nominated him as its candidate for President. Kennedy
asked Lyndon B. Johnson, a senator from Texas, to run with him
as Vice President. In the general election on November 8th 1960,
Kennedy beat Republican Richard M. Nixon in a very close race.
At the age of forty-three, Kennedy was the youngest man elected
President and the first Catholic. Before his inauguration, his
second child, John Jr., was born. His father liked to call him
F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President on January 20,
1961. In his inaugural speech he spoke of the need for all Americans
to be active citizens. 'Ask not what your country can do for
you, ask what you can do for your country,' [sound] he said.
He also asked the nations of the world to join together to fight
what he called the 'common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty,
disease, and war itself.' [sound]
Kennedy, together with his wife and two children, brought a
new, youthful spirit to the White House. The Kennedys believed
that the White House should be a place to celebrate American
history, culture, and achievement. They invited artists, writers,
scientists, poets, musicians, actors, and athletes to visit
them. Jacqueline Kennedy also shared the same interest in American
history as her husband. Gathering the finest art and furniture
the United States had produced, she restored all the rooms in
the White House to make it a place that truly reflected Americas
history with a sense of beauty. Everyone was impressed and appreciated
her hard work.
White House also seemed like a fun place, because of the Kennedys
two young children, Caroline and John-John. There was a pre-school,
a swimming pool, and a tree-house outside on the White House
lawn. President Kennedy was probably the busiest man in the
country, but he still found time to laugh and play with his
the President also had many worries. One of the things he worried
about most was the possibility of nuclear war between the United
States and the Soviet Union. He knew that if there was a war,
millions of people would die. Since World War II, there had
been a lot of anger and suspicion between the two countries
but never any shooting between Soviet and American troops. This
'Cold War', which was unlike any other war the world had seen,
was really a struggle between the Soviet Union's communist system
of government and the United States' democratic system. Because
they distrusted each other, both countries spent enormous amounts
of money building nuclear weapons. There were many times when
the struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States
could have ended in disaster or war, such as in Cuba and in
the city of Berlin.
Kennedy worked long hours, getting up at seven and not going
to bed until eleven or twelve at night, or later. He read six
newspapers while he ate breakfast, had meetings with important
people throughout the day, and read reports from his advisers.
He wanted to make sure that he made the best decisions for his
country. I am asking each of you to be new pioneers in
that New Frontier he said. The New Frontier was not a
place but a way of thinking and acting. President Kennedy wanted
the United States to move forward into the future with new discoveries
in science and improvements in education, employment and other
fields. He wanted democracy and freedom for the whole world.
of the first things President Kennedy did was to create the
Peace Corps. Through this program, which still exists
today, Americans can volunteer where help is needed. They can
help in areas such as education, farming, health care, and construction.
Many young men and women have served as Peace Corps volunteers
and have won the respect of many people throughout the world.
Kennedy was also eager for the United States to lead the way
in exploring space. The Soviet Union was ahead of the United
States in its knowledge of space and President Kennedy was determined
to catch up. He said, No nation which expects to be the
leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race
for space. Kennedy was the first President to ask Congress
to approve more than twenty two billion dollars for Project
Apollo, which had the goal of landing an American man
on the moon before the end of the decade.
Kennedy had to deal with many serious problems here in the United
States. The biggest problem of all had to do with racial discrimination.
The US Supreme Court had ruled in 1954 that segregation in public
schools would no longer be permitted. Black children and White
children should be able to go to school together. This
was now the law of the land. However, there were many schools,
especially in southern states, that did not obey this law. There
was also racial segregation on buses, in restaurants, movie
theaters, and other public places.
of Americans joined together, people of all races and backgrounds,
to peacefully protest this injustice. Martin Luther King, Jr.
was one of the famous leaders of the movement for civil rights.
Many civil rights leaders didnt think President Kennedy
was supportive enough of their efforts. The President believed
that holding public protests would only anger many white people
and make it even more difficult to convince the members of Congress
who didn't agree with him to pass civil rights laws. By June
11, 1963, however, President Kennedy decided that the time had
come to take stronger action to help the civil rights struggle.
He proposed a new Civil Rights bill to the Congress and he went
on television asking Americans to end racism. One hundred
years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the
slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free,
he said. This Nation was founded by men of many nations
[and] on the principle that all men are
created equal. President Kennedy made it clear that all
Americans, regardless of their skin color, should enjoy a good
and happy life in the United States.
November 21, 1963, President Kennedy flew to Texas to give several
political speeches. The next day, as his car drove slowly past
cheering crowds in Dallas, shots rang out. Kennedy was seriously
wounded and died a short time later. Within a few hours of the
shooting, police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald and charged him
with the murder. On November 24, another man, Jack Ruby, shot
and killed Oswald, thus silencing the only person who could
have offered more information about this tragic event. The Warren
Commission was organized to investigate the assassination and
to clarify the many questions which remained.
Kennedy's death caused enormous sadness and grief among all
Americans. Most people still remember exactly where they were
and what they were doing when they heard the news of the murder.
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington for the
President's funeral, and millions throughout the world watched
it on television.
the years have gone by and other Presidents have written their
chapters in history, John Kennedy's brief time in office stands
out in people's memories for his leadership, personality, and
accomplishments. Many respect his coolness when faced with difficult
decisions--like what to do about the missiles in Cuba. Others
admire his ability to inspire people with his eloquent speeches.
Still others think his compassion and his willingness to fight
for new government programs to help the poor, the elderly and
the ill were most important. Like all leaders, John Kennedy
made mistakes, but he was always optimistic about the future.
He believed that people could solve their common problems if
they put their country's interests first and worked together.
Stone's self-proclaimed "countermyth," JFK mocks
the doubtful veracity of the Warren Commission's
findings on the Kennedy assassination and summmarizes
some of the myriad theories that have been proposed
in its stead. Focusing on the investigation by New
Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison into the
activities of the FBI and other government agencies
as well as their attempted cover-ups, Stone weaves
fact and speculation into a compelling argument
for the reopening of the case files.
The Movie Trailer To Oliver Stone's "JFK"
Men Who Killed Kennedy
medical technician who was at the autopsy states categorically
that the body he saw was not the one shown in the
official photographs. The mortician who buried Lee
Harvey Oswald reveals a startling discovery made 18
years later. A highly decorated Army officer says
he was trained to eliminate key witnesses... Forty
years after JFK was shot in Dallas, controversy rages
around his assassination. The Men Who Killed Kennedy,
an authoritative six-part series drawing on exclusive
interviews with highly placed government sources and
independent investigators, is the most comprehensive
examination of the case ever filmed.
The Complete Story in 6 Parts:
The Coup d'Etat - A medical technician casts doubts
on the official autopsy photographs, and photo analysis
undermines the lone gunman theory.
The Forces of Darkness - See two shadowy figures on
the grassy knoll, and find out about the "lost"
home movie that contained key evidence.
The Cover-Up - An FBI agent confirms that evidence
has been suppressed, and a notorious criminal is confronted
about his possible role.
The Patsy - Witness Oswald's reaction when charged
with the shooting, and the mortician who buried the
alleged assassin reveals what he discovered 18 years
The Witnesses - The people who were there - but who
the government chose to ignore - tell their versions
of what happened at Dealey Plaza. The Truth Shall
Set You Free - See conclusive proof that the official
autopsy photos were faked, and hear from an Army Colonel
who says he was trained to eliminate witnesses to