35th President of the United States
|In office |
January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
|Vice President(s)||Lyndon B. Johnson|
|Preceded by||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|Succeeded by||Lyndon B. Johnson|
|Born||May 29, 1917 |
|Died||November 22, 1963 |
|Spouse||Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy|
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), also referred to as John F. Kennedy, JFK, John Kennedy or Jack Kennedy, was the 35th President of the United States. He served from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. His leadership during the ramming of his USS PT-109 during World War II led to being known for bravery and heroism in the South Pacific. Kennedy represented Massachusetts during 1947–1960, as both a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. He was elected President in 1960 in one of the closest elections in American history. He is, to date, the only Roman Catholic to be elected President of the United States.
Major events during his presidency included the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Space Race, early events of the Vietnam War, and the American Civil Rights Movement.
John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963. The Warren Commission concluded that he acted alone in killing the president, although later the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that a conspiracy may have been involved in the assassination , and the subject remains controversial. Kennedy's assassination is considered to be a defining moment in U.S. history due to its traumatic impact on the nation as well as on the political history of the ensuing decades, his subsequent branding as an icon for a new generation of Americans and American aspirations, and for the mystery and conspiracy allegations which surround it.
Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald; Rose, in turn, was the eldest child of John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, a prominent figure in Boston politics who was the city's mayor and a three-term member of Congress.
Kennedy attended Edward Devotion School for four years (kindergarten in 1922 to third grade), Riverdale Country School in the Bronx, the Dexter School in Boston, a year at Canterbury School, and then The Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut, one of the country's most elite private boarding schools for boys, from which he graduated in 1935. On September 25, 1935, he sailed to London with his parents and his sister Kathleen. There he enrolled at the London School of Economics with the intention of studying political economy for a year under the tutelage of Professor Harold Laski, but an illness hospitalized him shortly after his enrollment. His father insisted he return to the US. Later during the autumn of 1935, he enrolled in Princeton University, but was forced to leave after developing jaundice. The next autumn, he began attending Harvard College, where he resided in Winthrop House. Kennedy traveled to Europe twice during his Harvard years, visiting Britain, where his father was serving as ambassador to the Court of St. James. In 1937, Kennedy was prescribed steroids to control his colitis, which only increased his medical problems, causing him to develop osteoporosis of the lower lumbar spine . After graduating from Harvard, he attended Stanford University’s business school for a few months and then traveled to South America.
In 1940, Kennedy wrote his honors thesis, entitled "Appeasement in Munich" about the British dealings concerning the Munich Agreement. He initially intended for his thesis to be only for college use, but his father encouraged him to publish it in a book. He graduated cum laude from Harvard with a degree in international affairs in June 1940. His thesis was published in 1940 as a book entitled, "Why England Slept," and became a bestseller. 
Years later, it was revealed that, as a young man, Kennedy had been diagnosed with Addison's disease, a rare endocrine disorder. This and other medical disorders were kept from the press and public throughout Kennedy's lifetime.
In the spring of 1941, Kennedy volunteered for the U.S. Army, but was rejected, mainly because of his troublesome back. Nevertheless, in September of that year, the U.S. Navy accepted him, due to the influence of the director of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), a former naval attaché to the Ambassador, his father. As an ensign, he served in the office which supplied bulletins and briefing information for the Secretary of the Navy. It was during this assignment that the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. He attended the Naval Reserve Officers Training School and Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training Center before being assigned for duty in Panama and eventually the Pacific theater. He participated in various commands in the Pacific theater and earned the rank of lieutenant, commanding a patrol torpedo (PT) boat .
On August 2, 1943, Kennedy's boat, PT-109, was taking part in a nighttime patrol near New Georgia in the Solomon Islands when it was rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri  . Kennedy was thrown across the deck, injuring his already-troubled back. Still, Kennedy towed a wounded man three miles (5 km) in the ocean, arriving at an island where his crew was subsequently rescued. Kennedy said that he blacked out for periods of time during the life-threatening ordeal. For these actions, Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal under the following citation:
|For heroism; the rescue of three men following the ramming and sinking of his motor torpedo boat while attempting a torpedo attack on a Japanese destroyer in the Solomon Islands area on the night of Aug 1–2, 1943. Lt. KENNEDY, Capt. of the boat, directed the rescue of the crew and personally rescued three men, one of whom was seriously injured. During the following six days, he succeeded in getting his crew ashore, and after swimming many hours attempting to secure aid and food, finally affected the rescue of the men. His courage, endurance and excellent leadership contributed to the saving of several lives and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.|
Kennedy's other decorations in World War II included the Purple Heart, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged in early 1945, just a few months before Japan surrendered. The incident was popularized when he became president, and would be the subject of several magazine articles, books, comic books, TV specials and a feature length movie, making the PT-109 one of the most famous U.S. Navy ships of the war. Scale models and even G.I. Joe figures based on the incident were still being produced in the 2000s. The coconut which was used to scrawl a rescue message given to Solomon Islander scouts who found him was kept on his presidential desk and is still at the John F. Kennedy library.
During his presidency, Kennedy privately admitted to friends that he didn't feel that he deserved the medals he had received, because the PT-109 incident had been the result of a botched military operation that had cost the lives of two members of his crew. When asked by interviewers how he became a war hero, Kennedy's grim reply was: "It was involuntary. They sank my boat."
In May 2002, a National Geographic expedition found what is believed to be the wreckage of the PT-109 in the Solomon Islands. One of the Kennedy family also returned to the islands to give a gift to the scouts who are still alive today, but were turned away when they traveled to the inauguration because of communication problems. The Australian coastwatcher who dispatched the natives was also invited to the White House.
After World War II, John thought about being a journalist for a while before he decided to run for political office. Prior to the war, he hadn't really thought about being a politician primarily because his older brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. had been tabbed by the family as the future politician, and hopefully, the future President. Tragically, Joe was killed in World War II, making John next in line to fulfill his father's political ambitions. In 1946, Representative James Michael Curley vacated his seat in an overwhelmingly Democratic district to become mayor of Boston, and Kennedy ran for that seat, beating his Republican opponent by a large margin. He was a congressman for six years but had a mixed voting record, often diverging from President Harry S. Truman and the rest of the Democratic Party. In 1952, he defeated incumbent Republican Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. for the U.S. Senate. Kennedy married Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis on September 12, 1953. He underwent several spinal operations in the two following years, nearly dying (receiving the Catholic faith's "last rites" four times during his life), and was often absent from the Senate. During this period, he published Profiles in Courage, highlighting eight instances in which U.S. Senators risked their careers by standing by their personal beliefs. The book was awarded the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. .
John F. Kennedy voted for final passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, after having earlier voted for the "Jury Trial Amendment", which effectively rendered the Act toothless, because convictions for violations could not be obtained. Staunch segregationists such as James Eastland, John McClellan, and Mississippi Governor James Coleman were early supporters in Kennedy's presidential campaign. [T. Reeves, "A Question of Character', p. 140]
Sen. Joseph McCarthy was a friend of the Kennedy family; Robert F. Kennedy worked on the staff of McCarthy's committee, and McCarthy dated Patricia Kennedy. In 1954, when the Senate was poised to condemn McCarthy, John Kennedy had a speech drafted calling for the censure of McCarthy but he never delivered it. When the Senate rendered its highly publicized decision to censure McCarthy on December 2, 1954, Senator Kennedy was in a hospital and never indicated then or later how he would have voted. The episode seriously affected Kennedy in the liberal community, especially with Eleanor Roosevelt, as late as the 1960 election. [T. Reeves, & Collier & Horowitz] .
In 1960, Kennedy declared his intent to run for President of the United States. In the Democratic primary election, he faced challenges from Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, and Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic nominee in 1952 and 1956, who was not officially running but was a favorite write-in candidate. Kennedy won key primaries like Wisconsin and West Virginia. In the latter state, Kennedy made a visit to a coal mine, and talked to the mine workers to win their support; most people in that conservative, mostly Protestant state were deeply suspicious about Kennedy being a Catholic. Kennedy emerged as a universally acceptable candidate for the party after that victory. On July 13, 1960, the Democratic Party nominated Kennedy as its candidate for President. Kennedy asked Johnson to be his Vice-Presidential candidate, despite clashes between the two during the primary elections. He needed Johnson's strength in the South to win what was considered likely to be the closest election since 1916. Major issues included how to get the economy moving again, Kennedy's Catholicism, Cuba, and whether both the Soviet space and missile programs had surpassed those of the U.S. To allay fears that his Catholicism would impact his decision-making, he said in a famous speech in Houston, Texas (to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association), on September 12, 1960, "I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters—and the Church does not speak for me."  Kennedy also brought up the point of whether one-quarter of Americans were relegated to second-class citizenship just because they were Catholic.
In September and October, Kennedy debated Republican candidate Vice President Richard Nixon in the first televised U.S. presidential debates. During the debates, Nixon looked tense and uncomfortable, while Kennedy was composed, which led the television audience to deem Kennedy the winner, although radio listeners in general thought Nixon had won or the debate was a draw.  Nixon did not wear make-up during the debate unlike Kennedy. The debates are considered a political landmark: the point at which the medium of television played an important role in politics. .
John Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President on January 20, 1961. In his inaugural address 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", 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." 
Several years prior to Kennedy's attainment of the Presidency, a plan for the overthrow of the Castro regime had existed under the administration of Eisenhower. Central to such a plan (structured and detailed by the CIA with minimal input from the State Department) was the arming of a counter-revolutionary insurgency composed of anti-Castro Cubans. U.S. trained Cuban insurgents were to invade Cuba and conflagrate an uprising among the Cuban people in hopes of achieving the goal of removing Castro from power. On April 17, 1961, Kennedy gave approval for the previously planned invasion of Cuba to proceed. With support from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in what is known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, 1,500 U.S.-trained Cuban exiles, called "Brigade 2506", returned to the island in the hope of deposing Fidel Castro. However, the CIA proceeded to allow the troops to go even though Kennedy did not authorize air support. By April 19, Castro's government had captured or killed most of the invading exiles and Kennedy was forced to negotiate for the release of the 1,189 survivors. The failure of the plan resided in a key lack of dialogue among the military leadership, a result of which was the complete lack of naval support in the face of organised artillery troops on the island who easily incapacitated the exile force at the landing beaches. After 20 months, Cuba released the captured exiles in exchange for $53 million worth of food and medicine. The incident was a major embarrassment for Kennedy, but he took full personal responsibility for the debacle. Furthermore, the incident made Castro wary of the U.S. and untrusting, leading him to believe that another invasion such as that one would occur. . .
The Cuban Missile Crisis began on October 14, 1962, when American U-2 spy planes took photographs of a Soviet intermediate-range ballistic missile site under construction in Cuba. America would soon be posed with a serious nuclear threat. Here Kennedy faced a dilemma: if the U.S. attacked the sites, it might lead to nuclear war with the U.S.S.R.. However, if the U.S. did nothing, it would endure the perpetual threat of nuclear weapons within its region—in such close proximity that if the weapons were launched pre-emptively, the U.S. might have been unable to retaliate. Another fear was that the U.S. would appear to the world as weak in its own hemisphere. Many military officials and cabinet members pressed for an air assault on the missile sites, but Kennedy ordered a naval blockade in which the U.S. Navy inspected all ships. He began negotiations with the Soviets. He ordered the Soviets to remove all "defensive" material that is being built off the Cuban island. Without doing so, the Soviet people would face a naval blockade, as well as Cuba. A week later, he and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev reached an agreement. Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles while the U.S. publicly promised never to invade Cuba and also secretly promised to remove U.S. ballistic missiles from Turkey within six months. Following this incident, which brought the world closer to nuclear war than at any point before or since, Kennedy was more cautious in confronting the Soviet Union..
Arguing that "those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable," Kennedy sought to contain communism in Latin America by establishing the Alliance for Progress, which sent foreign aid to troubled countries in the region and sought greater human rights standards in the region. He worked closely with Puerto Rican Governor Luis Muñoz Marín for the development of the Alliance of Progress, as well as developments on the autonomy of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
As one of his first presidential acts, Kennedy created the Peace Corps. Through this program, Americans volunteered to help underdeveloped nations in areas such as education, farming, health care and construction.
In Vietnam, Kennedy used limited military action to fight the Communist Nationalist forces in that Country led by Ho Chi Minh. Proclaiming a fight against the spread of Communism, Kennedy enacted policies providing political, economic, and military support for the unstable French-installed South Vietnamese government, which included sending 18,000 military advisors and U.S. Special Forces to the area. Kennedy also agreed to the use of napalm, defoliants, free-fire zones and jet planes. U.S. involvement in the area continually escalated until regular U.S. forces were directly fighting the Vietnam War in the next administration. The Kennedy Administration increased military support, but the South Vietnamese military was unable to make headway against the pro-independence Viet-Minh and Viet Cong forces. By July 1963 Kennedy faced a crisis in Vietnam. The Administration's response was to assist in the coup d'état of the Catholic President of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem (LeFeber, "America, Russia and the Cold War", p. 233). In 1963, South Vietnamese generals overthrew the Diem government, arresting Diem and later killing him (though the exact circumstances of his death remain unclear). Kennedy sanctioned Diem's overthrow. One reason for the support was a fear that Diem might negotiate a neutralist coalition government which included Communists, as had occurred in Laos in 1962. Dean Rusk, Secretary of State, remarked "This kind of neutralism...is tantamount to surrender."
It remains a point of controversy among historians whether or not Vietnam would have escalated to the point it did had Kennedy served out his full term and possibly been re-elected in 1964. Fueling this speculation are statements made by Kennedy's and Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara that Kennedy was strongly considering pulling out of Vietnam after the 1964 election.  Nevertheless, given the stated reason for the overthrow of the Diem government, such action would have been a dramatic policy reversal.
Under simultaneous and opposing pressures from the Allies and the Soviets, Germany was divided. The Berlin Wall separated West and East Berlin, the latter being under the control of the Soviets. On June 26, 1963, Kennedy visited West Berlin and gave a public speech criticizing communism. Kennedy used the construction of the Berlin Wall as an example of the failures of communism: "Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in." The speech is known for its famous phrase "Ich bin ein Berliner". Nearly 5/6th of the population was on the street when Kennedy said the famous phrase. He remarked to aides afterwards: "We'll never have another day like this one.".
Troubled by the long-term dangers of radioactive contamination and nuclear weapons proliferation, Kennedy pushed for the adoption of a Limited or Partial Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited atomic testing on the ground, in the atmosphere, or underwater, but did not prohibit testing underground. The United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union were the initial signatories to the treaty. Kennedy signed the treaty into law in August 1963.
On the occasion of his visit to Ireland in 1963, President Kennedy joined with Irish President Éamon de Valera to form The American Irish Foundation. The mission of this organization was to foster connections between Americans of Irish descent and the country of their ancestry. Kennedy furthered these connections of cultural solidarity by accepting a grant of armorial bearings from the Chief Herald of Ireland.
He also visited the original cottage where previous Kennedys had lived before emigrating to America, and said: "This is where it all began ...".
Kennedy called his domestic program the "New Frontier". It ambitiously promised federal funding for education, medical care for the elderly, and government intervention to halt the recession. Kennedy also promised an end to racial discrimination. In 1963, he proposed a tax reform which included income tax cuts, but this was not passed by Congress until 1964, after his death. Few of Kennedy's major programs passed Congress during his lifetime, although, under his successor Lyndon Johnson, Congress did vote them through in 1964-65.
As President, Kennedy oversaw the last pre-Furman federal execution, and last, to date, military execution. In both cases he refused ask for commutation the death sentences (Iowa Governor Harold Hughes personally contacted Kennedy to request clemency for Victor Feguer who was sentenced to death under federal law in Iowa and executed on March 15, 1963).
The turbulent end of state-sanctioned racial discrimination was one of the most pressing domestic issues of Kennedy's era. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in 1954 that racial segregation in public schools would no longer be permitted. However, many schools, especially in southern states, did not obey the Supreme Court's injunction. Segregation on buses, in restaurants, movie theaters, bathrooms, and other public places remained. Kennedy supported racial integration and civil rights, and during the 1960 campaign he telephoned Coretta Scott King; wife of the jailed Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., which perhaps drew some additional black support to his candidacy.
In 1962, James Meredith tried to enroll at the University of Mississippi, but he was prevented from doing so by white students. Kennedy responded by sending some 400 federal marshals and 3,000 troops to ensure that Meredith could enroll in his first class. Kennedy also assigned federal marshals to protect Freedom Riders.
As President, Kennedy initially believed the grassroots movement for civil rights would only anger many Southern whites and make it even more difficult to pass civil rights laws through Congress, which was dominated by Southern Democrats, and he distanced himself from it. As a result, many civil rights leaders viewed Kennedy as unsupportive of their efforts.
On June 11, 1963, President Kennedy intervened when Alabama Governor George Wallace blocked the doorway to the University of Alabama to stop two African American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from enrolling. George Wallace moved aside after being confronted by federal marshals, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, and the Alabama National Guard. That evening Kennedy gave his famous civil rights address on national television and radio.  Kennedy proposed what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  
Kennedy was eager for the United States to lead the way in the space race. Sergei Khrushchev says JFK approached his father, Nikita, twice about a "joint venture" in space exploration—in June 1961 and Autumn 1963. On the first occasion, Russia was far ahead of America in terms of space technology. JFK later made a speech at Rice University in September 1962, in which he said, "No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space" and, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.". On the second approach to Khrushchev, the Russian was persuaded that cost-sharing was beneficial and American space technology was forging ahead. The U.S. had launched a geostationary satellite and Kennedy had asked Congress to approve more than $22 billion for the Apollo Project, which had the goal of landing an American man on the moon before the end of the decade. Khrushchev agreed to a joint venture in Autumn 1963, but JFK died in November before the agreement could be formalized. On July 20, 1969, almost six years after Kennedy's death, the Project Apollo's goal was realized when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to land on the moon.
|President||John F. Kennedy||1961–1963|
|Vice President||Lyndon B. Johnson||1961–1963|
|Treasury||C. Douglas Dillon||1961–1963|
|Defense||Robert S. McNamara||1961–1963|
|Justice||Robert F. Kennedy||1961–1963|
|Postmaster General||J. Edward Day||1961–1963|
|John A. Gronouski||1963|
|Interior||Stewart L. Udall||1961–1963|
|Agriculture||Orville L. Freeman||1961–1963|
|Commerce||Luther H. Hodges||1961–1963|
|Labor||Arthur J. Goldberg||1961–1962|
|W. Willard Wirtz||1962–1963|
|HEW||Abraham A. Ribicoff||1961–1962|
|Anthony J. Celebrezze||1962–1963|
Kennedy appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:
Kennedy and his wife "Jackie" were very young in comparison to earlier Presidents and first ladies, and were both extraordinarily popular in ways more common to pop singers and movie stars than politicians, influencing fashion trends and becoming the subjects of numerous photo spreads in popular magazines.
The Kennedys brought new life and vigor — a favorite word of Kennedy — to the atmosphere of the White House. They believed that the White House should be a place to celebrate American history, culture, and achievement, and they invited artists, writers, scientists, poets, musicians, actors, Nobel Prize winners and athletes to visit, notwithstanding Kennedy's own well-known middle-brow intellectual and aesthetic tastes. Jacqueline also bought new art and furniture, and eventually restored all the rooms in the White House.
The White House also seemed like a more fun, youthful place, because of the Kennedys' two young children, Caroline and John Jr. (who came to be known in the popular press as "John-John", although years later Jacqueline Kennedy denied that the family called him by that name). Outside the White House lawn the Kennedys established a preschool, swimming pool and tree house. Jackie did not like the children to be photographed, and during her frequent absences Kennedy asked photographers to come and photograph the children in the Oval Office. He was quoted as saying, "Jackie's not here, so you'd better come over right away." The resulting photos are probably the most famous of the children, and especially John Jr., after he was photographed playing underneath the President’s desk.
The President was closely tied to popular culture. Things such as "Twisting at the White House" and "Camelot" (the popular Broadway play) were part of the JFK culture. Vaughn Meader's "First Family" comedy album—an album parodying the President, First Lady, their family and administration—sold about 4 million copies. On May 19, 1962 Marilyn Monroe sang for the president at a large birthday party in Madison Square Garden.
Behind the glamorous facade, the Kennedys also suffered many personal tragedies. Jacqueline suffered a miscarriage in 1955 and gave birth to a stillborn daughter in 1956. The death of their newborn son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, in August 1963, was a great loss. In the years following the Kennedy presidency it came to be known that Kennedy carried on numerous extramarital dalliances throughout his presidency, all connived at by those members of the presidential staff.
The charisma of Kennedy and his family led to the figurative designation of "Camelot" for his administration, credited by his widow to his affection for the contemporary Broadway musical of the same name. She gave an interview to Theodore H. White, where she mentioned Camelot (the musical), and White later said that he had "found the headline".
President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 p.m. CST on November 22, 1963, while on a political trip through Texas. He was struck by at least two bullets. Texas Governor John Connally, seated ahead of Kennedy, was also struck by a bullet, but survived.
Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in a theatre about 80 minutes after the assassination and charged at 7:00 p.m. for killing a Dallas policeman by "murder with malice", and also charged at 11:30 p.m. for the murder of Kennedy (there being no charge for "assassination" of a president at that time). Oswald denied shooting anyone; he claimed that he was being set up as a "patsy", and that photographs of him holding the alleged murder weapon were fabrications. Oswald was fatally shot less than two days later in a Dallas police station by Jack Ruby, in front of live TV cameras. Consequently, Oswald's guilt or innocence was never determined in a court of law, and some critics (such as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, and conspiracy researchers Mark Lane and David Lifton) contend that Oswald was not involved at all and that he was framed.
Five days after Oswald was killed, President Lyndon B. Johnson created the Warren Commission—chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren—to investigate the assassination. It concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin. A later investigation in the 1970s by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) also concluded that Oswald was the assassin, but that there was a "probable conspiracy" as well. 
The assassination was captured on Super 8 mm film, most famously by Dallas dress manufacturer Abraham Zapruder. The film shows President Kennedy raising his hands in front of his neck, most likely in reaction to an initial bullet striking him in the back, evidenced by the holes in his jacket and shirt. Shortly after, it shows the effect of the second, fatal blow which forces his head backwards. There is visible blood spatter, and then the President slumps to his left onto the seat.
Television became the primary source by which people were kept informed of events surrounding John F. Kennedy's assassination. Newspapers were kept as souvenirs rather than sources of updated information. U.S. networks switched to 24-hour news coverage for the first time ever. Kennedy's state funeral procession and the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald were all broadcast live in America and in other places around the world.
The assassination had an effect on many people, not only in the U.S., but also among the world population. Many vividly remember where they were when first learning of the news that Kennedy was assassinated. U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson said of the assassination, "all of us... will bear the grief of his death until the day of ours."
Ultimately, the death of President Kennedy and the ensuing confusion surrounding the facts of his assassination are of political and historical importance insofar as they marked a decline in the faith of the American people in the political establishment — a point made by commentators from Gore Vidal to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Coupled with the murder of his own brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and that of Martin Luther King, Jr., the five tumultuous years from 1963 to 1968 signaled a growing disillusionment within the well of hope for political and social change which so defined the lives of those who lived through the 1960s. Kennedy's introduction of the U.S. to the Vietnam War preceded President Johnson's escalation of a conflict which contributed to a decade of national difficulties and disappointment on the political landscape. The Watergate scandal of President Richard Nixon's administration is widely recognized as being the final stroke in this process of diminishing trust in government.
On March 14, 1967, Kennedy's body was moved to a permanent burial place and memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Kennedy is buried with his wife and their deceased minor children; his brother Robert is also buried nearby. His grave is lit with an "Eternal Flame". Kennedy and William Howard Taft are the only two U.S. Presidents buried at Arlington.
Many of Kennedy's speeches (especially his inaugural address) are considered iconic; and despite his relatively short term in office and lack of major legislative changes during his term, Americans regularly vote him as one of the best Presidents, in the same league as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some excerpts of Kennedy's inaugural address are engraved on a plaque at his grave at Arlington.
Kennedy is also sometimes credited with giving American Catholics the full recognition they deserved as American citizens. He is also seen as responsible for giving Catholics full opportunities in politics outside of the Northeast.
Kennedy's legacy has been memorialized in various aspects of American culture. They include:
A number of critics argue that his reputation is undeserved. His immense popularity, according to some critics, was the result of the optimistic beginnings of many programs declared to be of great benefit to the United States, its people, and various global issues, and the national trauma of his assassination. The Civil Rights Act which he sent to Congress in June 1963 was, in large part, conceived by his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and it was signed into law by his successor, Lyndon Johnson, in 1964.
Other critics point out that Kennedy started the process which led to the U.S. getting involved in a complete war in Vietnam. They point to Kennedy sending over 18,000 military advisers and introducing napalm, defoliants, strategic hamlet, free-fire zones and jet planes to the Vietnam conflict, which the previous administration was not willing to do.
According to the US Senate Church Committee, Kennedy had an affair with Judith Campbell Exner, who was simultaneously having an affair with Sam Giancana, the boss of the Chicago Mafia, while Giancana was conspiring with the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro.
It is suggested by Kennedy's critics that his failure to disclose the severity of his health concerns represented something of a failure of professional integrity. Seymour Hersh's The Dark Side of Camelot (1998) presents one such critical analysis of the Kennedy administration, stating that Kennedy "was probably one of the unhealthiest men ever to sit in the Oval Office," because of Addison's Disease and a bad back, as well as recurring childhood illnesses and venereal infections. Robert Dallek's An Unfinished Life (2003) is a more traditional biography but contains a lot of detail about Kennedy's health issues.
Thomas Reeves' A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy is a sharply critical analysis of Kennedy's "revisionism". Noam Chomsky, in his book Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture (1993), presents a thesis on the Kennedy administration in opposition to the one that lingers in the memory of many Americans.