John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States (1961-1963), the youngest man elected to the office.
Of Irish descent, he was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on May 29, 1917. Graduating from Harvard in 1940, he entered the Navy. In 1943, when his PT boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer, Kennedy, despite grave injuries, led the survivors through perilous waters to safety.
Back from the war, he became a Democratic Congressman from the Boston area, advancing in 1953 to the Senate.
In 1956 Kennedy almost gained the Democratic nomination for Vice President, and four years later was a first-ballot nominee for President. Millions watched his television debates with the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon. Winning by a narrow margin in the popular vote, Kennedy became the first Roman Catholic President.
His Inaugural Address offered the memorable injunction: “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” As President, he set out to redeem his campaign pledge to get America moving again.
After his election, Kennedy rolled up his sleeves and began planning his domestic policy. Surrounding himself with highly intelligent advisers including his brother Robert “Bobby” Kennedy as Attorney General, Kennedy immediately got to work on constructing his “New Frontier,” a plan that originated in his presidential campaign. The plan was designed to combat rising unemployment and inflation by increasing government spending (which helped keep inflation low) and by cooperating with big business to keep wages high while keeping costs down for consumers.
His economic programs launched the country on its longest sustained expansion since World War II; and he laid plans for a massive assault on persisting pockets of privation and poverty.
Responding to ever more urgent demands, he also took vigorous action in the cause of equal rights, calling for new civil rights legislation. His vision of America extended to the quality of the national culture and the central role of the arts in a vital society.
He wished America to resume its old mission as the first nation dedicated to the revolution of human rights.
On November 22, 1963, when he was hardly past his first thousand days in office, JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, becoming also the youngest President to die.