.. sident Richard Nixon but was able to preform well in a series of television debates against Nixon, using poised and vigorous performances to win over voters. He promised tougher defense policies and progressive health, housing, and civil rights programs. He also promised to lead the nation out of economic stagnation through his “New Frontier” plan. Kennedy won the election by a narrow margin of 113,000 votes out of 68,800,000 cast, but had to accept reduced Democratic majorities in Congress.
In 1961, his first year in office, Kennedy experienced a series of political setbacks due to a series of adverse international developments. He inherited a secret plan to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba from the previous administration of Dwight Eisenhower. Kennedy approved an invasion of Cuba in April by refugees acting with the help of the U.S. agencies. The quick and decisive failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion resulted in personal embarrassment for Kennedy.
Later in the spring Kennedy pondered sending U.S. troops into Laos, which was being threatened by Communist insurgents. He flew to Vienna in June to meet with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. They agreed on a neutralized Laos, but Kennedy was threathen by Khrushchev’s statement that West Berlin was “a bone in my throat.” When the Soviet Union built a wall between the eastern and western parts of Berlin in August, Kennedy responded by sending 1,500 U.S. troops to Berlin. Cold war tensions increased when the Soviet Union sent the first man into space in April and resumed atmospheric nuclear tests in September.
In the fall of 1962 rumors began to circulate that nuclear-armed Soviet missiles were being set up in Cuba. In October, U.S. intelligence confirmed that middle-range missiles were being installed. After a week of secret meetings with his advisers, the president announced his plan to place a naval blockade around Cuba to prevent the arrival of more missiles. He demanded that the Soviet Union dismantle and remove the missiles that had been detected.
On October 28 Khrushchev gave in to Kennedy’s demands and the president removed the blockade and reassured the Soviet Union that U.S. would not invade Cuba. The Soviet retreat was considered a personal and political victory for Kennedy. Kennedy further improved his foreign affairs record in 1963, which would turn out to be his final year in office. In June he gave an innovative foreign policy speech calling for an end to the cold war. The U.S.
and Soviet Union agreed to establish a “hot line” to allow communication in times of crisis. In July Kennedy worked out a nuclear test-ban treaty with the Soviet Union and Great Britain. Another Kennedy project, The Alliance for Progress, a program of aid for Latin America, was also a popular success. These accomplishments, however, were overshadowsed by the worsening situation in South Vietnam, where Kennedy had placed 17,000 U.S. military advisers to help an unstable regime fight a growing Communist movement. Kennedy’s wit and charm made him very popular in the U.S.
as well as abroad, but it did not help him greatly with a republican majority congress. Due to the lack of democratic support in congress most of his domestic policies stalled on Capital Hill. “Every president must endure a gap between what he would like and what is possible”, Kennedy once remarked at a press conference. When the civil rights movement began to stregthen in 1962-63 he began to actively promote civil rights legislation. He also proposed a tax cut to stimulate the economy.
However, at the time of his assassination these and other programs including federal aid to education and Medicare remained tied up in congress. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, would go on to succussfully push the legislation through a more democrat friendly congress in 1964-65. He had better luck with executive actions as he was able to successfully force steel companies into lowering prices in April 1962 and to encourage the race to send an astronaut to the moon. Kennedy responded strongly against efforts to prevent school integration in the South. In September 1962, he appealed for compliance with the law when U.S.
Supreme Court ordered the University of Mississippi to accept a black student. Kennedy ordered 3,000 federal troops to the campus to control riots and ensure that the order was followed. In 1963 Kennedy threatened federal force to help win partial desegregation of public accommodations in Birmingham, Alabama, and of classrooms in Alabama public schools. Kennedy also asked Congress for legislation to desegregate public facilities and give the Justice Department the authority to bring school integration suits. Most of his proposals ultimately enacted, following his death, in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the fall of 1963 Kennedy began to plan his strategy for reelection.
He flew around the country campaigning, using the improvements in relations between the U.S. and Soviet Union as his strongest selling point, to generally favorable public responses. On November 22, at 12:30 PM CST, Kennedy was shot in the head and spin by a sniper while riding in an open limousine through Dallas, Texas. Following the incided he was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where efforts to revive him failed. A commission headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded in September 1964 that the lone assassin was Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was captured shortly following the assassination and killed two days later by Jack Ruby.
The state funeral of President Kennedy was watched on television by millions around the world. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery where his grave is next to an internal flame in his memory. Despite the conclusion of the commission many questions and conspiracy theories still surround Kennedy’s death. In the history of our country no other president has captured the imaginations and hearts of Americans more so than John F. Kennedy.
His charisma and flare for life in the lime light were able to far outshine his shortcomings and failures as both a person and a president. Kennedy’s impact on U.S. history is still felt today. Many politicans are still trying to recreate “Camelot”, the mystical philosphy that made John Kennedy one of the most liked and popular presidents in history. The pursuit to recreate Camelot and later the fear of a second coming of Camelot overcame one of Kennedy’s cheif rivals, Richard Nixon.
Nixon, like everyone else in American society at the time, was fooled into buying into the idea of John Kennedy, handsome man of morals and principle, ideal family man, the personifcation of the American dream. While much of this may be true, today history shows us that Kennedy too had his shortcomings. Regardless of what the turth may be, the legacy of John Kennedy and “Camelot” live on today and have solidified J.F.K. as one of the most storied figures in U.S. History.