John F. Kennedy
The 35th President of the United States of America
1960 Presidential Election
On January 2, 1960, John F. Kennedy began his campaign for President in the Democratic primary election. His main competition was from Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon. Kennedy defeated Humphrey in Wisconsin and West Virginia and Morse in Maryland and Oregon. Kennedy's win in West Virginia proved his broad appeal. At the Democratic Convention, he gave his infamous "New Frontier" speech.
Since Humphrey and Morse were eliminated, Kennedy's opponent at the Democratic convention was Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson. On July 13, the Democratic convention nominated Kennedy as its candidate. Kennedy asked Johnson to be his Vice Presidential candidate, despite much opposition from his party. He needed Johnson's influence in the South to win what was considered likely to be a close election.
- In September and October, Kennedy appeared with Republican candidate Richard Nixon in the first televised U.S. presidential debate in U.S. history. Kennedy choose to wear a lot of makeup and appeared relaxed, leading the huge television audience to favor Kennedy as the winner. Radio listeners either thought Nixon had won or that the debates were a draw. The debates are now considered a milestone in American political history—the point at which television began to play an important role in politics.
- John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President of the United States at noon on January 20, 1961. In his infamous inaugural speech he spoke of the need for all Americans to be productive citizens, famously saying, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." He asked every country to join together to fight what he called the "common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself".
The previous president Eisenhower had constructed a plan to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba. The CIA and the U.S. military planned to invade Cuba with U.S.-trained anti-Castro Cuban exiles. The plan was to invade Cuba and create an uprising among the Cuban people in order to remove Castro from power. On April 17, 1961, Kennedy began what became known as the "Bay of Pigs Invasion". After two days, the Cuban government had captured or killed the invading exiles, and Kennedy was forced to negotiate terms for the release of the 1,189 survivors. After twenty months, Cuba released the survivors in exchange for $53 million worth of food and medicine. Kennedy took personal responsibility for the failure of the mission.
- On October 14, 1962, CIA U-2 spy planes photographed intermediate-range ballistic missiles being constructed in Cuba by the Soviets. Kennedy decided that the missiles posed an immediate nuclear threat. If the U.S. attacked the sites, it might lead to nuclear war with the U.S.S.R., but if the U.S. did nothing, it would be faced with the increased threat from close range nuclear weapons. On October 28, Nikita Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the missile sites after negotiations.
President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 pm Central Standard Time on November 22, 1963, while on a political trip to Texas. He was shot once in the upper back and once in the head. He was taken to Parkland Hospital for emergency medical treatment, but pronounced dead at 1:00 pm.
President Johnson created the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination, which discovered that Lee Harvey Oswald, who worked at the Texas School Book Depository from where the shots were suspected to have been fired, was the assassin.
- A Requiem Mass was held for Kennedy at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on November 25, 1963. Afterwards, John F. Kennedy's body was first buried in a plot in Arlington National Cemetary. During the next 3 years, approximately 16 million people visited his grave. On March 14, 1967, Kennedy's body was transferred to a permanent burial plot at the Cemetery.