After Kennedy’s military service as commander of the Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 during World War II in the South Pacific, his aspirations turned political. With the encouragement and grooming of his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., Kennedy represented Massachusetts’s 11th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953 as a Democrat, and served in the U.S. Senate from 1953 until 1960. Kennedy defeated then Vice President and Republican candidate Richard Nixon in the 1960 U.S. presidential election, one of the closest in American history.
He was the second-youngest President (after Theodore Roosevelt), the first President born in the 20th century, and the youngest elected to the office, at the age of 43. He was the first and only Catholic president, and is the only president to have won a Pulitzer Prize. Events during his administration include the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Space Race, the African American Civil Rights Movement and early events of the Vietnam War. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.
Lee Harvey Oswald was charged with the crime but was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby before he could be put on trial. The FBI, the Warren Commission, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Oswald was the assassin, with the HSCA allowing for the probability of conspiracy based on disputed acoustic evidence. The event proved to be an important moment in U.S. history because of its impact on the nation and the ensuing political repercussions. Today, Kennedy continues to rank highly in public opinion ratings of former U.S. presidents.
The words and quotes of John F. Kennedy. “The word secrecy is repugnant in a society open and free. And we as a people we opposed, intrinsically and historically, to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret meetings. We are facing all over the world, a conspiracy, monopolistic and ruthless, mainly based on a secret means, to expand, its sphere of influence. Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others. This increase in the life span and the number of our senior citizens presents this Nation with increased opportunities: the opportunity to draw upon their skill and sagacity and the opportunity to provide the respect and recognition they have earned. It is not enough for a great nation merely to have added new years to life our objective must also be to add new life to those years.
The quality of American life must keep pace with the quantity of American goods. This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor. Our restraint is not inexhaustible. Every American ought to have the right to be treated; as he would like to be treated, as one would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future. When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters–one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity. Diplomacy and defense are not substitutes for one another. Either alone will fail.
Great crises produce great men, and great deeds of courage. A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. A nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or regard that quality in its chosen leaders today – and in fact we have forgotten. A young man who does not have what it takes to perform military service is not likely to have what it takes to make a living. Today’s military rejects include tomorrow’s hard-core unemployed. And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. Communism has never come to power in a country that was not disrupted by war or corruption, or both. Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names. Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies.
Those whom God has so joined together, let no man put asunder. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in ensuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.
That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or to make it the last. This administration intends to be candid about its errors. For as a wise man once said, “an error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it”. We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors and we expect you to point them out when we miss them. Without debate without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed. And no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian law decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the first amendment, the only business in America specifically protected by the constitution,not primarily to amuse or entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and sentimental, not to simply give the public what it wants, but to inform, to arouse, and to reflect to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mould, and educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.
This means greater coverage and analysis of international news, for it is no longer far away and foreign, but close at hand and local.. it means greater attention to improved attention to greater understanding of the news, as well as improved transmission, and it means finally, the government at all levels, must meet its obligation, to provide you with it’s possible information, outside the narrowest limits of national security. And so it is to the printing press, to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the carrier of his news, that we look for strength, and his assistance, confident that with your help, Man will be what he was born to be…free and independent”.