“Never before has man had such a great capacity to control his own environment, to end hunger, poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and human misery. We have the power to make the best generation of mankind in the history of the world.”
~John F. Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy was by far my favorite president. Full of youth, humor, courage, and idealism.
The Muckers. During much of his childhood, Jack suffered from constant illnesses including scarlet fever, whooping cough, mumps, German measles, chicken pox, and many others. He spent weeks sick in bed, with his books as his beloved companions, dreaming of faraway lands, adventures, and history.
One of his favorite books was King Arthur and the Kights of the Roundtable. He started a club with his friends, calling it “The Muckers” because the muckers was the headmaster’s word for rebellious boys. Jack excelled in athletics, but struggled with school.
The Power of Privilege. Raised in Brookline, Massachusetts, The Kennedy clan included nine children altogether. Their father, Joseph, was a successful stock and real estate investor and became a multimillionaire in the 1920’s. He became a Hollywood producer and owned movie theaters. President Franklin Roosevelt appointed him the first head of the new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and the ambassador to the United Kingdom.
When Jack was about three years old, he contracted scarlet fever. Hundreds of children in Boston were battling the disease, but there were not enough space in the hospitals. Through family connections, Jack got a bed in the hospital. During the two months stay in the hospital, his father went to church daily to pray for him. He promised God that if Jack was saved, he would donate half of his wealth to charity. After Jack recovered, the father kept his promise and donated to charity. Jack realized he was born into privilege and the responsibility that came from it.
A Navy Sailor. Hampered by severe medical problems, Jack had to use his father’s influence to get admitted into the navy. In World War II, John F. Kennedy held the rank of lieutenant and served as the skipper of a patrol torpedo boat (PT). Fifteen U.S. Navy boats had gathered in the Blackett Straight to stop the progress of a convoy of Japanese ships. The PT boats had poor communications and no radar. By the time the Japanese destroyer Amagiri was close by, it was too late for Lt. Kennedy to react. The destroyer slammed into the PT boat and sliced it in half. Kennedy led 10 survivors to different islands, in hopes to be rescued. Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and the Purple Heart Medal for courage and service.
Years later, a little boy visiting the White House asked Kennedy: “Mr. President, how did you become a war hero?” The president responded, “It was involuntary. They sank my boat.”
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” ~William Shakespeare
Public Service. After the passing of his eldest brother, Joe, the politician in the family, Jack continued on the path of journalism and business. Later, he covered the United Nations conference and was convinced that the people in power were making important decisions that affected the world. He was passionate about helping create a better world, a world of peace and justice. He continued on the path of public service.
Jackie. In 1954, JFK married Jacqueline Bouvier. It was a spasmodic courtship, on and off again (Ross and Rachel type relationship).
The First Catholic President. “I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president who happens also to be Catholic.” America was widely a Protestant population and wanted to make sure that religion was not the issue.
His message was one of hope and described the challenges of the future as: “the new frontier of unknown opportunities and perils—a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.” At the end of his infamous inaugural address, he states: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
Peace Corps. By executive order, President Kennedy established the Peace Corps, an organization of American volunteers that would go to different places around the world and help in underdeveloped countries to build better lives.
Bay of Pigs. The objective was to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime. With the cooperation of the CIA and the U.S. military, 1,500 U.S. trained Cubans landed on the island. The Cuban government had captured or killed the invading exiles and JFK had to negotiate the terms for their release. JFK took full responsibility for the failed mission and learned from his mistakes.
Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1962, CIA spy planes had photograph evidence that Cuba had missile sites built by the Soviets. The Russians wanted the American missiles removed from Turkey. President Kennedy negotiated terms. This led to the United States and the Soviet Union to sign the world’s first treaty to control arms and weapons.
John F. Kennedy left an inspiring legacy in history. He loved the American virtues and had a passion to serve the good people. “I’m an idealist without illusions.” JFK was a dreamer, that wanted to make excellence a reality.