Thesis Statement: John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) addressed the American people as the new thirty-fifth President of the United States (US); that day, JFK showed his remarkable vision with the promises he made that forever changed the U. S. foreign policy and our relationship with the world.
It was a cold morning on January twentieth of nineteen sixty-one; the day that everyone was anticipating. Finally, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was going to address the public as the thirty-fifth president of the United States. People were excited and, cheerful they could smell the change in the air. Everyone expected great things from this young and enthusiastic President. He made promises along the way, now it was time to see if his ideas will come to fruition. This is the speech that changed the United States domestic and foreign policy, affecting all even fifty-seven years later. That day, JFK showed his remarkable vision with the promises he made that forever changed the U. S. foreign policy and our relationship with the world.
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John F. Kennedy was born on May the twenty-ninth of nineteen seventeen, in Brookline Massachusetts. “He was the second oldest son of Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Joseph Kennedy Sr., both of them came from wealthy Roman Catholic families” (Sellen 1). It was instilled at very young age that he had to excel at everything in life . He graduated from Harvard University in nineteen forty and joined the Navy the year after. He served proudly during the next four years, and came back a hero, after the motor torpedo boat he commanded was sunk and had to swim for hours pulling one of his crew members. JFK was a very charismatic figure, that only helped him to enter the ring of politics, a quote supporting this “Before he had even entered politics, then, Kennedy had already developed a usefully dual image as both man of letters and man of action” (White 229). This image became very useful later when, in nineteen forty-six he was elected to the House of Representatives without any experience in politics. Ten years later, he became Senator for the State of Massachusetts, and finally on nineteen sixty, he fulfilled his father’s aspirations and became President of the United States.
The days leading up to the big day of the inaugural address were extremely busy for JFK’s inner group, especially for Theodore Chaikin Sorensen, who was not only a close friend, but a respected lawyer, advisor and speech writer. Sorensen was the mastermind behind all of the Presidential speeches that he was so well known for. It was said that the president was only involved with the editing of said speeches, “Kennedy had not actually written these and other dazzling speeches, though he did often edit them” (White 232) but thanks to his charisma and well liked personality the delivery of said speeches, was what won the hearts of the American people.
One of his most important policies mention on his inaugural address, was the creation of the Peace Corps. Even though, JFK did not came up with the idea of the Peace Corps, he use it as part of his presidential platform after having some discussions with Senator Huber Humphrey and Congressman Henry Reuss. On March of 1961, JFK signed an executive order creating the Peace Corps and he appointed Sargent Shriver, his brother in law, as the director (“Peace”). The main purpose of the newly created group was to lend support to underdeveloped countries, by sending trained American volunteers, to help implement developing programs specific to the needs of the area, for example:
“ …teaching in primary and secondary schools, especially as part of national English language teaching programs; participation in the worldwide program of malaria eradication; instruction and operation of public health and sanitation projects; aiding in village development through school construction and other programs; increasing rural agricultural productivity by assisting local farmers to use modern implements and techniques.” (Schlesinger 1).
the members of the Peace Corps were lawyers, teachers, engineers, doctors, etc. they had a wide range line of work. Also as volunteers, they did not received a salary, instead they were given a stipend and were encourage to live like the locals, speak their language and follow their customs and at the end of their service, they were provided with a form of severance package to help until they rejoin the workforce in the U.S.(1). The program by 1966 had approximately 15,000 volunteers in forty-five countries (Gorman) all answering the call of the newly elected president “And so my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country.” (Kennedy), making the Peace Corps one of the most successful legacies of JFK until this day.
One of the crucial issues that arouse during JFK’s campaign was the need of meaningful Civil Rights Legislation. JFK was in favor of making changes that improved the life of the black citizens of this country, as stated in his inaugural address, “. . .and unwilling to witness of permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.” (Kennedy 1), this policy was the cornerstone of his campaign and motivate black constituents to shift from a republican party to the democratic party and thus giving JFK the win . After the Birmingham confrontation, the shock of the display of violence on the news, JFK sent a proposed bill that, “included provisions banning racial discrimination in public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, parks, and swimming pools” (Clarkin 1). Congress members, especially from the South, were not too happy with the bill presented to them. One of the most pivotal leaders during the fight for equal rights was A. Phillip Randolph. He was a great organizer and leader of a protest in Washington, D.C. that was a great success. In August of 1963, a group led by A. Philip Randolph and organized by Bayard Rustin, two-thousand protesters marched into our nation’s capital, and this is where Martin Luther King Junior gave his famous “I Have A Dream Speech” as a way to pressure Congress members to sign the bill. The pressure, although, did nothing to change the mind of the members of Congress and only after JFK’s death did the bill finally pass. Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, 1964 (Kennedy), after using his influence to gain the necessary votes and ultimately honor his memory.
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In addition to Peace Corps and Civil Rights Legislations, JFK wanted to take on a policy of humanitarian help to Latin America. In his Inaugural Address he reaffirms his position of helping those in poverty “To our sister republics south of the border, we offer a special pledge to convert our good words into good deeds in a new alliance for progress to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty” (Kennedy 2), this was called an “Alliance For Progress”. Dunne states that, “…committing US funds to a range of social goals including combating illiteracy and endemic diseases, tackling poverty, reforming tax structures and promoting land reform” (Dunne 1391), through this new policy JFK’s idea was to change America into a continent with stable leadership and new allies. This was also a way to keep Latin America from Imperialism and the hoped aftereffect, isolationism of Cuba. As tensions escalated between Cuba and the U. S. the rest of Latin America started to doubt the humanitarian reasons of the policy. Despite the efforts of the program to succeed, with little help from the upcoming administrations, by the 1973 the program was cancelled (‘Alliance”) an was determined a failure.
Next on the list was the Nuclear Ban Treaty, after the invention of the nuclear bomb and detonation of the same in Alamogordo, New Mexico, in July 16, 1945.(Boyer 807) , the United States felt confident in their superiority and power of leverage against other nations. After the Soviet Union fabricated their own version of the nuclear bomb, U. S. did not have the upper hand anymore, thus the Cold War. It became clear during JFK speech the importance of a treaty, “Let both sides, for the first time formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations”( Kennedy 2), this was view as a peace offering and the commitment to finalized the treaty. After several threats of war and several failed negotiations, Kennedy’s treaty came into effect in October 10, 1963, some of the important points in the treaty entail that “ nuclear weapons tests or other nuclear explosions under water, in the atmosphere, or in outer space” (“Nuclear”) were prohibited, underground tests were permitted, as long as, there were no nuclear debris affecting other nations, and they agree in the eventual weapon disarmament and on-site inspections of the facilities.
By the Fall of 1963, JFK was preparing himself for the reelection. His advisors were positive that the American people will vote the president for a second term, making Florida and Texas two states primordial for the win. The State of Texas was first in line, two-day tour of the four most important cities, San Antonio, Houston, Forth Worth and Dallas, to rally up the Democrats of the State. The tour went without a hitch, people line up on the streets to take a glimpse of the President and First Lady. On the morning of November 22, 1963, they left their hotel in Forth Worth to fly to Dallas Texas, were a motorcade was waiting for them. The Governor of Texas, John Connally and his wife Nellie were already in the car ready to leave, JFK and Jackeline sat behind them. The trip was a ten-mile long route that will take them to a schedule luncheon in the Trade Mart. Unknowingly to everyone Lee Harvey Oswald was also waiting for the president in the Texas School Depository Building, when the motorcade was driving in front of the building, Oswald shot the President twice, once in the head and the neck, also injuring Governor Connally in the back. The President was declared dead, at the Parkland Memorial Hospital at approximately 1:00 pm, leaving the country to mourned him.
To summarize, while president JFK life was cut up short, he managed to fulfilled several policies that proved the US commitment to assist with aid to underdeveloped countries while keeping the peace. The Peace Corps was essential to demonstrate to the world that Americans were willing to developed specific programs that helped eradicate diseases and attend to basic needs. In regards to our own country, we needed to first make sure that our own citizens had full legal rights, which was finally achieved with the Civil Rights Legislation. The commitment of the U. S. extended to Latin America, while the Alliance for progress program was not entirely successful, it started as a meaningful way of cooperation between countries. Lastly, a WWIII was avoided with the signing of the Nuclear Ban Treaty, It took 18 years after the conception of the nuclear bomb to finally set rules about the testing, disarmament and inspections of nuclear sites. All this policies and several more were implemented thanks to a visionary and a speech of the length of three pages.
- “Alliance for Progress.” JFK Library, www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/jfk-in-history/alliance-for-progress.
- Briggs, Philip J. “2: Kennedy and the Congress: The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, 1963,” in John F. Kennedy: The Promise Revisited, ed. Paul Harper and Joann P. Krieg (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988), 35, http://www.questia.com/read/15070551/john-f-kennedy-the-promise-revisited.
- Clarkin, Thomas. “Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2013. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=89311749&site=eds-live.
- Dionisopoulos, George, et al. In a Perilous Hour: The Public Address of John F. Kennedy (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995), vii, http://www.questia.com/read/35345065/in-a-perilous-hour-the-public-address-of-john-f.
- Dunne, Michael. “Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress: Countering Revolution in Latin America. Part I: From the White House to the Charter of Punta Del Este.” International Affairs, vol. 89, no. 6, Nov. 2013, pp. 1389–1409. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/1468-2346.12080.
- Freidel, Frank , et al. www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/john-f-kennedy/. 2006. 26 october 2018.
- Gorman, Robert F. “Peace Corps.” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2013. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=89311875&site=eds-live.
- Helicher, Karl. “1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies.” Library Journal, vol. 133, no. 13, Aug. 2008, pp. 102–104. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=33914881&site=eds-live.
- Kennedy, John. et al. “Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy: Friday, January 20, 1961.” Current, no. 510, 2009, p. 19. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgov&AN=edsgcl. 194963306&site=eds-live.
- “Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.” JFK Library, www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/jfk-in- history/nuclear-test-ban-treaty.
- “Peace Corps.” JFK Library, www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/jfk-in-history/peace-corps.
- Schlesinger Jr., Arthur M., et al. “The Peace Corps.” Election of 1960 & the Administration of John F. Kennedy, Jan. 2003, p. 104. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pwh&AN=10253372&site=eds-live.
- Sellen, Robert W. “John F. Kennedy.” Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2013.
- White, Mark. “Apparent Perfection: The Image of John F. Kennedy.” History, vol. 98, no. 330, Apr. 2013, pp. 226–246. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/1468-229X.12006.
- Wall, Bennett H., Adler, Richard. “President Kennedy Is Assassinated.” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2013. EBSCOhost,search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=8931582&site=eds-live.
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