And so, 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.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
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.
John F. Kennedy
History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.
John F. Kennedy
Today is the 50th anniversary of your election to the Presidency,thank you for being a great president and a true role model to look up to in presidential history!
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.
After his military service as commander of the Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 during World War II in the South Pacific, 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. Kennedy is the only Catholic, and the first Irish American, president, and is the only president to have won a Pulitzer Prize. Events during his presidency included 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 stages 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 any trial. The FBI, the Warren Commission, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that Oswald was the assassin, with the HSCA allowing for the probability of conspiracy based on disputed acoustic evidence. Today, Kennedy continues to rank highly in public opinion ratings of former U.S. presidents.
1960 presidential election.
United States presidential election, 1960
On January 2, 1960, Kennedy initiated his campaign for President in the Democratic primary election, where he faced challenges from Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon. Kennedy defeated Humphrey in Wisconsin and West Virginia, Morse in Maryland and Oregon, as well as token opposition (often write-in candidates) in New Hampshire, Indiana, and Nebraska. Kennedy made a point of visiting a coal mine in West Virginia; most miners and others in that predominantly conservative, Protestant state were quite wary of Kennedy's Roman Catholicism. His victory in West Virginia confirmed his broad popular appeal. At the Democratic Convention, he gave his well-known "New Frontier" speech, saying: "For the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won—and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier ... But the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises—it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them."
Humphrey and Morse eliminated, Kennedy's main opponent at the Los Angeles convention was Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. Kennedy overcame this formal challenge as well as informal ones from Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic nominee in 1952 and 1956, Stuart Symington, as well as several favorite sons, and on July 13 the Democratic convention nominated Kennedy as its candidate. Kennedy asked Johnson to be his Vice Presidential candidate, despite opposition from many liberal delegates and Kennedy's own staff, including brother Robert. He needed Johnson's strength in the South to win what was considered likely to be the closest election since 1916.
Major issues included how to get the economy moving again, Kennedy's Roman Catholicism, Cuba, and whether the Soviet space and missile programs had surpassed those of the U.S. To address fears that his being Catholic would impact his decision-making, he famously told the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12,1960, "I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters — and the Church does not speak for me."
Kennedy questioned rhetorically whether one-quarter of Americans were relegated to second-class citizenship just because they were Catholic, and once stated that, "No one asked me my religion [serving the Navy] in the South Pacific."
In September and October, Kennedy appeared with Republican candidate Richard Nixon, then Vice President, in the first televised U.S. presidential debates in U.S. history. During these programs, Nixon, with a sore injured leg and his "five o'clock shadow", looked tense, uncomfortable, and perspiring, while Kennedy, choosing to avail himself of makeup services, appeared relaxed, leading the huge television audience to favor Kennedy as the winner. Radio listeners, however, 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 the medium of television began to play a dominant role in politics. After the first debate Kennedy's campaign gained momentum and he pulled slightly ahead of Nixon in most polls. On Tuesday, November 8, Kennedy defeated Nixon in one of the closest presidential elections of the twentieth century. In the national popular vote Kennedy led Nixon by just two-tenths of one percent (49.7% to 49.5%), while in the Electoral College he won 303 votes to Nixon's 219 (269 were needed to win). Another 14 electors from Mississippi and Alabama refused to support Kennedy because of his support for the civil rights movement; they voted for Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. of Virginia. He was the youngest man elected president, succeeding Eisenhower who was the oldest.
John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President at noon on January 20, 1961. In his inaugural address he spoke of the need for all Americans to be active citizens, famously saying, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." He also asked the nations of the world to join together to fight what he called the "common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself." He added: "All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin." In closing, he expanded on his desire for greater internationalism: "Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you."
Kennedy brought to the White House a stark contrast in organization compared to the decision making structure of the former general, Eisenhower; and he wasted no time in dismantling it.Kennedy preferred the organizational structure of a wheel, with all the spokes leading to the president. He was ready and willing to make the increased number of quick decisions required in such an environment, and did a monumental job of selecting his cabinet and other appointments, some experienced and some not. In those cases of inexperience, he stated, "we can learn our jobs together".
There were a couple instances where the president got ahead of himself, as when he announced in a cabinet meeting, without prior notice, that Edward Lansdale would be Ambassador to South Vietnam, a decision which Secretary of State Rusk later had Kennedy alter. There was also the rapid appointment of Harris Wofford who was summoned and arrived at the White House for swearing in, without knowing the position he was to assume.
Kennedy further demonstrated his decision making agility with Congress and his staff. Much to the chagrin of his economic advisors who wanted him to reduce taxes, he quickly agreed to a balanced budget pledge when this was needed in exchange for votes to expand the membership of the House Rules Committee in order to give the Democrats a majority in setting the legislative agenda. The president insisted on a focus upon immediate and specific issues facing the administration, and quickly voiced his impatience with ponderings of deeper meanings. Deputy national security advisor, Walt Whitman Rostow, once began a diatribe about the growth of communism and Kennedy abruptly cut him off, asking, "What do you want me to do about that today?"
Just an hour before one of the biggest events in
modern politics -- the
first nationally televised presidential debate in
American history – the Democratic candidate was
It was Sept. 26, 1960. Earlier in the day, Sen. John F.
Kennedy of Massachusetts had been sunning himself
on the rooftop of Chicago's Hilton tower as aides
quizzed him with note cards.
But as his entourage was ready to head to the studio
for the much anticipated face-off with
Republican Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Kennedy
still hadn't appeared.
"Everyone said he was nervous and worried, but he
decided the best thing to do was to take a nap," said
Ted Sorensen, now 82, who was Kennedy's principal
policy and speech adviser and would later serve as
the president's special counsel.
"We were supposed to be at the studio an hour ahead
of broadcast time and I was delegated to wake him
up," he said. "I was concerned, but when I opened the
door to the bedroom suite, there he was sound asleep
covered in blue cards."
Kennedy had every reason to be anxious about the
first of the four national debates.
Voters knew little about the young senator, beyond
the fact that he was a Roman Catholic. Nixon, on the
other hand, was well-known: a two-term sitting vice
president, whose previous national television
experience included his now-infamous 1952
Checkers speech and what was dubbed the Kitchen
Debate with Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev.
The Great Debates would change all that. The
televised event would give a boost to Kennedy's star
power and some say would later turn the tide of that
election, the closest in American history until 2000.
And going forward, television became a powerful
instrument that could change political perceptions.
"So much written about the debates was false," said
Sorensen. "They say that Kennedy holed up that
weekend in his hotel rehearsing his opening
statement with a debate coach. He didn't have a
debate coach. He never rehearsed out loud any
speech in his life except his inaugural address."
Even if Kennedy was outwardly confident, the country
Just three years earlier, the Russians had launched
Sputnik, their first space satellite. The communist
nation's steel production was outpacing the United
States'. A nuclear arms race had begun. At home,
unrest over civil rights was heating up.
The two candidates were only four years apart in age,
but a generation apart in demeanor and outlook.
"I think Kennedy knew the power of television and he
was so unbelievably good-looking and relaxed and
casually cool, that it was a perfect medium for him,"
said Sorensen. "He didn't know Nixon would look and
do so badly in the debate. Kennedy knew that he
[himself] was very likely going to make it or break it
[in the debate.]"
"Frankly, I was surprised Nixon agreed to debate,"
said Sorensen. "Nixon was experienced and thought
he'd walk all over Kennedy. But one thing about our
TV Debate Makes JFK Superstar, Nixon a Loser
Democrat Kennedy Exudes Health and Confidence as Sickly VP Nixon Stutters and Sweats
campaign was we were confident we had the best
candidate and the best case. He was not afraid of
Kennedy, 43, may not have feared Nixon, 47, but he
was well aware of what was at stake. Gallup polls at
the time showed the race was neck-and-neck. Nixon
had been on a surge in the days before the debate
and the Kennedy camp was very concerned,
according to Sorensen.
VP Richard Nixon Sick and Refused to Rehearse for
Events surrounding the debate turned ominous for
Nixon from the start. Still recovering from a staph
infection after being hospitalized for 12 days for a
knee operation, Nixon had just put in a full day of
Afterwards, he locked himself in his hotel room, and
advisers didn't know what he did while he was there,
according to historian W.J. Rorabaugh, author of "The
Real Making of the President: Kennedy, Nixon, and
the 1960 Election."
Nixon refused to rehearse, preferring his briefing
books. According to Rorabaugh, it would prove to be
a strategic mistake.
The candidates arrived 15 minutes apart at CBS TV
offices -- a former ice skating rink -- in downtown
Chicago. When Nixon's Buick pulled up, he banged
his injured knee on the car door as he was getting
Oliver Treyz, the president of ABC News at the time,
recounted the story, saying Nixon "turned white."
Kennedy was refreshed, but Nixon was exhausted. He
had lost 20 pounds and his shirt collar was too big.
CBS producer Don Hewitt, who later created "60
Minutes," offered both candidates the help of the
network's top make-up artist from New York. Kennedy
turned it down and Nixon quickly declined as well,
reportedly because he did not want to look unmanly.
That would also be a serious blunder, according Alan
Schroeder in his 2009 book, "Presidential Debates."
Kennedy attended a pre-production meeting with
Hewitt but Nixon declined that too. The pallid
Republican candidate also resisted advice from his
aides to sit under a sun lamp to improve his color.
In the hours before the debate Nixon's handlers
insisted the set's backdrop be repainted to contrast b
etter with the candidate's shirt, but each time, the
background grew lighter. Also, worried about his
characteristic five-o'clock shadow, they applied Lazy
Shave, a product that would later melt under the hot
Kennedy, on the other hand, had worn a dark suit. He
sent campaign aide Dave Powers back to the hotel to
grab a blue shirt and a longer pair of socks so his
skin would not be exposed while seated.
Once the debate began, the contrast between the
candidates became apparent.
Though color television had been around since
1953, few Americans owned color sets. The debate
was broadcast in black and white, using a sharper
technology for the event. The harsh cameras revealed
a confident, sun-tanned and eloquent Kennedy, but
an anxious, pale and subdued Nixon.
The concept of presidential debates was the
brainchild of Adlai Stevenson, the brilliant, but failed
Democratic presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956,
according to his former law partner Newton Minow,
author of the 2008 book, "Inside the Presidential
Debates," who later went on to head the Federal
In 1960, the federal Communications Act required
that all candidates in a political race be entitled to
equal time on the air, and therefore debate among
myriad candidates would have been unwieldy,
according to Minow, now 84 and a lawyer with the
Chicago firm Sidley Austin.
Quiz show scandals in the 1950s -- producers
feeding questions to contestants to rig the games --
had tarnishd the reputation of television.
Broadcasters, sensing a televised debate might help
restore their image, embraced the idea. To get around
the equal time provision, broadcasters argued that
the debate was a news program. Congress agreed,
and approved an exemption from the provision,
which was later repealed.
"It was to be an experiment," said Minow, who later
served on the Commission for Presidential Debates
and worked with the League of Women Voters.
Minow, who famously called much of television a vast
wasteland, said the American political debate has
become television at its best.
"Debates are live," he said. "It's not edited and
candidates are not really in control. It's now spread
all over the world, what we have done here."
Nixon and Kennedy Were Polar Opposites in Style,
But that first 1960 debate -- in the days before spin
meisters and media strategists -- gave Americans a
more personal and visual taste of the candidates. And
what television revealed was two men who were polar
opposites in substance and in style.
Kennedy opened the debate with a bold vision for the
future: equal rights for all and a competitive nation.
Nixon, on the other hand, on the advice of his
running mate Henry Cabot Lodge, took a conciliatory
approach, agreeing with Kennedy -- a fatal mistake,
On camera, Nixon could be seen sweating profusely,
his eyes darting nervously, but Kennedy appeared
Nixon took a classical debate approach and looked
only at Kennedy, making the Republican seem distant
to television audiences. Kennedy spoke directly to the
camera and to the American people.
But former NBC political correspondent Sander
Vanocur, one of the four questioners on the debate
panel, saw little of Nixon's sweating and stuttering
that television audiences reported.
"We did not see the debate as the rest of the country
saw it," said Vanocur, now 82, who lives in Santa
Barbara, Calif. "Those who heard it on the radio
thought Nixon had won. In the studio, the four of us
were seated on a platform, and we looked at the two
candidates with our naked eyes."
When the debate was over, the studio just cleared out,
he said. "They shook hands and left the platform.
Those of us sitting there didn't talk about it
Vanocur did not realize Kennedy was the victor until
the next day when he called the candidate's press
secretary, Kenny O'Donnell, who told him that after
the debate, Ohio governor Frank Lausche, a
conservative, had thrown his support behind
Even the future first lady seemed to grasp the
importance of the medium more than Nixon's wife,
Pat, who stayed home alone in Washington,
unavailable to reporters.
Jacqueline Kennedy, nearly seven months pregnant
with John Jr., held a viewing party for the debate at
the Kennedy home in Hyannisport, Mass., and
allowed journalists to attend. When Nixon made a
gaffe about farm policy, Jackie said nothing, but
produced a small Mona Lisa-type smile, according to
those who were there.
Ordinary Americans were also swayed by the Kennedy
magic in the aftermath of the debates.
Frances Duthie, who watched the debate on a
neighbor's television set, said families had been so
worried about the atomic bomb that they turned their
Philadelphia lights out at night, "in case there was
some kind of incoming scare."
"I was a Republican and it was around that time I
switched over in my political thinking," said Duthie,
97, who now lives in Hartford, Conn. "I had not liked
Kennedy. As most Republicans felt, I was not
enamored of him. It was purely a personal thing
without any thinking behind it."
But Duthie, a musician, and her husband, a bank vice
president, were active in the early peace movement in
the 1930s and they liked what Kennedy had to say on
war and peace.
Regardless of how audiences on radio or television
had responded to the event, there was no doubt
inside the Kennedy camp who had won.
Right after the debate, Kennedy's excitement over his
performance was palpable, according to Sorensen.
Kennedy left the sound stage and went directly to a
"The millionaire senator asked me if I'd got any
change," he remembers. "I gave him a quarter and he
dialed his father. I stepped back a few respectful
paces and could see a big smile lighting up the
The next day in a motorcade in Ohio, the so-called
leapers -- women who jumped over the crowds to see
the candidate -- were out in full force, according to
"I don't think there's been anything as important as
the debate of 1960," he said. "It gave the American
people a pretty good idea of what Kennedy was really
like. He was a Catholic, but he didn't wear horns. He
also didn't look like a priest, and that was very
important to see him as he really was and not let the
words, too young and inexperienced, and Catholic
cloud their vision.
"It was a high moment in democracy --- a time when
the American people knew more about their
candidates that they had ever known before."
Another presidential debate wasn't held until 1976.
Battle scarred from his 1960 performance, Nixon
refused to debate again in his successful bids for the
presidency in 1968 and 1972.
The first of the Nixon-Kennedy debates was one of
the most watched programs in American history,
drawing 66 million viewers, or more than a third of
the entire population at the time of 179 million. By
comparison, the 2008 debate between Republican
John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama drew only
52 million viewers, although the country had swelled
to 300 million.
"Television had made its entrance full-time into the
political landscape," said newsman Vanocur.
"Television was the dominating force."