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John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was born May 29th, 1917 and died November 22nd, 1963. Kennedy being the youngest president elected, his wife and himself gave a youthful energy to the White House. Although he lived a short life he was able to accomplish much, especially during his presidency. In the 1960 election, John F. Kennedy won over Richard Nixon. During his inaugural speech one of his main points was when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” (www.jfklibrary.org, 2018). Kennedy believed strongly in the American people and made strong connections with them. Through his Flexible Response foreign policy and his domestic policy, The New Frontier, John F. Kennedy was able to work with and for the American people.
Kennedy’s goal of his presidency was to make all Americans active citizens. During his inaugural speech, he asked Americans to help him fight, ” the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself,” (www.jfklibrary.org, 2018). One step towards winning the fight was to create his domestic policy called the New Frontier. In a speech to the American people Kennedy says, “I am asking each of you to be new pioneers in that New Frontier,” (www.jfklibrary.org, 2018). He uses this metaphor to explain how he wants each American citizen involved in American affairs.
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Kennedy created and accomplished many domestic policies. These policies helped continue the progressive era. One of his accomplishments was the creation of the peace corps, which is still in operation today. John F. Kennedy gave young Americans opportunities to go to indigent countries and help where needed. Volunteers could volunteer in a variety of areas, like education, medicine, construction, and farming.
As many Democrats attempt to do, Kennedy raised the minimum wage. Kennedy was also able to help the economy and unemployment rates. In 1958, the recession made unemployment high and the economy became slow. Although the unemployment did decrease eventually, Kennedy used most of his time as President towards foreign aid until The Council of Economic Advisors told Kennedy to look into helping the unemployment rate.
During his presidency, Kennedy created a tax cut. He proposed to cut income taxes from twenty-one to ninety-one percent to fourteen to sixty-five percent and he also proposed to cut corporation taxes from fifty-two to forty-seven percent. Congress disagreed saying that we could not have tax cuts without major spending cuts. However, Kennedy told Congress that without lower taxes, our economy would not grow, (www.jfklibrary.org, 2018).
Kennedy also helped with the US participation in the space race. He set the goal to have a man on the moon by 1970. Congress supported those efforts because of the competition built up during the Cold War. Kennedy encouraged Americans to support the space efforts. While speaking to the American people President Kennedy said, “No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space,” (www.jfklibrary.org, 2018). By May 1961, Alan Shepard was the first American in space.
President Kennedy also attempted to create many other domestic policies, but Congress denied them. For many, they were put into place years after his presidency. One of his first attempted domestic policy was the attempt of Medicare and Medicaid. Although Congress did not pass it because it was too expensive, it was later passed during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency.
Kennedy also attempted to make domestic policies that would assist minorities. One idea of Kennedy’s was public housing. Kennedy wanted public housing, but due to the Dixiecrats hate for minorities, the idea was not passed by Congress. Kennedy also attempted to start urban renewal. This policy was not passed because the majority of people in urban areas were minorities and Congress did not want to support minorities.
Kennedy did not accomplish much for civil rights during his presidency. One of his only accomplishments with civil rights was his help of getting James Meredith into University of Mississippi. After contacting the United States Justice Department and Governor Ross Barnett, James Meredith was still denied from the all-white college. President Kennedy, Governor Barnett, and the attorney general had many telephone conversation, but James Meredith was still not let in. President Kennedy decided to get involved and help Meredith. Kennedy sent federal marshals to accompany James Meredith when he went to register for classes. With large riots, two people were killed and many were injured. Kennedy then sent federal troops to protect Meredith and helped him register and attend his first classes.
After his success with Meredith’s acceptance into college, President Kennedy attempted to help more with civil rights. During one of his speeches, Kennedy said, “One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs… are not fully free, This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds…[and]… the principle that all men are created equal,” (www.jfklibrary.org, 2018). With this in mind, Kennedy tried to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1963. Due to the Dixiecrats hate for minorities, the Civil Rights Act of 1963 was not passed.
In 1961, Hurricane Carla destroyed the south, mainly in Texas. When the storm began to move towards the coast of Texas, Texas residents were told to move inland. Texas was quickly destroyed by Hurricane Carla. Over ninety-percent of homes in Texas city were flooded and Port O’Connor was completely destroyed. With over forty deaths and three hundred and twenty-five million dollars in damages, Kennedy had to get involved.
In a letter to the president, Senator Ralph W. Yarborough asked to make all areas of Texas one hundred and fifty miles or less from the coast a disaster area. President Kennedy made a public announcement in support of Senator Ralph W. Yarborough’s efforts. Kennedy promised to get federal relief for Texas and the gulf area.
Overall, President Kennedy was successful with his domestic policies, and the New Frontier. Although he had many policies not passed, he helped create ideas that would later be used. Kennedy’s focus in his domestic policy was truly to aid the American people and through the policies passed he was able to do so.
During his presidency, President Kennedy put many of his efforts towards foreign policy. He established a foreign policy called the Flexible Response. Kennedy had many interactions with multiple countries including the Soviet Union, Laos, and Cuba. He also continued to keep the strategic triad and MAD policies during his presidency.
President Kennedy had one of his important involvements in Vietnam and Laos. In addition to the seven hundred Americans Eisenhower sent to Vietnam, Kennedy sent five hundred troops to Vietnam. By 1962, he sent an additional twelve thousand military advisors. President Kennedy told an interviewer, “In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it…,” (www.jfklibrary.org, 2018.) Although Kennedy put an American presence in Vietnam his ultimate goal was to keep it contained and to help them win their own war.
After the surrender of Japan in World War II, the French took over Laos and the French Indochina, but soon after Vietnam defeated the French. Subsequently, the Geneva Accords gave power and freedom to Laos. The Royal Lao government, supported by the United States began a war against the Pathet Lao insurgents who were supported by North Vietnam.
Initially, Kennedy was hesitant to send American troops to help fight alongside the Royal Lao. He decided to create a peace conference with the countries involved. At this peace conference, Laos was divided into three governments; pro-American, a neutral government, and a pro-communist government. After this conference was over, the civil war in Laos resumed. This sent American military into Vietnam and our number of troops grew. For close to ten years war continued and the United States bombed Laos. In 1973 a ceasefire agreement was reached, and in 1975 the Pathet Lao took over the Laos government.
The United States and the Soviet Union had, had relations for many years before the Kennedy presidency. Leading up to the 1960 election, Cold War continued. During the election, both Senator Kennedy and Vice President Nixon both campaigned to give a strong stance against the Soviet Union and communism. Kennedy saw the growth of the Soviet Union’s military and equipment and decided to reassess the United States nuclear equipment. The Cold War was seen as a vital national interest to Kennedy. In his inaugural speech, he said, “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty,” (www.jfklibrary.org, 2018). The Cold War and the growth of the United States nuclear equipment were important to Kennedy and he hoped that the American citizens supported his efforts.
The Cold War was not only affecting the United States and the Soviet Union, but also Berlin, Germany. After World War II, Berlin was divided in half. The east side was controlled by the Soviet Union and the west side was controlled by the United States, France, and Great Britain. Due to the controlling of the Soviet Union, the east side was communist. For many East Germans they did not want to live in the communist-run country, so they would escape and move to West Berlin. The Soviet Union then began to threaten to cut off allied access to Berlin. With the threats from the Soviet Union, President Kennedy announced the United States would increase the military in Berlin. During his speech, he said, “So long as the communists insist that they are preparing to end by themselves unilaterally our rights in West Berlin and our commitments to its people, we must be prepared to defend those rights and those commitments..,” (www.jfklibrary.org, 2018).
In 1961, after over four million East Germans moved to West Berlin the Soviet Union began the building of the Berlin Wall. Two years later President Kennedy visited Berlin. During his speech, he expressed the importance in stopping communism, when he said, “There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin,” (American History, 2012).
In 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew the former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. The United States did not support Castro and his communist government and also believed he had relations with the Soviet Union. Before Kennedy’s election, during the Eisenhower presidency, the central intelligence agency developed a plan to have exiles from Cuba invade Cuba. With the training and the help of the Central Intelligence Agency, the US would help train the exiles to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro, ending the communism in Cuba. When Kennedy became President, the Central Intelligence Agency told him of the plan and he agreed to go forth with it.
The Invasion of the Bay of Pigs began on April 15th, 1961. The United States painted eight bombers to look like Cuban air force planes. They then sent the bombers from Nicaragua to bomb Cuba and Castro’s air force base. The bombing was not successful, as many of the bombers missed their targets.
The plan of the Invasion of the Bay of Pigs was to have two air strikes. After the first air strike, Americans found out that the bombers used were American planes. President Kennedy decided to cancel the second air strike.
Two days after the attempted bombing of Cuba and Castro’s air force base, the Cuban-Exiles invaded the beaches of the Bay of Pigs. Quickly the exiles, also known as Brigade 2506, were defeated. Cuba had destroyed two escort ships, over half of the air support for exiles, and attack invaders.
After the invasion of the Bay of Pigs, Castro had twenty thousand troops ready for an attack on the beaches of the Bay of Pigs. He also had his air force scan the skies. With tension growing, Kennedy decided to send six unmarked fighter planes to help the Brigade fight. The Cubans shot down the fighter planes, then killed or imprisoned all the exiles who were not able to flee.
After twenty months of exiles being imprisoned, the United States try to work out a deal with Castro. In December 1963, the prisoners were sent back to the United States in exchange for fifty-three million dollars worth of baby food and medicine. The prisoners and former brigade members were invited for a ceremony where President Kennedy was given a brigade flag. When given the flag he said, “I can assure you, that this flag will be returned to this brigade in a free Havana,” (www.jfklibrary.org, 2018). Kennedy seemed to be regretful for the Bay of Pigs and wanted the exiles to know he was apologetic.
The Bay of Pigs was not the only attempt to assassinate Castro. The Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Department made a six-step plan, called Operation Mongoose, to take out the communist leader of Cuba. Kennedy approved of the plan in March 1962. The plans for Operation Mongoose were not fulfilled and Castro still controlled Cuba.
Both opportunities helped lead America into the fear of nuclear war when the Soviet Union aligned with Cuba through the Cuban Missile Crisis. In July 1962, the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, and Fidel Castro reached an agreement to place nuclear missiles in Cuba towards the United States. The agreement benefited both Cuba and the Soviet Union. Cuba was protected from another invasion and the Soviet Union was bringing the competition of the Cold War.
When Kennedy found out about the missiles, he met with his advisors to discuss a course of action. His first action towards the missiles was quarantine. He did this by blockading all of the ports to Cuba. President Kennedy then decided to write a letter to Khrushchev. In this letter he demanded that they dismantle the missiles and send all offensive weapons back to the Soviet Union, declaring the United States would not permit them in Cuba. In a speech to the public about the crisis, Kennedy said, “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against… the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union,” (History State, 2018).
Khrushchev contacted Kennedy and the United States saying the Soviet Union would stop building and sending weapons to Cuba if the United States would not invade Cuba again and took the U.S. Jupiter missile out of Turkey. The United States decided to wait to make a deal.
The next day Khrushchev sent a second message to the United States. This message was a threat to the United States. In this message, Khrushchev was aggressive towards the United States. Khrushchev’s message said that he would send his ships forward to continue building the missiles.
President Kennedy and his advisors decided to ignore Khrushchev’s second message and to agree to the first deal. Kennedy sent another message back to Khrushchev agreeing to the deal and promising the United States would not attack Cuba again and would take the U.S. Jupiter out of Turkey. The next day, Khrushchev sent out a statement announcing the missiles would be taken back to the Soviet Union.
President Kennedy’s foreign policies are thought to be very successful. Although he did contain wars and communism, Kennedy did cause the United States to get into some dangerous altercations. One of his biggest mistakes was his attempt to assassinate or overthrow Castro. These attempts could have saved us from the dangers of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Overall, Kennedy was successful in his foreign policies, but could have been less involved with Cuba and the Soviet Union.
Through President Kennedy’s short presidency, he accomplished many policies and helped containment throughout the rest of the world. President John F. Kennedy is seen as one of the most influential presidents of all time. Kennedy’s youthful presence helped young citizens support him. President John F. Kennedy helped serve for and with the American people through his Flexible Response foreign policy and his domestic policy, The New Frontier.
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