John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy

Born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts to parents Joseph Sr. and Rose, John Kennedy attended various private schools for boys until eighth grade. When he traveled farther away for boarding school, Kennedy suffered from appendicitis. Years later he became sick again and was hospitalized with what they thought was colitis. After graduating, Kennedy intended to study abroad but had to return home with jaundice and later was hospitalized with potential leukemia. Amazingly, Kennedy overcame his illnesses, recovered well, and enrolled in Harvard College. For his senior thesis, Kennedy spent time with his father in Europe, also traveling through the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Soviet Union.

Kennedy collected information and finished his thesis about British involvement in the Munich Agreement, which granted Germany the right to annex part of Czechoslovakia. The Czechs didn't participate in the meeting and felt betrayed by those countries who signed the Agreement when Hitler later invaded their homeland. Later published as a book, Kennedy's thesis became the bestseller Why England Slept.

After graduating from Harvard with a degree in international affairs, Kennedy attended Stanford Graduate School of Business. Intending to join the army, Kennedy found himself turned down. Most likely his history of back problems caused this decision. Kennedy turned to the U. S. Navy, and they enlisted him to serve in World War II. Earning the rank of lieutenant, he commanded a patrol torpedo boat that sustained damage when rammed by a Japanese destroyer. Kennedy received medals and an honorable discharge related to rescuing a crew member and towing him to an island. His strenuous activity and being hit by the destroyer further exacerbated his already troublesome back.

After the war, in 1946, Kennedy won a seat as a U. S. Representative. Though the media wasn't aware of it, doctors diagnosed Kennedy with Addison's disease, an endocrine disorder. Continuing on with his life, he then campaigned to earn a U. S. Senate position. In the years following his marriage to Jacqueline in 1953, Kennedy had several operations on his spine and almost died. Including his prior illnesses, Kennedy had been close to death before, receiving "last rites" four times before he turned forty.

While he recovered from surgery, Kennedy invested time in writing. Profiles in Courage describes eight men who stood up for their beliefs in the face of adversity. All of the men were U. S. Senators. A tremendous success, the book earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for Biography. Returning to the Senate, Kennedy won re-election and then ran for the presidency which he won.

His presidency dealt with the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis, Latin America's Communism, Vietnam, Civil Rights, a nuclear test ban treaty with Russia, and space exploration, to name a few issues. Kennedy created the Peace Corps, and co-founded The American Irish Foundation. A President known as much for his family name, his dalliances, and his Hollywood-style life as for his policies, the assassin's bullets that abruptly ended Kennedy's life startled Americans and the world. The events in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, caused many Americans to lose faith in their political establishment. Rumors and conspiracy theories abounded, leaving people confused and wondering what would happen next. After Kennedy's death, Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson became president and the country entered a time of deep disappointments and concerns for the future. Today, Kennedy's legacy lives on, and his one surviving daughter, Caroline, represents the Kennedy family in public and at functions.

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Profiles in Courage
by John F. Kennedy
from HarperCollins
Biography Anthology for 4th-8th grade
1957 Biography Pulitzer Prize
in Biography Anthologies (Location: BIO-ANTH)