Election as President

In 1960, Kennedy began working for the 1960 Presidential Nomination, 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, and Morse in Maryland and Oregon, as well as taken opposition in New Hampshire, Indiana and Nebraska.

Lyndon B. Johnson was nominated for Vice President as Kennedy’s running mate.

The Republicans chose Vice President Richard Nixon to oppose Kennedy for the presidency.

The 1960 Campaign was a hard-fought race. Both candidates were young, vigorous campaigners. Most experts believed Nixon would win, as he had advantage of being Vice President under Dwight D. Eisenhower.

But Kennedy wasn’t as unknown as some people believed. His good looks, wealth, and attractive wife had made him popular subject for articles in newspapers and magazines.

Television also helped Kennedy greatly during his four televised debates with Nixon.

His poise helped answer criticism that he lacked the maturity needed for the presidency.

 

In September and October of 1960, Kennedy and Nixon appeared on the first televised US Presidential Debates, in television and US history marked the first time that presidential candidates argued campaign issues face to face. During the programs, Nixon, with a sore, injured leg and his five O’clock shadow, was perspiring and looked tense and uncomfortable, Kennedy, choosing to avail himself of makeup services, appeared relaxed, leading the huge television audience to favor him as the winner. Kennedy promised to lead Americans to a New Frontier, used by liberal Democratic. Kennedy’s campaign gained momentum after the first debate, and he pulled slightly ahead of Nixon in most polls. On November 8, 1960, Kennedy defeated Nixon by 115,000 popular votes. Won a clear majority of votes in the Electoral College and received 303 electoral votes to 219 for Nixon.

Presidency

John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President of the United States on January 20, 1961, in his inaugural address, he spoke of the need for all Americans to be active citizens, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. As he took change of the federal government, he faced such internal problems as increased racial tensions, unemployment, and a sluggish economy. On Foreign Affairs, he faced the continuing spread of communist influence, and the threat of nuclear war.

Vice President: Lyndon B. Johnson

Secretary of State: Dean Rusk

Secretary of the Treasury: C. Douglas Dillon

Secretary of Defense: Robert S. McNamara

Attorney General: Robert F. Kennedy

Postmaster General: J. Edward Day, John A. Gronouski, Jr

Secretary of the Interior: Stewart L. Udall

Secretary of Agriculture: Orville L. Freeman

Secretary of Commerce: Luther H. Hodges

Secretary of Labor: Arthur J. Goldberg, W. Willard Wirtz

Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare: Abraham A. Ribicoff, Anthony J. Celebrezze

New Frontier

The name Kennedy gave to his program got off to a slow start. The 87th Congress finally began passing measures sponsored by the Administrative. In April 1961, the legislators approved aid to economically depressed areas. In May, the Congress approved an increase in the minimum hourly wage from $1 to $1.25. In September, 1962, the Congress passed the President’s Trade Expansion Act, which gave Kennedy wide powers to cut tariffs so the United States could trade freely with the European Common Market. One of the most successful of Kennedy’s programs was the Peace Corps, established in March 1961, launched by executive order, and later was authorized by Congress. The corps sent thousands of Americans abroad to help people in developing nations raise their standards of living.

This seemed to carry the enthusiasm of the President to the people of other countries.

Kennedy also met major legislative defeats. The Congress rejected a cabinet-level Department of Urban Affairs and his plan for medical care for the aged.

Both measures later passed during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency. Recognized the nation’s defense policies by increasing conventional weapons. He wanted to be prepared for non-nuclear wars and to make every effort to avoid being nuclear weapons.

Business and Labor

In March 1962, major steel producers signed a contract with steel workers union that increased workers benefits, but not their wages. On April 10, the United States Steel Corporation led a move to raise steel prices $6 a ton. Kennedy angrily denounced the move as causing needless inflation, and the companies canceled it. In May, the prices on the New York Stock Exchange make their sharpest drop, which made the people blamed the Kennedy Administration, and felt that the president’s action toward steel companies reflected an anti-business attitude.

Kennedy tried to answer these changes in a speech and said there are three great ideas or myths, 1. Federal debt is too large, 2. Federal government is too big, and 3. Business cannot place is confidence in his Administration Kennedy aided business by increasing tax benefits for companies investing in new equipment. In 1963, Kennedy proposed a $10 billion tax cut, which included lowering corporate taxes.

Economy

Kennedy ended a period of tight fiscal policies, loosening monetary policy to keep interest rates down and to encourage growth of the economy. Presided over the first government budget in 1961 led to the country’s first non-war, and non-recession deficit.

Civil Rights

The demands for equal rights for blacks became the major domestic issue during the Kennedy Administration. In 1961, a group of black and white Freedom Riders entered Montgomery, Alabama but bus to test local segregation laws until rioting broke up.

 Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sent US Marshals to the city to help restore order.

On March 6, 1961, Kennedy signed the Executive Order 10925 required the government contractors to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.

 

In 1962, James Meredith became the first African American to enroll at the University of Mississippi, despite much opposition.

Two people were killed in the rioting that on the University campus at Oxford.

Kennedy ordered 3000 federal troops to the area to restore order.

 

In 1963, the demands by blacks for equal civil and economic rights increased. Racial protests and demonstrations took place in all parts of the United States.

In May, 1963, the rioting broke out in Birmingham, Alabama. In June, Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard to enforce, the integration of the University of Alabama.

He federalized the Guards again in September, to ensure the integration of public school in three Alabama cities.

On June 11, 1963, things went intervened, when Governor of Alabama George C. Wallace blocked the doorway to the University of Alabama to stop two African American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood from attending.

On June 11, 1963, Kennedy gave the famous Civil Rights Address on national television and radio, launching his initiative for civil rights legislation to provide equal access to public schools and other facilities.

On August 28, 1963, more than 200,000 people staged a Freedom March in Washington DC, to demonstrate their demands for equal rights for blacks, Kennedy asked the Congress to pass legislation requiring hotels, motels, and restaurants to admit customers regardless of race.

President Kennedy also asked the Congress to grant the attorney general authority to begin court suits to desegregate schools, on behalf of private citizens who were unable to start legal action themselves.

 

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

was an American Baptist minister and Civil Rights activist who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.

King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, King led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize the 1963 nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama. King also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches, and the following year he and SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War, alienating many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled “Beyond Vietnam”.

In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People’s Campaign, when he was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. King’s death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities. Ray, who fled the country, was arrested two months later at London Heathrow Airport.

King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971, and as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, and a county in Washington State was also renamed for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.

Life in the White House

The Kennedy brought youth and informality to the White House. Caroline and John Jr., were the youngest children of a President to live in the White House in more than 60 years. Women in many countries copied Jackie Kennedy’s stylish clothes and hairdo. In 1961, Mrs. Kennedy flew to Europe with her husband, wherever they went, where large crowds gathered. The President gave recognition to the creative arts by appointing a Special or the Arts. Many Artists were invited to the White House.

Foreign Affairs

Cuba, Soviet Union, Europe

On April 17, 1961, Cuban rebels invaded their homeland to overthrow Fidel Castro, communist-dictator. The assault ended in disaster. Kennedy accepted the blame for the ill-fated invasion, which had been planned by the US. His foreign policy was dominated by American confrontations with the Soviet Union, manifested by proxy contests in the early stage of the Cold War. In 1961, Kennedy anticipated a summit with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Started off on the wrong foot by reacting aggressively to a routine Khrushchev speech on Cold War confrontation in early 1961. The speech was intended for domestic audiences in the Soviet Union, but Kennedy interpreted it as a personal challenge. His mistake helped raise tensions going into the Vienna summit of June 1961.

Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971)

was a politician who led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964. Khrushchev was responsible for the de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union, for backing the progress of the early Soviet space program, and for several relatively liberal reforms in areas of domestic policy. Khrushchev’s party colleagues removed him from power in 1964, replacing him with Leonid Brezhnev as First Secretary and Alexei Kosygin as Premier.

Khrushchev was born in the village of Kalinovka in 1894, close to the present-day border between Russia and Ukraine. He was employed as a metalworker in his youth, and during the Russian Civil War was a political commissar. With the help of Lazar Kaganovich, he worked his way up the Soviet hierarchy. He supported Joseph Stalin’s purges, and approved thousands of arrests. In 1938, Stalin sent him to govern Ukraine, and he continued the purges there. During what was known in the Soviet Union as the Great Patriotic War (Eastern Front of World War II), Khrushchev was again a commissar, serving as an intermediary between Stalin and his generals. Khrushchev was present at the bloody defense of Stalingrad, a fact he took great pride in throughout his life. After the war, he returned to Ukraine before being recalled to Moscow as one of Stalin’s close advisers.

In the power struggle triggered by Stalin’s death in 1953, Khrushchev, after several years, emerged victorious. On 25 February 1956, at the 20th Party Congress, he delivered the “Secret Speech”, denouncing Stalin’s purges and ushering in a less repressive era in the Soviet Union. His domestic policies, aimed at bettering the lives of ordinary citizens, were often ineffective, especially in agriculture. Hoping eventually to rely on missiles for national defense, Khrushchev ordered major cuts in conventional forces. Despite the cuts, Khrushchev’s rule saw the most tense years of the Cold War, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Flaws in Khrushchev’s policies eroded his popularity and emboldened potential opponents, who quietly rose in strength and deposed the premier in October 1964. However, he did not suffer the deadly fate of previous losers of Soviet power struggles, and was pensioned off with an apartment in Moscow and a dacha in the countryside. His lengthy memoirs were smuggled to the West and published in part in 1970. Khrushchev died in 1971 of heart disease.

On the way to the summit, Kennedy stopped in Paris to meet Charles de Gaulle, who advised him to ignore Khrushchev’s abrasive style. On June 4, 1961, Kennedy met Khrushchev at a two-day meeting in Vienna, Austria. Nothing was settled, and the crisis deepened. Both countries increased their military strength. Left the meetings angry and disappointed that he had allowed the premier to bully him.

In August, 1961, the East Germans built a wall between East and West to prevent people from fleeing to the west. Kennedy called up about 145,000 members of the National Guard and reservists to strengthen US military defense. Until July 1963, Kennedy gave a public speech in West Berlin reiterating the American commitment to Germany and criticizing communism. Kennedy used the construction of the Berlin Wall as an example of the failures of communism: “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect. But we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us”. The speech is known for its famous phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I Am a Berliner). Million people were on the street for the speech.

Fidel Castro (1926-2016)

was a Cuban revolutionary and politician who governed the Republic of Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as President from 1976 to 2008. Politically a Marxist–Leninist and Cuban nationalist, he also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 until 2011. Under his administration, Cuba became a one-party socialist state; industry and business were nationalized, and state socialist reforms were implemented throughout society.

Born in Birán, Oriente as the son of a wealthy Spanish farmer, Castro adopted leftist anti-imperialist politics while studying law at the University of Havana. After participating in rebellions against right-wing governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, he planned the overthrow of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, launching a failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. After a year’s imprisonment, he traveled to Mexico where he formed a revolutionary group, the 26th of July Movement, with his brother Raúl Castro and Che Guevara. Returning to Cuba, Castro took a key role in the Cuban Revolution by leading the Movement in a guerrilla war against Batista’s forces from the Sierra Maestra. After Batista’s overthrow in 1959, Castro assumed military and political power as Cuba’s Prime Minister. The United States came to oppose Castro’s government, and unsuccessfully attempted to remove him by assassination, economic blockade, and counter-revolution, including the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961. Countering these threats, Castro formed an alliance with the Soviet Union and allowed the Soviets to place nuclear weapons in Cuba, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis—a defining incident of the Cold War—in 1962.

Adopting a Marxist–Leninist model of development, Castro converted Cuba into a one-party, socialist state under Communist Party rule, the first in the Western Hemisphere. Policies introducing central economic planning and expanding healthcare and education were accompanied by state control of the press and the suppression of internal dissent. Abroad, Castro supported anti-imperialist revolutionary groups, backing the establishment of Marxist governments in Chile, Nicaragua, and Grenada, and sending troops to aid allies in the Yom Kippur War, Ogaden War, and Angolan Civil War. These actions, coupled with Castro’s leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1979 to 1983 and Cuba’s medical internationalism, increased Cuba’s profile on the world stage. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Castro led Cuba into its “Special Period” and embraced environmentalist and anti-globalization ideas. In the 2000s he forged alliances in the Latin American “pink tide”—namely with Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela—and signed Cuba up to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. In 2006 he transferred his responsibilities to Vice-President Raúl Castro, who was elected to the presidency by the National Assembly in 2008.

Castro is a polarizing world figure. His supporters view him as a champion of socialism and anti-imperialism whose revolutionary regime advanced economic and social justice while securing Cuba’s independence from American imperialism. Critics view him as a dictator whose administration oversaw human-rights abuses, the exodus of a large number of Cubans, and the impoverishment of the country’s economy. He was decorated with various international awards and significantly influenced various individuals and groups across the world.

The prior of Eisenhower Administration had created a plan to overthrow Fidel Castro’s regime to Cuba. The pan led by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), with from the US military was for an invasion of Cuba by a counter-revolutionary insurgency composed to US trained, anti-Castro Cuban exiles led by CIA officers. Kennedy approved the final invasion plan on April 4, 1961.

On April 7, 1961, the Bay of Pig began. 1,500 US trained Cubans, called Brigade 2506, landed on the island. But no US air support was provided. Allen Dulles, the director of the CIA, later stated that they thought the president would authorize any action required for success once the troops were on the ground. On April 19, 1961, the Cuban government had captured or killed the invading exiles, and Kennedy was forced to negotiate for the release of the 1,189 survivors. After 20 months, Cuba released the captured exiles in exchange for $53 million worth of food and medicine.

Another Cuban Crisis erupted in October 1962, when the US learned that the Soviet Union had installed missiles in Cuba. On October 14, CIA U-2 spy plane took photographs of intermediate range ballistic missile sites being built in Cuba by the Soviets capable of striking the US Cities. Kennedy ordered the US Navy to quarantine (blockade) Cuba. Navy ships were ordered to turn back ships delivering Soviet missiles to Cuba. Kennedy also called about 14,000 Air Force reservists to active duty. Then, Khrushchev ordered all Soviet offensive missiles removed. President Kennedy then lifted the quarantine.