Growing Up in the Kennedy Family

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was a very disciplined and organized woman, made the following entry on a notecard, when her second child was born:

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Born Brookline, Mass. (83 Beals Street) May 29, 1917 


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In all, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy would have nine children, four boys và five girls. She kept notecards for each of them in a small wooden tệp tin box và made a point of writing down everything from a doctor’s visit to lớn the shoe kích thước they had at a particular age. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was named in honor of Rose’s father, John Francis Fitzgerald, the Boston Mayor popularly known as Honey Fitz. Before long, family và friends called this small blue-eyed baby, Jack. Jack was not a very healthy baby, và Rose recorded on his notecard the childhood diseases from which he suffered, such as: "whooping cough, measles, chicken pox."

On February 20, 1920 when Jack was not yet three years old, he became sick with scarlet fever, a highly contagious và then potentially life-threatening disease. His father, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, was terrified that little Jack would die. Mr. Kennedy went khổng lồ the hospital every day to be by his son’s side, and about a month later Jack took a turn for the better & recovered. But Jack was never very healthy, & because he was always suffering from one ailment or another his family used to lớn joke about the great risk a mosquito took in biting him – with some of his blood the mosquito was almost sure to lớn die! 

When Jack was three, the Kennedys moved khổng lồ a new home a few blocks away from their old house in Brookline, a neighborhood just outside of Boston. It was a lovely house with twelve rooms, turreted windows, and a big porch. Full of energy và ambition, Jack’s father worked very hard at becoming a successful businessman. When he was a student at Harvard College and having a difficult time fitting in as an Irish Catholic, he swore khổng lồ himself he would make a million dollars by the age of 35. There was a lot of prejudice against Irish Catholics in Boston at that time, but Joseph Kennedy was determined lớn succeed. Jack’s great-grandparents had come from Ireland và managed khổng lồ provide for their families, despite many hardships. Jack’s grandfathers did even better for themselves, both becoming prominent Boston politicians. Jack, because of all his family had done, could enjoy a very comfortable life. The Kennedys had everything they needed và more. By the time Jack was eight there were seven children altogether. Jack had an older brother, Joe; four sisters, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, và Patricia; và a younger brother, Robert. Jean and Teddy hadn’t been born yet. Nannies and housekeepers helped Rose run the household. 


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At the end of the school year, the Kennedy children would go khổng lồ their summer home in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod where they enjoyed swimming, sailing, và playing cảm biến football. The Kennedy children played hard, và they enjoyed competing with one another. Joseph Sr. Encouraged this competition, especially among the boys.

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He was a father with very high expectations & wanted the boys lớn win at sports and everything they tried. As he often said, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." But sometimes these competitions went too far. One time when Joe suggested that he and Jack race on their bicycles, they collided head-on. Joe emerged unscathed while Jack had to have twenty-eight stitches. Because Joe was two years older & stronger than Jack, whenever they fought, Jack would usually get the worst of it. Jack was the only sibling who posed any real threat to lớn Joe’s dominant position as the oldest child.

Jack was very popular & had many friends at Choate, a boarding school for adolescent boys in Connecticut. He played tennis, basketball, football, & golf & also enjoyed reading. His friend Lem Billings remembers how unusual it was that Jack had a daily subscription lớn the New York Times. Jack had a "clever, individualist mind," his Head Master once noted, though he was not the best student. He did not always work as hard as he could, except in history and English, which were his favorite subjects.

"Now Jack," his father wrote in a letter one day, "I don’t want khổng lồ give the impression that I am a nagger, for goodness knows I think that is the worse thing any parent can be, và I also feel that you know if I didn’t really feel you had the goods I would be most charitable in my attitude toward your failings. After long experience in sizing up people I definitely know you have the goods and you can go a long way…It is very difficult to 3d fundamentals that you have neglected when you were very young, và that is why I am urging you to bởi the best you can. I am not expecting too much, & I will not be disappointed if you don’t turn out to lớn be a real genius, but I think you can be a really worthwhile citizen with good judgment và understanding." 

Jack graduated from Choate and entered Harvard in 1936, where Joe was already a student. Lượt thích his brother Joe, Jack played football. He was not as good an athlete as Joe but he had a lot of determination and perseverance. Unfortunately, one day while playing he ruptured a disk in his spine. Jack never really recovered from this accident and his back continued khổng lồ bother him for the rest of his life. The two eldest boys were attractive, agreeable, and intelligent young men and Mr. Kennedy had high hopes for them both. However, it was Joe who had announced khổng lồ everyone when he was a young boy that he would be the first Catholic khổng lồ become President. No one doubted him for a moment. Jack, on the other hand, seemed somewhat less ambitious. He was active in student groups & sports & he worked hard in his history và government classes, though his grades remained only average.

Late in 1937, Mr. Kennedy was appointed United States Ambassador to lớn England & moved there with his whole family, with the exception of Joe and Jack who were at Harvard. Because of his father’s job, Jack became very interested in European politics và world affairs. After a summer visit to England & other countries in Europe, Jack returned lớn Harvard more eager to lớn learn about history và government & to keep up with current events. Joe & Jack frequently received letters from their father in England, who informed them of the latest news regarding the conflicts & tensions that everyone feared would soon blow up into a full-scale war. Adolph Hitler ruled Germany và Benito Mussolini ruled Italy. They both had strong armies & wanted khổng lồ take land from other countries. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. 

By this time, Jack was a senior at Harvard and decided khổng lồ write his thesis on why Great Britain was unprepared for war with Germany. It was later published as a book called Why England Slept. In June 1940, Jack graduated from Harvard. His father sent him a cablegram from London: "TWO THINGS I ALWAYS KNEW ABOUT YOU ONE THAT YOU ARE SMART TWO THAT YOU ARE A SWELL GUY LOVE DAD."

World War II và a Future in Politics

Soon after graduating, both Joe và Jack joined the Navy. Joe was a flyer và sent khổng lồ Europe, while Jack was made Lieutenant (Lt.) & assigned to the South Pacific as commander of a patrol torpedo boat, the PT-109. 


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Lt. Kennedy had a crew of twelve men whose mission was khổng lồ stop Japanese ships from delivering supplies lớn their soldiers. On the night of August 2, 1943, Lt. Kennedy’s crew patrolled the waters looking for enemy ships khổng lồ sink. A Japanese destroyer suddenly became visible. But it was traveling at full speed và headed straight at them. Holding the wheel, Lt. Kennedy tried to lớn swerve out of the way, but khổng lồ no avail. The much larger Japanese warship rammed the PT-109, splitting it in half và killing two of Lt. Kennedy’s men. The others managed lớn jump off as their boat went up in flames. Lt. Kennedy was slammed hard against the cockpit, once again injuring his weak back. Patrick McMahon, one of his crew members, had horrible burns on his face and hands & was ready khổng lồ give up. In the darkness, Lt. Kennedy managed to lớn find McMahon and haul him back khổng lồ where the other survivors were clinging to lớn a piece of the boat that was still afloat. At sunrise, Lt. Kennedy led his men toward a small island several miles away. Despite his own injuries, Lt. Kennedy was able to tow Patrick McMahon ashore, a strap from McMahon’s life jacket clenched between his teeth. Six days later two native islanders found them và went for help, delivering a message Jack had carved into a piece of coconut shell. The next day, the PT-109 crew was rescued. Jack’s brother Joe was not so lucky. He died a year later when his plane blew up during a dangerous mission in Europe. 

When he returned home, Jack was awarded the Navy và Marine Corps Medal for his leadership & courage. With the war finally coming to an end, it was time khổng lồ choose the kind of work he wanted to lớn do. Jack had considered becoming a teacher or a writer, but with Joe’s tragic death suddenly everything changed. After serious discussions with Jack about his future, Joseph Kennedy convinced him that he should run for Congress in Massachusetts" eleventh congressional district, where he won in 1946. This was the beginning of Jack’s political career. As the years went on, John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, served three terms (six years) in the House of Representatives, and in 1952 he was elected lớn the US Senate. 

Soon after being elected senator, John F. Kennedy, at 36 years of age, married 24 year-old Jacqueline Bouvier, a writer with the Washington Times-Herald. Unfortunately, early on in their marriage, Senator Kennedy’s back started khổng lồ hurt again & he had two serious operations. While recovering from surgery, he wrote a book about several US Senators who had risked their careers to lớn fight for the things in which they believed. The book, called Profiles in Courage, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957. That same year, the Kennedys’ first child, Caroline, was born. 

John F. Kennedy was becoming a popular politician. In 1956 he was almost picked to lớn run for vice president. Kennedy nonetheless decided that he would run for president in the next election.

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He began working very long hours & traveling all around the United States on weekends. On July 13, 1960 the Democratic buổi tiệc nhỏ nominated him as its candidate for president. Kennedy asked Lyndon B. Johnson, a senator from Texas, to run with him as vice president. In the general election on November 8, 1960, Kennedy defeated the Republican Vice President Richard M. Nixon in a very close race. At the age of 43, Kennedy was the youngest man elected president và the first Catholic. Before his inauguration, his second child, John Jr., was born. His father liked to hotline him John-John.

John F. Kennedy Becomes The 35th President of the United States

John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president on January 20, 1961. In his inaugural speech he spoke of the need for all Americans khổng lồ be active citizens. "Ask not what your country can vì for you, ask what you can vị for your country," he said. He also asked the nations of the world to join together to lớn fight what he called the "common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself." President Kennedy, together with his wife & two children, brought a new, youthful spirit to the trắng House. The Kennedys believed that the white house should be a place to lớn celebrate American history, culture, & achievement. They invited artists, writers, scientists, poets, musicians, actors, và athletes lớn visit them. Jacqueline Kennedy also shared her husband"s interest in American history. Gathering some of the finest art & furniture the United States had produced, she restored all the rooms in the white house to make it a place that truly reflected America’s history and artistic creativity. Everyone was impressed and appreciated her hard work. The nhà trắng also seemed like a fun place because of the Kennedys’ two young children, Caroline & John-John. There was a pre-school, a swimming pool, và a tree-house outside on the nhà trắng lawn. President Kennedy was probably the busiest man in the country, but he still found time to laugh and play with his children. However, the president also had many worries. One of the things he worried about most was the possibility of nuclear war between the United States và the Soviet Union. He knew that if there was a war, millions of people would die. Since World War II, there had been a lot of anger và suspicion between the two countries but never any shooting between Soviet & American troops. This "Cold War", which was unlike any other war the world had seen, was really a struggle between the Soviet Union"s communist system of government và the United States" democratic system. Because they distrusted each other, both countries spent enormous amounts of money building nuclear weapons. There were many times when the struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States could have ended in nuclear war, such as in Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis or over the divided đô thị of Berlin. President Kennedy worked long hours, getting up at seven and not going to lớn bed until eleven or twelve at night, or later. He read six newspapers while he ate breakfast, had meetings with important people throughout the day, & read reports from his advisers. He wanted lớn make sure that he made the best decisions for his country. "I am asking each of you khổng lồ be new pioneers in that New Frontier," he said. The New Frontier was not a place but a way of thinking và acting. President Kennedy wanted the United States to lớn move forward into the future with new discoveries in science và improvements in education, employment và other fields. He wanted democracy & freedom for the whole world. One of the first things President Kennedy did was to lớn create the Peace Corps. Through this program, which still exists today, Americans can volunteer khổng lồ work anywhere in the world where assistance is needed. They can help in areas such as education, farming, health care, & construction. Many young men và women have served as Peace Corps volunteers & have won the respect of people throughout the world. 

President Kennedy was also eager for the United States to lead the way in exploring space. The Soviet Union was ahead of the United States in its space program and President Kennedy was determined to lớn catch up. He said, "No nation which expects to lớn be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space." Kennedy was the first president khổng lồ ask Congress to lớn approve more than 22 billion dollars for Project Apollo, which had the goal of landing an American man on the moon before the end of the decade. President Kennedy had to giảm giá with many serious problems here in the United States. The biggest problem of all was racial discrimination. The US Supreme Court had ruled in 1954 that segregation in public schools would no longer be permitted. Black & white children, the decision mandated, should go khổng lồ school together. This was now the law of the land. However, there were many schools, especially in southern states, that did not obey this law. There was also racial segregation on buses, in restaurants, movie theaters, & other public places.

Thousands of Americans joined together, people of all races và backgrounds, lớn protest peacefully this injustice.

Martin Luther King Jr. Was one of the famous leaders of the movement for civil rights. Many civil rights leaders didn’t think President Kennedy was supportive enough of their efforts. The President believed that holding public protests would only anger many trắng people and make it even more difficult khổng lồ convince the members of Congress who didn"t agree with him to lớn pass civil rights laws. By June 11, 1963, however, President Kennedy decided that the time had come to take stronger action to help the civil rights struggle. He proposed a new Civil Rights bill to lớn the Congress, và he went on television asking Americans to over racism. "One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free," he said. "This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds… on the principle that all men are created equal." President Kennedy made it clear that all Americans, regardless of their skin color, should enjoy a good and happy life in the United States. 

The President is Shot

On November 21, 1963, President Kennedy flew lớn Texas khổng lồ give several political speeches. The next day, as his car drove slowly past cheering crowds in Dallas, shots rang out. Kennedy was seriously wounded và died a short time later. Within a few hours of the shooting, police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald and charged him with the murder. On November 24, another man, Jack Ruby, shot và killed Oswald, thus silencing the only person who could have offered more information about this tragic event. The Warren Commission was organized khổng lồ investigate the assassination and to clarify the many questions which remained. 

The Legacy of John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy"s death caused enormous sadness và grief among all Americans. Most people still remember exactly where they were và what they were doing when they heard the news. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington for the President"s funeral, and millions throughout the world watched it on television. As the years have gone by and other presidents have written their chapters in history, John Kennedy"s brief time in office stands out in people"s memories for his leadership, personality, và accomplishments. Many respect his coolness when faced with difficult decisions--like what to bởi vì about Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962. Others admire his ability to inspire people with his eloquent speeches. Still others think his compassion & his willingness to lớn fight for new government programs lớn help the poor, the elderly và the ill were most important. Lượt thích all leaders, John Kennedy made mistakes, but he was always optimistic about the future. He believed that people could solve their common problems if they put their country"s interests first và worked together.

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