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The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (1961-63). Biographical Information:. Party: Democrat Years in Office: (1961-63*) President Before: Eisenhower President After: Johnson Important Bio Information : Born into a wealthy New England family, elite education.

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The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (1961-63)

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The Presidency of

John F. Kennedy


biographical information
Biographical Information:

Party: Democrat

Years in Office: (1961-63*)

President Before: Eisenhower

President After: Johnson

Important Bio Information:

  • Born into a wealthy New England family, elite education.
  • Father, Joseph P. Kennedy, had been involved in government during the New Deal and was Ambassador to the UK from 1938-40.
  • WWII “Hero of PT-109”.
  • Serves in the US Congress 1947-53
  • Serves in the US Senate 1953-61
the 1960 presidential election
The 1960 Presidential Election

The election of 1960 brought to the forefront a generation of

politicians born in the twentieth century.

Kennedy was 43 years old.


was 47 years old.

Experience will be an important theme of the campaign.

republican candidate vice president richard m nixon
Republican Candidate – Vice President Richard M. Nixon
  • Nixon makes his experience the centerpiece of his campaign:
    • Vice President for 8 yrs
    • Most active VP in history
    • Had extra power in 1957
    • after Ike had a stroke
    • The presidency was no
    • place for “on the job training”
    • Touts his anti-communist
    • credentials
  • Eisenhower gaff.
  • Nixon Campaign ad
democratic candidate senator john f kennedy
Democratic Candidate – Senator John F. Kennedy
  • Kennedy’s campaign themes:
  • If elected, his presidency
  • would be in the Democratic
  • tradition of Wilson, FDR, and
  • Truman.
  • Worked to restore the New
  • Deal coalition of urban voters,
  • ethnic voters, and labor
  • unions.
  • VP nominee, Sen. Lyndon B.
  • Johnson, helps with the South.
  • Confronts the “Catholic
  • Concerns” at a meeting with
  • protestant clergy in Houston.
kennedy s vision resonates with americans
Kennedy’s vision resonates with Americans

“We stand today on the

edge of a new frontier –

the frontier of the 1960s,

a frontier of unknown

opportunities and paths, a

frontier of unfulfilled hopes

& threats. The new frontier

I speak of is not a set of

promises – it is a set of


-John F. Kennedy

Democratic Convention, 1960

the 1960 debates while the candidates have agreed to 3 debates the first will be the most decisive
The 1960 debates: While the candidates have agreed to 3 debates, the first will be the most decisive.

Nixon had recently been in the hospital. He was recovering from the flu and was running a fever during the debate and instead of resting, he had campaigned all day.

Kennedy had taken a break from the campaign to rest and prepare for the debate. He had visited the set the day before and planned accordingly.

the great debate
The Great Debate
  • In 1960, 88 million American homes had TV.
  • An estimated 70 million watched the first debate.
  • Later research suggests that 4 million voters made up their minds during the debate, 3 million going for Kennedy.
  • Kennedy’s performance seemed to reassure those Americans who had concerns about his experience and readiness for the job.
  • While people watching the debate on TV gave Kennedy a slight victory, the majority of folks listening on the radio felt that Nixon had won.

Highlights from the 1st Kennedy-Nixon Debate in 1960

kennedy s economic legislative challenges
Kennedy’s Economic & Legislative Challenges

Economic Challenges:

  • JFK took office during the deepest recession since WWII: business bankruptcies were up, farm incomes were down, and 5.5 million were unemployed.
  • Kennedy’s economic proposals:
    • tax cuts to spur economic growth
    • unemployment assistance
    • increase in the minimum wage
    • increase in defense spending
    • housing assistance
  • Kennedy’s new social program proposals:
    • federal aid to education
    • medical care for the elderly
    • assistance for urban mass transit
    • a Department of Urban Affairs
    • and regional development for Appalachia

Democrats had a razor thin majority in Congress, which gave bargaining power to the Southern Democrats who often opposed JFK’s initiatives.

Virtually all aspects of his domestic agenda were blocked except for the tax cuts and an increase in the minimum wage.

jfk s new frontier captures the imagination of the country
JFK’s “New Frontier” captures the imagination of the country

The Space Race:

  • May 1961 Alan Sheppard becomes 1st American in space
  • May 1961 JFK announces goal of putting a man on the moon before 1970
  • Feb 1962 John Glen becomes the 1st American to orbit the Earth
  • Sept 1962 JFK speech at Rice
  • July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin become 1st humans on the Moon

Video Clip:

JFK – Commits to going to the moon

black youth stand up by sitting down
Black Youth Stand Up by Sitting Down
  • Inspired by Dr. King’s proven nonviolent resistance tactics, southern black college students began to defy local segregation laws and customs with “sit-ins”.
  • On Feb 1, 1960, four black college students in Greensboro, NC, sat down at a Woolworth’s “white’s only” lunch counter, requested service, and politely refused to leave when they were denied it.
  • April 1960, at Shaw University in NC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed to organize the growing movement.
  • By the end of 1961, 75,000 students, both black and white, were utilizing the sit-in tactic at restaurants and other segregated facilities including: knee-ins at churches, read-ins at libraries, and wade-ins at segregated beaches.

Video Clip: Sit In Protest

c o r e and the freedom rides
C.O.R.E. and the Freedom Rides
  • Established in 1942 by James Farmer and Bayard Rustin, the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) was made up of Christian pacifists that worked to find ways to make America live up to the ideals of equality and justice. CORE was dedicated to nonviolent direct action and staged some of the first sit-ins in the North. Many of their tactics were later adopted by other civil rights organizations.
  • In an effort to test the Justice Department’s willingness to protect the rights of blacks to use interstate transportation facilities, CORE organized the Freedom Rides.
  • An interracial group of young civil rights activists attempted to take a series of busses across the South.
  • They were met with violence, beatings, and ultimately, their bus was firebombed in Aniston, AL.
mass demonstrations
Mass Demonstrations
  • In May 1963, Dr. King personally led a mass demonstration to desegregate Birmingham, Alabama.
  • The peaceful demonstrations, which included among its ranks thousands of children, were violently countered by the local police led by the notorious “Bull” Connor.
  • Police used water cannons, electric cattle prods, and police dogs against protestors.
  • Dr. King was arrested and put in jail. There he wrote the now classic protest essay, Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
  • Under national pressure (the attacks by the police were captured on TV) city leaders worked out a plan to desegregate the city. However, a few months later, a bomb was thrown at a black church and killed four young girls.
mass demonstrations1
Mass Demonstrations
  • In June 1963, JFK submitted a civil rights bill to Congress. Conservative southern legislators moved to block the bill.
  • In an effort to bring attention to the bill and the civil rights movement as a whole, civil rights leaders organized the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”.
  • Receiving support from service, religious, and labor organizations, more than 200,000 people took part in one of the largest demonstrations in American history.
  • The keynote speaker at the event was Dr. Martin Luther King who delivered his famous “I have a Dream” speech.
president kennedy fights the cold war
President Kennedy fights the Cold War

JFK’s Flexible Response:

Military (Hard Power):

  • Expands special warfare units (Special Forces)
  • Utilizes the CIA

Civilian (Soft Power):

Goal = economic

development to discourage

the spread of communism

(Peace Corps)

the vienna summit in june 1961
The Vienna Summit in June 1961
  • JFK met with Soviet Premier in Vienna, Austria
  • Khrushchev wanted to intimidate the young JFK – especially after the Bay of Pigs debacle
  • Soviets were finalizing a treaty with the East Germans to turn over control of the country, which would threaten access to West Berlin
  • Khrushchev warned that if the US tried to stop this, there would be war
  • JFK responded: “Then Mr. Chairman, there will be war. It will be a long, cold winter.”
jfk goes to berlin june 1963
JFK goes to Berlin, June 1963

"All free men,

wherever they may

live, are citizens of

Berlin. Therefore, as a

free man, I take pride

in the words 'Ich bin

ein Berliner'."

cuba castro communism
Cuba, Castro & Communism
  • 1952-1959 Fulgencio Batista was dictator of Cuba.
  • The US supported Batista and his repressive regime because of the considerable business investment in Cuba and noncommunist support. (There was also a significant American organized crime element in Cuba.)
  • Castro and his revolutionaries seize control in 1959.
  • In 1961, Castro creates a socialist state.
cuba castro communism1
Cuba, Castro & Communism

The Bay of Pigs:

  • Preparation began under Eisenhower.
  • CIA plan to return Cuban exiles to the island with the hopes of sparking an uprising against Castro.
  • Original plan called for US air and naval support.
  • Newly inaugurated JFK pulls the plug on direct US support.
  • The invasion failed.
  • Castro uses the escalation to get additional military aid from the USSR.
the cuban missile crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis

Back ground to the crisis:

1958 - US deploys nuclear missiles to

Great Britain

1959 – Turkey agrees to allow the

US to deploy nuclear missiles in

that country.

1960 – Fidel Castro takes control

of Cuba and becomes a

“privileged client state” of the


1961 – The US supports effort by

Cuban exiles to bring down Castro.

The Bay of Pigs invasion fails.

the cuban missile crisis1
The Cuban Missile Crisis

1962 – US nuclear missiles

in Turkey become operational.

*Soviet leader Khrushchev

informs the Cubans that the

USSR will help defend Cuba

from an American invasion –

including the deployment of

nuclear missiles.

Summer 1962 – US spy planes

photograph advanced Soviet

weapons in Cuba and

preparations for missile


the cuban missile crisis2
The Cuban Missile Crisis
  • JFK informs the American people about the missiles and announces a naval blockade of Cuba.
  • JFK promises “massive retaliation” for any Cuban missile attack.
  • 25 Soviet ships are bound for Cuba with final parts to make missiles operational.
  • US strategic forces are on highest alert.
the cuban missile crisis3
The Cuban Missile Crisis

Secret deal averts war:

The Soviets agree to recall

their ships and withdrawal

their missiles & bombers from

Cuba to avoid a confrontation in

exchange for:

  • a US pledge not to invade Cuba
  • the dismantling of US missiles in Turkey (this part of the deal is secret)
the domino theory
The Domino Theory

Term created during the Truman administration

to describe the theory that if one state in a

region fell to communism, then the surrounding

Countries would follow like falling dominos. No where

was this theory more concerning to US policy makers

than in Asia.

the vietnam conflict
The Vietnam Conflict
  • JFK increases US assistance to South Vietnam, including sending “advisers” to train and later lead Vietnamese troops against the Viet Cong. (These US advisors are CIA and Green Berets)
  • In 1963, Diem & JFK are assassinated.
  • In 1964, the USS Maddox is attacked off the coast of Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin Incident.
the assassination of jfk november 22 1963 dallas tx
The Assassination of JFK:November 22, 1963Dallas, TX
  • By the fall of 1963, JFK is ramping up for reelection
  • Plans trips to the battleground states of Texas and Florida
  • Campaign swing was to the first for the FOTUS after the death of her baby son.
  • While traveling in a motorcade in downtown Dallas, JFK was shot in the head & neck by Lee Harvey Oswald
  • VP Johnson was sworn in as president aboard Air Force One.