Kennedy was the 35th president of the United States, an immensely popular leader who was assassinated before he completed his third year in office.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on 29 May 1917 in Massachusetts, into a wealthy and political Irish-American family. Educated at Harvard University, he graduated in 1940. Following naval service in the Pacific in World War Two, he entered politics in 1946, spurred on by his ambitious father Joseph, and won election as a Democrat to the US house of representatives. In 1952, he was elected to the senate.
In 1960, Kennedy won the party's presidential nomination and defeated Richard Nixon in the subsequent election. At 43, he was the country's youngest president as well as its first Catholic head of state. He presented himself as a youthful president for a new generation. His wife Jackie added glamour to the presidency, although revelations of Kennedy's numerous affairs have subsequently rather tarnished this image.
Kennedy's years in power were marked by Cold War tension in foreign affairs, together with a rhetorical commitment to introducing domestic reforms, and most of all to expanding the civil rights of African Americans. He inherited the Eisenhower administration's plan to use anti-communist Cubans to invade Cuba in order to overthrow Fidel Castro's government. In April 1961, the 'Bay of Pigs' invasion ended in failure. It has been suggested that this led the Soviet Union to conclude that Kennedy was a weak leader, and that they could get away with installing nuclear weapons on Cuba in 1962. The subsequent Cuban missile crisis did much to restore Kennedy's reputation, as Soviet Communist Party leader Khrushchev withdrew the missiles - after a 13-day stand-off that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
Domestically, Kennedy oversaw the desegregation of the University of Mississippi in 1962, and of the University of Alabama the following year - despite the opposition to this policy of each state's political establishment. More substantial legislation to encode civil rights was not passed, however, until the subsequent administration of Lyndon Johnson (1963 - 1969).
Kennedy was assassinated on 22 November 1963 in Dallas, Texas. According to the Warren Commission established to investigate the assassination, a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, killed the president, but there has been consistent speculation ever since that Kennedy's death was the result of a conspiracy.
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