The second son of a wealthy Boston entrepreneur this future President enjoyed all the benefits of New England had to offer an Irish Catholic. At the time it is safe to assume money could not overcome all the discrimination of ethnic and religious prejudice that lingered in the Northeast. His father made important contacts in government, banking, and business that would serve his son well in the coming years.
Within the family this second son was not burdened with the heady responsibility of carrying on the family name. That job was given to his older brother who was expected to rise through the ranks of the local politics until he was ready to become President.
Unfortunately for the father, his favored son, a naval aviator, died flying an extremely dangerous mission flown from England in the second world war. This singular event shifted the hopes and dreams of the father onto the second son. A man also severely wounded as a naval officer in the war.
Using his family’s connections, and the Boston political machine, Jack was elected first as a Representative and then Senator from Massachusetts. Along the way he had a storybook marriage with the daughter of a prominent Wall Street stockbroker and NY socialite.
When elected to the office of the President he was the second youngest man ever to do so. His inaugural speech remains one of the shining examples of the potential the office holds to inspire the nation. Perhaps the most famous line is “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” His call to national service inspired the nation’s youth and his administration’s programs like the Peace Corps gave opportunity to spread the message of freedom to distant lands. But as inspiring as his words, and as glamorous as his wife and family the administration had a number of diplomatic failures that took the nation and the world to the brink of nuclear war.
As President, John Kennedy authorized a CIA led plan to invade Cuba and remove Fidel Castro as President. The plan called for airstrikes on the island, targeting the Cuban Air Force. They were to be flown by CIA trained Cuban pilots in surplus B-26 aircraft painted to look like stolen Cuban aircraft. The plan also called for an invasion force that would land in a remote part of the island and sweep across the island to defeat the Cuban Army. This plan was undoubtedly supported by the US Companies whose sugar fields and Cattle Ranches were being nationalized by the Castro government. When the airstrikes were launched it became obvious that the Cuban government was aware of the plan and had taken steps to protect its own Air Force. The invasion force was landed at a remote point called “The Bay of Pigs” and was immediately isolated and captured after only a day of hostility. The administration had abandoned their force when it became obvious it would not be as clandestine and successful as promised. This failure would set the stage for what would become the Cuban Missile Crisis when the Cubans and Soviets introduced nuclear capable intermediate range ballistic missiles to the island.
President Kennedy’s great strength was to inspire the nation to service, to set high goals like landing on the moon. In the three years of his leadership the nation moved to confront communism, took the first steps towards space, and began to address the racism in the south, but he also took the first steps towards a war that would cost over 58,000 US lives, and divide the nation.
I am not sure how well President Kennedy would stand on his Party’s current platform where government largess takes the place of individual service, and unlimited immigration works to limit the salaries of the average American.