16 May 2016
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a leader is “a person who has commanding authority or influence”. John F. Kennedy was a well known leader who has obtained a high amount of respect, the 35th president of the United States. From his inaugural address to his program deals, he was a true leader of the American people. He was a strong influence to all the people around him and had a powerful voice. Kennedy possessed true leadership, and what he has done has surely shown his qualities as a leader.
John. F Kennedy was known as “Jack” or “JFK,” and when he graduated from high school he was voted as “most likely to succeed”. When World War II broke out, despite the practice of appeasement, American entered the war after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy”, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt described it. JFK joined the Navy, where he eventually became the captain of a PT boat in the South Pacific. He became a hero for saving his crew after his boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer in August 1943. He was awarded various medals, including the Purple Heart. This made John F. Kennedy a leader in the armed forces by showing his loyalty and determination (Stevens 1).
Afterwards he was elected in the House of Representatives where he then became a senator shortly after. JFK was now one of the Democratic Party's rising stars. He spent 1995 and 1996 writing profiles in Courage (Evidence suggests, however, that JFK's speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen, actually wrote much of the book), which was a best-seller and won a 1957 Pulitzer Prize. In 1956, JFK was selected as the Democrats' Vice-Presidential candidate. Four years later, with the end of Eisenhower's second term, JFK's time had come: he won the 1960 Democratic nomination and defeated Richard Nixon for the presidency. He was only 43 years old at the time (1).
On January 20th, 1961, John F. Kennedy gave his inaugural address. Unlike any other given, his words struck the hearts of many Americans. The words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country” were a challenge made to the people of the United States. His speeches were so influential that he was immediately viewed as a leader. His speeches were intellectual and honest, and contained his plans to lead the United States in the right direction (Simkim 1).
During Kennedy's Presidential Inaugural address in 1961, he promised to end racial discrimination. During Kennedy's time in office, he appointed African Americans to many federal positions. No other president had done that in the past. President Kennedy appointed about forty African Americans to administrative posts such as Administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency, Associate White House Press Secretary, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. He also selected five African American federal judges, giving hope to African Americans that more important jobs will go to them. He also attempted to end discrimination in schools, voting, housing, and to remove sectionalism. However, more problems were on the rise (Oracle: Think Quest.1).
The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 brought the world close to a nuclear confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. The political positions adopted by both sides nearly prevented a resolution, but at the last moment, a compromise was found and nuclear war averted. The Soviet union was building missiles on Cuba and had begun to test them. Kennedy feared that the missiles would be used against the United States and proposed that all nuclear missiles be removed from Cuba. AlthoughJohn F. Kennedy had claimed that the U.S. lagged behind the Soviet Union in nuclear capabilities when he campaigned for his presidency, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev knew otherwise. By the summer of 1962, Khrushchev also was certain that the Americans knew the same thing (United States History 1). Soviet missiles could reach Europe, but American missiles located in Turkey could strike almost anywhere in the Soviet Union. Khrushchev feared that the imbalance would tempt the U.S. to launch a first strike. In the end, The United States and the Soviet Union had come to an agreement to remove the missiles from each of the respecting countries. Through a reasonable understanding a possible nuclear war was prevented (United States History 2). But this is still not all that JFK has done.
On the domestic front, Kennedy created a series of programs giving aid and federal funding for education and the elderly (Wikipedia 1). All of his programs were called the “New Frontier”. While most of these programs were passed after his death, a few went into action during his presidency and helped to end the recession. JFK founded the Peace Corps, a volunteer organization that sent 10,000 young Americans overseas to work in Third World countries like Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Kennedy argued that this “practical, inexpensive, person-to-person program will plant trust, good will, and a capacity for self-help” in the underdeveloped world. He backed investment in Latin America through the “Alliance for Progress” and joined with Khrushchev to sign a treaty limiting nuclear testing. At home, many of his policy initiatives stalled in Congress, but he intervened quickly to prevent unfair business practices by the steel industry, and offered cautious support for the rising Civil Rights Movement. Although he did all this, his presidency was shortly lived (Simkim 2).
At 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, in Dallas, Texas, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. His role as a leader and his acts of leadership were shortly lived, serving only two years as the President of the United States. While his death shocked the nation and caused mass hysteria of what was to happen next, he had made a huge impact on all Americans. Few of Kennedy's major programs passed through Congress during his lifetime, although, under his successor Johnson, Congress did vote them through in 1964-1965 (Wikipedia 1).
Throughout his presidency, JFK managed to create a public image immensely attractive to much of America. He was the first “Television President;” with his charm and good looks he took full advantage of that medium to capture and engage the hearts of Americans. JFK inspired in many a powerful optimism and idealism, and he seemed poised to carry the U.S. out of trying times. Though his moments of presidential brilliance were tempered by instances of uncertainty, particularly in reference to the Civil Rights Movement and the Cuban missile Crisis, JFK continues to be revered and loved. He is a great leader to me because of his courage, and his programs under the “New Frontier”. Also his ability to stand up for what he and many others believed in, inspire me to stand up for what I believe in.