John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected the president of the United States of America in 1960 at a young age. At that time, the General Eisenhower was ageing. He was known for his frequent heart attacks and his love for golf than he was, for his opposition to the military industrial complex especially among the young people. At the same period, the young generation had a sense of optimism, that nothing was impossible and that no problem could go unresolved. The time had come for the older generation who had made mistakes to move over and let the new comers find solutions to the problems that faced Americans.
They did not want to repeat the mistakes that the older generation had done, like the wars and the crusades against the ‘red menace’. These ideas motivated their white supporters and the black students from the South who were fed up with the policies that ruled them before. As a young catholic politician, JFK, together with a young black Baptist minister, Martin Luther King, expressed their high hopes and the dreams for the era of the young generation to rule.
William Terence says that it was this young generation that had loyally pledged allegiance to the flag each morning in school, and it was in the schools across the nation that they were told of the unique promise of America. While the adults were concerned with leisure, the young generation, who had been constantly reminded in high school of their fortunate status as citizens of the wealthiest democratic society in the world, was determined to make the American dream become a reality. (William T. M. R. , 1997, pgs 57-58)
President Kennedy’s cause on civil rights According Garth E. Pauley in the book, “The modern presidency and civil rights”, President Kennedy was known as the champion of civil rights and the leader of a ‘second reconstruction’. His attitude towards the civil rights has been considered irrational. It is said that he was not knowledgeable on the civil rights because they were alien to most of his experience. He was from a privileged lifestyle that did not provide him with a deep knowledge or feelings about the racial prejudices that his fellow citizens possessed.
He also had little interaction with black people in Boston or in Hyanisport except as servants. However, meetings with the African Americans leaders seemed to advance the president a little in his own commitment to human rights. He was sympathetic of the many problems confronting the blacks, and therefore worked to ensure the passage of the housing, employment, tax and education measures to help improve the circumstances for the black people. (Pauley Garth E. , 2001, pgs 105-112)
In 1963, Kennedy ultimately took strong action on civil rights and spoke about the moral imperative of racial inequality. In doing so, he needed to satisfy the score of Americans, who protested against prolonged federal inaction, reduction in the potential for racial violence and attempt to maintain the shred of confidence that the African Americans still had in the federal government. President Kennedy also wanted to aid the moderate civil rights leaders like Roy Wilkins, Martin Luther King, Jr.
and James Farmer in securing their objectives lest the movement be taken over by radicals. He also led the fight for civil right in order to prevent the isolation of black leadership and the embitterment of the African American people. (Pauley Garth E. , 2001, pgs 105-112) JFK’s core beliefs President Kennedy was a man with core beliefs concerning certain issues surrounding humanity. An example of such beliefs is his stand on war and the Cuban missile crisis in 1943. His aversion to war was more pronounced during the first decades of the nuclear era.
As early as 1947, the 29 year old freshman and congressman was gripped by the escalating suspicions of the cold war, which drove him to warn of the nuclear apocalypse publicly. In his own words, he said that, “The greatest danger is a war which would be waged by the conscious decision of the leaders of Russia some 25 or 35 years from now. She will have the atomic bomb, the planes, the ports, and the ships to wage aggressive war outside her boarders. Such conflict would truly mean the end of the world and all our diplomacy and prayers must be exerted to avoid it.
” His words show his core belief on war, that it is immoral and inhuman. Stern Sheldon M. , 2003, pg 40) In the book Averting the ‘final failure’, Sheldon says that in all of president Kennedy’s life, he had a high regard for personal courage and toughness, but at the same time, he loathed the brutality and the carnage of war. He also had a profound historical paradox; that human beings had never been capable of building a peaceful and stable world, but at the same time, war, especially between nations possessing nuclear weapons, was no longer a rational option.
The president was also an anti-communist just like his missile crisis advisers, but he understood that once military conflict was unleashed between the nuclear superpowers, all bets were off. (Stern Sheldon M. , 2003, pg 41) The Cuban missile crisis provided the supreme test of President Kennedy’s capacity to have an open mind and, at the same time, to hold fast his core beliefs about war in the face of unyielding pressure from the experts around him. (Stern Sheldon M. , 2003, pgs 41) The president also believed in liberty and in doing what one wanted to do. He was an athlete, a family man, and the Pulitzer Prize- winning author.
He did anything he wanted to do, and hence his decision to engage himself in politics at such a young age. (Gramm Kent, 2001, pg 183) Effect of Catholic background to JFK’s rule Religion is one of the critical elements emphasized especially by the Democrats in presidency, who confess that they must retain the trust of God fearing Americans. In 1960, The Democratic Party appointed John. F. Kennedy as their presidential candidate, despite him being a catholic, but most of his supporters Protestants. He was the second catholic to receive the presidential nomination after Alfred E.
Smith of New York, thirty two years earlier. Smith suffered a devastating defeat after a campaign that was marred by vicious religious bigotry. Given this history, JFK addressed a speech before hundreds of Southern Baptist religious leaders in Houston, Texas, on September 12, 1960. In his speech, he expressed his regrets in the necessity of religion to the American presidential candidates. He said that there were other more important issues that could be considered to help decide who the president should be, like hunger, disease and inequality. (North David, 2004, pgs 97-99)
He added that issues like war, hunger, ignorance and despair knew no religious barriers. But since his catholic background had had made religion an issue in the campaign, Kennedy said that, “it is apparently necessary for me to state once again- not what kind of church I believe in for that should be important only to me, but what kind of America I believe in. ” He also said, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be a catholic) how to act and no protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote….
” He further stated that his conception of America was one in which “no public official either requests or accepts instruction on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source” and “where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials. ” President Kennedy believed that religion should be a president’s own affair and should not affect American policies or the way he rules. (North David, 2004, pgs 97-99)
JFK’s death and its effect on the civil right movements On November 22nd, 1963, the civil right movement received a crushing blow of JFK’s death. The president was solidly behind the civil right efforts and was actively pushing Congress for the passage of a major rights bill. This bill would make possible full equality among the African Americans and the Whites. On a visit to Dallas, as President Kennedy rode with his wife Jackie in a convertible in a parade, three shots rang out, hitting Kennedy in the head and neck. The president died shortly after.
The death of the president made the future of the civil rights legislation uncertain. It was however ironical that the death of the president strengthened the proposed civil right bill, an advantage to the civil rights movements. Prior to his death, any civil rights legislation would have required significant compromise to pass both houses of congress. After his death, President Johnson (his successor) refused to compromise. The civil right Acts were also boosted by the fact that the presidential election was upcoming, and Johnson strongly endorsed the Civil Rights Act.
With key Republicans emerging as allies and other law makers less inclined to squabble over a bill an assassinated president supported, the bill passed both houses of Congress with no significant changes. Later on, President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act into law. Effect of John. F. Kennedy’s presidency in the 21st century Today, the values of John F. Kennedy are evident, an example being the election of President Barack Obama. President John, F. Kennedy fought for equality among the African Americans and the Whites. In the 1960, it was impossible for a black man to become the president.
All this started to change when President Kennedy pushed for the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His assassination was a boost to passing of the bill, signaling the beginning of equality among all. The election of president Obama was definitely a reaping of fruits from the seeds sown by President JFK. The policies of President John F. Kennedy are seen in effect today, where equality reigns among all Americans, regardless of their cultural background, race or color. The fact that President Obama became president at 47 years could also be an inspiration by President Kennedy.
In 1960, when John Kennedy was elected president, he received a lot of support from the young people. The old leadership had failed; the policies used then were fair. John F. Kennedy’s era was the start of the young leadership’s rule. He gave hope to the young and to the black African Americans, and was determined to attain the American dream. This was the case with the recent election. Most people preferred a young president to being ruled by an elderly person. President Obama gave America a hope, and promised to push America to achieve the American dream. Just as the youths supporting President John F.
Kennedy believed, that nothing was impossible, so did the election of president Obama prove. The election of Obama’s election was also boosted by the fact that the Americans were fed up with Bush’s policies, which were also similar to those of John McCain. (Curtis Mark, etal, 2009, pgs 107-108) References 1) Curtis Mark, Owens Ronn, Age of Obama: A Reporter’s Journey with Clinton, McCain and Obama in the Making of the President, 2008, Nimble Books LLC, 2009, pgs 107-108 2) Gramm Kent, November: Lincoln’s elegy at Gettysburg, Indiana University Press, 2001, pg 183
3) North David, The crisis of American democracy: the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, Mehring Books, 2004, pgs 97-99 4) Pauley Garth E. , The modern presidency & civil rights: rhetoric on race from Roosevelt to Nixon, Texas A & M University Press, 2001, pgs 105-112 5) Penrice Ronda Racha, African American History for Dummies, For Dummies, 2007, pg 169 6) Stern Sheldon M. , Averting ‘the final failure’: John F. Kennedy and the secret Cuban Missile Crisis meetings, Stanford University Press, 2003, pgs 40-41 7) William Terence Martin Riches, The civil rights movement: struggle and resistance, Palgrave Macmillan, 1997, pgs 57-58
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