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John F. Kennedy

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John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts, into one of the wealthiest families in the United States. Universally called "JFK," he became a millionaire at the age of 21 when his father gave him one million dollars, but politics and sports were of much more importance to him. He loved touch football, tennis, golf, sailing, and swimming. JFK attended Princeton University and Harvard, graduating from there cum laude. He attended Stanford University business school before serving in the U.S. Navy. He was a naval hero during World War 11 when his PT boat was cut in half and he helped to save the lives of his crew. Returning after the war, he was elected to Congress in 1946 and to the Senate in 1948 and was popular, well-liked, and handsome. He had a fine sense of humor and was a good orator. On September 12, l953, JFK married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. They had three children, but one, Patrick, born during Kennedy's term of office, died in infancy.

JFK gained national prominence when he gave the keynote address at the 1956 Democratic National Convention. In 1960, when the Democrats nominated JFK over Lyndon Baines Johnson, Kennedy asked Johnson to be his Vice President. Kennedy and his opponent, incumbent Vice President Richard M. Nixon, ushered in a new era with a series of four televised Presidential debates. In November 1960, JFK became the youngest man ever elected President. (Theodore Roosevelt was 42 when he took over after McKinley's death.) He was also the only Roman Catholic President. The national vote was dramatically close, but JFK won 303 electoral college votes to Nixon's 219. At his inauguration, Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country," perhaps the most famous single quote from an inaugural address. Among many notables in his cabinet, JFK appointed his brother Bobby as Attorney General.

From Eisenhower, Kennedy inherited the "Cold War" with the Soviet Union. In 1962, when American spy planes discovered Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from the U.S., many thought the nation was at the brink of war. Kennedy imposed a blockade of Cuba but promised not to invade, and the Soviet Union dismantled the missile bases, resolving the confrontation. (Upon seeing photos of the dismantling, Adlai Stevenson, now Kennedy's Ambassador to the U.N, famously said, "We are eyeball to eyeball with the enemy, and I think the other fellow just blinked.")

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