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John F Kennedy

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Charismatic Leader

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Charismatic leadership can be defined with John F. Kennedy. He exuded all the traits of a charismatic leader. His good looks, charm, quick wit and youthful vigor endeared him to the American people. He was an independent thinker and had his own ideas and promises that gave Americans new hope. Despite many international conflicts including the Bay of Pigs Invasion, The Berlin Wall, The Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam he continued to lead the country with pride and hope. He continues to be a part of American lives long after his death. His speeches are still quoted and his ideals are still pursued. His tragic death brought short the remarkable period known as the Camelot years.

John F. Kennedy, known as Jack to family and friends was born May 29, 1917 to Rose and Joe Fitzgerald in Brookline Massachusetts. He was the second of what would be nine children. His childhood years were plagued by sickness later diagnosed as Addison’s Disease. His illnesses did not stop him from participating in sports. Competition and loyalty were a driving force of the Kennedy family. Jack always lived in the shadow of his older Joe Jr. Joe Sr. believed that Joe Jr. would someday be the first Irish Catholic president of the United States and pushed him very hard. Joe Jr. excelled at everything he did and Jack was always being compared to him. Jack however had no interest in education. He attended Choate, a private school as a child, were he left a negative impression on the faculty. He was a rebellious adolescent with mediocre grades and little ambition. He then went to Princeton where after only a short time another bout with illness caused him to drop out. The following fall he returned to school though this time to Harvard where he would again live in Joe Jr’s shadow. He continued to suffer with recurring bouts of illness and was very sickly. This did not deter him from wanting to play football. During a practice session he was injured and gave of his dream of playing football for good. He tried for the swim team where again illness struck. He ran for class president and lost. It seemed no matter what he tried to do he could never measure up to his older brother. He never realized his own attributes, he was a very energetic person and well liked by many people, Joe Jr. had it all but Jack was nicer and less arrogant. Jack thought of himself as a failure. Though he may have failed at sports and academics, socially he was a success and enjoyed many women. Everywhere he went, he found women (Mills, 1988).

On a summer trip to Europe with a friend he realized his true passion was international politics. Knowing that a political career was out of the question, as that was for Joe Jr., he decided to major in Government and become a journalist. By his junior year at Harvard his grades improved perhaps because his older brother was gone and he could be himself. After many years of educational mediocrity, he made deans list. In order to graduate with honors he had to complete a thesis. His thesis was titled “Appeasement at Munich.” It received high honors from his Harvard professors and he graduated cum laude.

His father decided the book should be published and called on publishing friends to make it happen. The book was titled Why England Slept and was well received in both America and Great Britain. By this time World War II was a big force in Europe and the concerns that America would enter the war became more realistic.

After the draft was instituted Joe Jr. decided to forgo his last year at law school and enlist in the Navy’s Aviation Cadet program. Determined to follow once again in his brothers footsteps, Jack attempted to enlist but was turned down by both the Army and Navy because of his health problems. Again his father pulled strings and Jack was sworn into the Office of Navy Intelligence. Due to the blunders surrounding intelligence and Pearl Harbor, and an apparent affair with a suspected Nazi spy, Jack was to be dishonorably discharged from the Navy. Joe Sr. stepped in again had Jack was transferred to Charleston South Carolina where he would be instructing defense workers.

Ultimately Jack found himself on sea duty. He knew that his military career was still alive only due to the influence of his father. He volunteered for service in the Motor Patrol Torpedo Boats or the PTs. It was here he became a war hero. After being hit by a Japanese vessel Jack saved a fellow mate and swam 4 hours carrying him to safety.

When he returned home he was awarded the Medal for Gallantry and the Purple Heart.

The war was not so good to Joe Jr. He was killed in a very dangerous, special flying mission. This shifted Joe Sr’s political ambitions to his second son.

Never in his life did Jack think he would become a politician and neither did his father. With the death of his brother, his role in the family changed. He was now the oldest living son. To Joe Sr. this meant he had to go into politics. Jack had no interest but felt he had no choice. He said once it was like being drafted all over again. His political career began fittingly in the very place his family began, Boston Massachusetts. He spent many months with the help of friends, family and family money, campaigning and winning over voters in Massachusetts. He stood on what was important to the working class, the need for low income housing, social security and veterans benefits. He won the primaries and in November 1946 he became the representative of the Eleventh Congressional District of Massachusetts at just 29 years old. Jack Kennedy never actually had a job but his new role put him in charge of representing a working class constituency.

His career began in an unstable America. World War II was over and many Americans still feared the threat of communism. He stuck with his claim to provide low income housing to veterans and though it came up against a lot of opposition Jack forged on and finally the bill was approved. This improved his approval rating with many and showed he still had morals and courage, something many politicians lacked.

He still remained sickly and had another back surgery during his time in Congress. In a trip overseas to visit his sister Kick he became very ill. It was in this London hospital that his illness was finally diagnosed as Addison’s Disease. He was made to believe he would not live another year despite treatment. He lost his will to anything and began to waste his energy on women



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