Important Moments in John F. Kennedy’s Presidency
Ask not what your country can do for you – Ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy spoke these words in his inauguration speech on January 20th, 1961 in reference to the Peace Corps he created. (Peace Corps begins as a call to serve, page 1) John F. Kennedy sometimes is remembered as a very hard working man who worked for his country and but yet as a man who made time to spend with his family. (Biography of John F. Kennedy, page 4-7) While he served the United States of America as president, John F. Kennedy handled the Cuban Missile Crisis, established the Peace Corps, and set the foundation for the U.S.A. to send a man to the moon.
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“Good evening, my fellow citizens: – This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba.”(Cuban Missile Crisis, P1) To completely understand that statement, one needs to understand what happened during the time that spanned just one week in October 1962. The United States came closer to engaging in nuclear war than at any other time in her history.
This period has come to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. It occurred after the United States learned that the U.S.S.R. had secretly assisted Cuba in placing missiles and their associated launch sites on Cuban soil, which could potentially be used to attack the United States. The swift and deliberate actions of President John F. Kennedy helped to abate this crisis and to temporarily ease the tensions of the Cold War once again between the United States and the U.S.S.R. (Full-Length synopsis of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Pages 1 – 9)
Sometimes I wonder what the world be like if Kennedy didn’t handle the Cuban Missile Crisis like he did. On October 22, 1962, John F. Kennedy gave a speech to the nation. In this speech, he informed the American public of what was going on and he also advised the Cubans they were “puppets and agents of an international conspiracy which has turned Cuba against its friends and neighbours in the Americas.” (Cuban Missile Crisis, pages 1 – 5) On the day JFK gave this speech there were ships from the U.S.S.R. in the Pacific Ocean that were headed to Cuba. JFK also warned them of the consequences of ‘messing’ with America. The next day these ships turned back to the U.S.S.R. thus a confrontation of American ships and U.S.S.R. ships was avoided. This action is probably what saved the world from being destroyed by nuclear weapons.
Second, perhaps one of the best things JFK did for this country was the creation of the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is a program that was established with “three goals in mind: to help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women; to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served; to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.” (Peace Corps, Page 1) With these three goals in mind, Americans set off to parts of the world that are fighting hunger, disease, poverty, and lack of opportunity.
Those three goals are what over 163,000 men and women, who have gone to over 135 countries, have followed in their pursuit to change the world. (Peace Corps, Page 1) This program has changed the lives of many people throughout the world and it has changed the lives of many Americans. Without the Peace Corps, the world would not be as great of a place. The Peace Cops affect many people and there are several countries that would be worse off than they already are. Many children would die from starvation, many people would go uneducated, and disease would spread and infect more people.
Third, John F. Kennedy’s space program was a program that wanted to be the first country to get a man to the moon. To get a man to the moon, one has to ask Congress for the funds to do so. “Kennedy was the first president to ask Congress for more than $22 million for the Apollo mission.” (A Biography of JFK, P. 6) Congress approved of giving him the money for the space program. Kennedy wished to have the United States lead the way in exploring in space. Even though the U.S.S.R. was leading the way, Kennedy was determined to catch up.
“This is important for political reasons, international political reasons, and this is, whether we like it or not, in a sense, a race.” (Tapes: JFK pushed for lunar landing, p1) John F. Kennedy believed that in order to be the leader of all nations you had to be the leader in the exploration of space. Kennedy asked Congress for money for a space program and he got it. He then started the Apollo program and eventually urged for a six-month advance of the lunar landing program. Many officials believed that a six-month advance would ‘make us vulnerable to a good many pressure.” (Tapes: JFK pushed for lunar landing, p1)
What would have changed if the Russians had beaten us to the moon? No one knows the answer to that question, but it is a good thing to think about. Perhaps space would be different than it is now. The Russians could have set up a colony on the moon, picked a few select few people to live on the moon and blew up the world, destroying everyone still left on it. This may be a little extreme, but during the time of the cold was anything was possible. When Kennedy promised in 1961 to have a man on the moon and back in by the end of the decade it gave the Americans something to work for.
We eventually did get a man to the moon and back in 1969. America was the first county to get a man to the moon and back and it put us in first when leading the way in space. Ever since then the United States of America has been first in leading the way in space. Without Kennedy’s persistent urging to beat the Russians in Space exploration the United States of America might have never made it to space.” (Tapes: JFK pushed for lunar landing, p1)
When the country heard of John F Kennedy’s assassination it went into mourning of our dead president. It was such a traumatic event that many people still remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. Even though he only spent just short of three years in office he changed the face of our country and what it stood for. After Kennedy, the world knew that we would help the poor, the sick, and the uneducated. It knew that he probably saved the world from a nuclear attack. And it also knew that we were very serious about our space program and leading the way into space. John F. Kennedy sometimes is remembered for his leadership, personality, and accomplishments. He was a man that truly changed the face of our country and what we stood for.
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