Kennedy, John F.

A Democratic party political leader of the twentieth century; he was president from 1961 to 1963. His election began a period of great optimism in the United States. In his inaugural address, he challenged the nation, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Kennedy brought the United States out of the Cuban missile crisis and negotiated the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963 with Britain and the Soviet Union. But he was also responsible for the disastrous attempt to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Kennedy's domestic policies were called the New Frontier; he strongly supported space exploration and the civil rights movement. His presidency ended with his assassination on November 22, 1963, apparently by Lee Harvey Oswald, who allegedly shot Kennedy as the president rode in an open car through Dallas. Kennedy's death was mourned throughout the world.

Notes for Kennedy, John F.

At age forty-three, Kennedy was the youngest person to be elected president in American history. His administration was known for its dazzling, stylish quality, partly because of his elegant wife, Jacqueline (Jackie) Kennedy (see Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis), and partly because Kennedy himself was young, handsome, and eloquent.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.