John F. Kennedy Lesson for Kids: Facts & Biography

Instructor: Anna Reinking

Anni taught elementary school for eight years and is currently teaching college. She received her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction.

A lifelong politician, John F. Kennedy was influential during his short time as the 35th president of the United States. He started the well-known program known as Peace Corps, as well as being influential in the Civil Rights Movement.

The Early Years

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts, to a wealthy and well-known Irish Catholic family. He was the second of nine children born to his parents, Rose and Joseph.

President John F. Kennedy
JFK

In 1935, Kennedy graduated from Choate, a private boarding school, where he was voted 'most likely to succeed.' He then went to Princeton for one semester and then to Harvard University, graduating in 1940 with a degree in International Affairs. His final project, a thesis (long essay) paper, focused on Britain in the 1930s and why that nation was unprepared for World War II. It was later published into a book titled Why England Slept.

After college, he joined the U.S. Navy where he became a Lieutenant and commanded a patrol torpedo boat. On August 2, 1943, a Japanese warship rammed his boat. Kennedy was badly injured but was still able to lead survivors to a nearby island, where they were rescued six days later. The awards Kennedy received for his military service included the Navy and Marine Corps Medal (1943) and a Purple Heart (1945).

Politics

After being honorably discharged, Kennedy decided to enter politics, and in 1946, at the age of 29, he ran for and won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives where he served until 1952. At that point, frustrated with the rules in place that prevented him from making a real impact, he decided to run for U.S. Senate and won. In 1953, he married Jacqueline Bouvier, with whom he would have three children throughout his life (one child died several days after birth).

In 1960, Kennedy made a successful run for the presidency and on January 20, 1961, he was inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States. At age 43, he was the youngest elected president as well as the first Catholic president.

President Kennedy

Through an Executive Order in 1961, Kennedy created the Peace Corps, which is a volunteer program with the mission of providing help to people outside the United States. He also helped create stronger economic relationships with Latin America.

But not everything was great during his presidency. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was when the U.S. discovered that the Soviet Union had sent nuclear missiles to Cuba (located only 90 miles from Florida). After 13 extremely tense days, the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles if Kennedy promised not to attack Cuba and to also remove the U.S. missiles from Turkey. This is believed to be the closest the U.S. has ever come to a nuclear war!

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