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Mr. President

John F. Kennedy
Thirty-Fifth President, 1961–1963

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not
what your country
can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

John F. Kennedy was the youngest man ever elected president and the youngest to die in office. He was also the first Roman Catholic president. While in office, he called for new civil rights legislation, created the Peace Corps, asked Congress to spend more on space exploration, and inspired a generation of young people to become involved in politics and public service. The nation was dazzled by the young president and his beautiful wife Jacqueline Kennedy, who brought culture and glamour to the White House. Meanwhile, however, tension with the Communist world was heightening. During the failed Bay of Pigs invasion against Cuba, Kennedy and his advisors tried unsuccessfully to overthrow Communist leader Fidel Castro. A year later, when the Soviets began to install nuclear missile bases in Cuba, Kennedy ordered U.S. Navy ships to surround the island. The Soviet Union and United States came close to nuclear war before the Soviets gave in and removed the missiles in return for a promise that the United States would not invade Cuba. On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, leaving behind a stunned and grieving nation.

Portrait by Elaine de Kooning , 1963 . NPG.99.75 , Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, © Elaine de Kooning Trust .

Fast Facts
Party: Democrat
Date of Birth: Tuesday, May 29, 1917
Date of Death: Friday, November 22, 1963
Vice President: Lyndon B. Johnson
First Lady: Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy

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