By Madison Danielson
November 22, 2016; 11:35 am
Fifty-three years ago today, November 22, 1963, tragedy struck the United States of America as President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. JFK was the fourth president in history to be assassinated; yet, not many students today understand the impact Kennedy’s presidency and assassination had on American history.
To commemorate his passing, I interviewed my grandmother (a self-proclaimed Kennedy historian) to better understand the impact of Kennedy’s presidency. Based on this interview, here are ten interesting facts that you might not know about JFK.
1) John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, to Joseph Patrick Kennedy and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald-Kennedy. Mr Kennedy had several siblings, notably Robert Kennedy, who like his brother was assassinated in 1968. Two of his brothers were soldiers and both ended up being killed in action: Joseph Jr. was killed in action during the second World War. Kennedy’s last brother, Ted, was a long-serving U.S senator from 1962 until he died of a brain tumor in 2009.
2) Did you know that Kennedy was an ex-military veteran? Kennedy at first was not allowed to join the military because of lower back problems. But after making his back stronger with the help of doctors and some physical therapy, Kennedy finally joined the United States Naval Reserve from 1941-1945. A few of his awards include the Naval and Marine Corps Medal, a Purple Heart, and a World War II Victory Medal.
3) Kennedy had lifelong back spasms and crippling migraines. After Kennedy was elected to congress, his bad back became harder to deny, especially after near-fatal back surgery. During the 1960 election, a medical bag carrying his pain medication was lost, and Kennedy personally called the then governor of Connecticut asking him to find this bag, because if it was found by the wrong people “it would be murder” to his presidential race (Dalleck). Kennedy’s health issues remained an ongoing secret for many years, even after his death.
4) During these hard times, Kennedy wrote a self-published book called Profiles in Courage. This book was about U.S senators who risk their careers for their personal beliefs. This book won him the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1957.
5) Kennedy became the youngest president to take office, being only 43 years old during his inaugural ceremony. On January 20 1961, Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president of the United States of America. During his inaugural speech, we heard his most famous saying, which defined Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
6) Kennedy and Nixon’s presidential debate was the first debate shown on television.
7) In Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, at 12:30pm, Mr John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Jackie Kennedy rarely went on political trips with her husband, but was invited on this political trip to Texas to help smooth over frictions in the Democratic Party. According to what my grandma said, they were driving to the meeting when Kennedy was shot once in the back; the bullet exited through his throat, and the other through his head.
8) At the age of 46, Kennedy became the youngest president to pass away (to date). This led to his accused killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, to be arrested for the murder of police officer J.D. Tippit. Lee Harvey Oswald claimed he was not guilty and did not shoot anyone but, before a trial was held, he was killed by Jack Ruby on November 24th.
9) After his death, Mrs. Kennedy refused to remove her blood stained clothing. She wore the blood stained pink suit as she got on Air Force One and as she stood next to Johnson as he took the oath of office as the new President of the United States of America. She told Lady Bird Johnson, “I want them to see what they have done to Jack.” With Jackie doing this people were able to identify with her sorrow, and feel pity for her.
10) Kennedy and William Howard Taft are the only two U.S. presidents buried at Arlington. Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery is lit with an “Eternal Flame” that still burns today. His brother Robert was buried nearby in June 1968, and his brother Ted was buried there in 2009.
Kennedy’s death was a defining moment in our parents and grandparents American lives. It is good to reflect and understand him a little better.
To end this article, I present a famous quote from John Kennedy at his last speech:
“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
For Further Reading:
Dalleck, Robert. “The Medical Ordeals of JFK.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, Dec. 2002, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/12/the-medical-ordeals-of-jfk/305572/.