John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 29, 1917, the second oldest in a family of nine children. His great grandparents had come to the United States from Ireland in the mid-1800s after a food shortage caused severe poverty in that country. Although their families had not come to the United States with much money, both of John Kennedy's grandfathers became political leaders in Boston. One of them, John Fitzgerald, was elected mayor in 1905. John Kennedy's father, Joseph Patrick Kennedy became a very wealthy businessman, an adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the United States Ambassador to Great Britain from 1938 to 1940.
John Kennedy moved to New York when he was ten years old. Since the family spent the summer months at their home in Hyannis, Cape Cod, Jack still lived a good part of his life in Massachusetts. After graduating from the Choate School in Connecticut in 1935, he went on to Harvard College and graduated in 1940. That same year he wrote a best-selling book, Why England Slept, about some of the decisions which led to World War II.
In 1941, John Kennedy joined the Navy. He became the commander of a small "PT" boat assigned to the battle in the Pacific against the Japanese. One night, while on patrol, Kennedy's boat was rammed by a large enemy ship. Two men in a crew of thirteen were killed, and the rest swam to a nearby deserted island. They managed to survive, mostly by eating coconuts, until they were rescued a week later.
After World War II, John Kennedy had to choose the kind of work he wanted to do. He considered becoming a teacher or a writer but soon decided to run for political office. In 1946, he was elected to the U.S. Congress, representing a district in greater Boston. Kennedy, a Democrat, served three terms in the House of Representatives, and in 1952 he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
In 1953, he married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. The following year he had a serious operation on his back. While recovering from surgery, he wrote a book about several U.S. senators who had risked their careers to fight for the things in which they believed. The book, called Profiles in Courage, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957. That same year, the Kennedy's first child, Caroline, was born.
Kennedy had narrowly missed being picked as the Democratic Party's candidate for Vice President in 1956. Soon after, he began a long campaign to become President in 1960. At the convention on July 13, 1960, the Democrats chose Kennedy as their presidential candidate. Kennedy asked Lyndon B. Johnson to run with him for Vice President. In the general election on November 8, Kennedy defeated Vice President Richard M. Nixon, in a very close race. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President and the first Catholic. Just after the election, the Kennedy's second child, John Jr., was born.
John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President on January 20, 1961. In his Inaugural Address, he...