Kennedy, John Fitzgerald (1917–1963)
John F. Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic and youngest person ever elected president. In his inaugural address, he encouraged citizens to actively participate in the democratic process: ‘My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.’ His vision, charisma, youth, energy, and optimism earned him worldwide popularity.
His Alliance for Progress was intended to strengthen democratic government and initiate social and economic reforms in Latin American countries to prevent communism from taking hold. Initiated in 1961 and joined by 22 countries, it declined with the rise of military dictatorships whose regimes did not support democratic ideals.
President Kennedy often linked physical fitness with creativity. He stated that ‘Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.’ An avid supporter of the creative arts, he felt, ‘If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.’ And ‘When power leads man to arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of this existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.’
A visionary, he established the Peace Corps in 1961.This government agency of volunteers provides skilled workers to assist developing countries in the fields of agriculture, trade, education, health, and community development. Volunteers serve two years, speak the local language, and live on a modest stipend.
At the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, he stated, ‘Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.’