Kennedy and Brinkley President John Fitzgerald Kennedy Essay

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Kennedy and Brinkley

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is an important figure in American history and was instrumental in shaping the American identity in the second half of the twentieth century. His personality and optimism, as well as his heroism in the Second World War helped the country to formulate a hope that the 1960s could be a time of renewal and rebirth in the United States of America. In recent years, the more scandalous aspects of his life have overtaken his historical significance, something that should be remedied and his importance restored. Most importantly, his actions during the Cold War between the United States and the U.S.S.R. are credited with saving the world from descending into nuclear war. In Alan Brinkley's 2012 book John F. Kenney, the author attempts to explain the man in terms of his place in history and how his personal abilities and charisma were able to put him into his position of power, as well as how such talents made him a threat.

The Kennedy presidency was perhaps one of the most important of the latter half of the twentieth century. There were many issues which the president gave attention to including the rights of Native Americans, the space program, as well as the Civil Rights Movement which he progressed through with the help of his brother Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. However, despite the importance of these issues, there was one which served to dominate his presidency. The key event that marked his administration was the Cold War between democratic countries in the western world and the Communist USSR. To strengthen their position and prove a greater threat to the United States, the Soviet Union allied itself with Cuba, another Communist nation. Fidel Castro of Cuba and Nikita Khrushchev of the U.S.S.R. made an alliance in 1962 which would allow the Cubans to place nuclear weapons on that island nation, dangerously close to the United States. The United States came very close to all-out nuclear war with the Soviets. It was believed that a period of thirteen days of diplomacy and discussion between the leaders of the two nations was all that saved the world from a nuclear apocalypse. At no time before or after this period in history was the world so close to complete destruction and it is highly likely that the reality of their nuclear holocaust humbled the warring nations because it was the point of highest tension until the 1980s when the Soviet Union began to break apart. Kennedy saw that with nuclear arms so close to American soil that the Soviet Union could launch an attack on the United States at any time and that the U.S. would not be able to respond effectively until it was too late and most of the citizens would be dead. There would be no strategic retaliation, just all-out total war. It was President Kennedy's intention to avoid this at all costs. From early on in his administration, indeed from the very inauguration, Kennedy understood how the Soviet Union would affect his presidency and his nation, pledging himself to the cause for peace and yet making it clear that he would not back down from conflict with the enemy. In the inaugural speech, Kennedy (1961) said, "Let us being anew -- remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate" (page 2). This attitude would shape his interactions with the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. One of the ways in which he combated the Cold War was in keeping contact with Premier Khrushchev. The two men wrote one another which served to explain perceptions and political differences and to humanize their opponents. This, Kennedy felt, was the key to avoiding war with the Soviet Union; to impart the message that human life was what was most important and had to be considered above all political disputes. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, there was no place for interactions between nations to go but to reach an eventual treaty and end of aggressions or to revert to nuclear armament and final attack. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and neither President Kennedy nor Premier Khrushchev chose to act in ways which would turn the Cold War into a hot one. Following…[continue]

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