Time Traveling With Atlantic Teen: John F. Kennedy

By Danielle Lieneman 

Happy President’s Day!

Here at Atlantic Teen we have an understanding and appreciation for how important our history is at forming the world we find ourselves living in. This appreciation for our past is why we’ve launched our Historical Anniversary Series. In honor of President’s Day, we’ve decided to give you an excerpt of our book focusing on one of the most well known United States presidents: John F. Kennedy.

Think of five U.S. presidents as fast as you can. Got them?

Was one of them John F. Kennedy? For many of you, he’s on your list. He was born too late to be carved on Mount Rushmore, but he was one of the most well-known and well-loved presidents of the 20th century.

His death in 1963 was mourned by not only our country, but across the entire world. With all the movies made about him, somehow it feels like he lived longer. That makes it even harder to believe that it’s been 100 years since he was born!

When he died, Kennedy was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His grave is marked by the Eternal Flame. It was lit by his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, and has been kept lit ever since. The symbolism of the fire is that Kennedy would serve as a light for all of America long after his death.

Kennedy was born into a large Irish Catholic family in the middle of World War I. Did you know that he had an older brother? One whose shadow he lived in for his entire childhood? Joe Jr., first born of the Kennedy brothers, was handsome, athletic (he played football, rugby, and was on the row team), and a natural leader. When Joe Jr. was born, his grandfather, who was then Mayor of Boston, said, “this child is the future president of the nation.”

In comparison, JFK was one of those kids who was always sick, and he attended five schools between first and eighth grade. He had appendicitis at age 13! Before he could even graduate high school, he was diagnosed with Colitis, a type of inflammation of the colon. He even had one leg that was shorter than the other. That was just one of the reasons he had back pain most of his life.

As the second born, John might have grown up feeling like he was in Joe Jr.’s shadow.but it wouldn’t be long before tragedy shifted all of the family’s hopes for Joe onto John’s shoulders. Joe Jr. died in WWII. Just as John was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life, he lost the older brother who shined so bright in his home. That didn’t stop his dad from wanting a son to be president, so he looked to John to fulfill that dream instead.

How you would feel if your brother died, and your dad wanted you to fill his shoes? That had to be hard. Kennedy dealt with it, and even through all the challenges he faced (his health was never great), he made his dad proud.

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ST-C22-1-62 04 August 1962 President Kennedy and family, Hyannis Port. L-R: John F. Kennedy Jr., Mrs. Kennedy, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, President Kennedy. Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, White House, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Kennedy showed a strong talent for writing. His college thesis became a bestselling book. He later wrote “Profiles in Courage,” which won the Pulitzer Prize. If JFK hadn’t become president, he might have been one of the best authors of his time.

John went on to become a congressman, then a senator, and then president. Along the way, he had a lot of “firsts.” He participated in the first televised presidential debate. He also changed the way the country thought about some things. Even in death, his legacy lives on. If you are a woman or minority, work done in Kennedy’s name has benefited you.

John fought communism in the Cold War, but championed peace when he established the Peace Corps and challenged college stu- dents to serve poor and needy people all over the world. He then told NASA that Americans needed to be the first people to reach the moon, and we listened to him.

That pretty much covers all of earth and space — we can definitely feel Kennedy’s impact all around us.

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If you’re interested in learning more about John F. Kennedy (and who wouldn’t? He’s led such an interesting life), be sure to buy our book here.

 

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