Happy Birthday John F. Kennedy

US #5175 was issued for Kennedy’s 100th birthday in 2017.

The youngest man ever elected President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on May 29, 1917. 

The son of a prominent businessman and politician, Kennedy attended private schools and went on to Harvard University.  He traveled abroad when his father was appointed ambassador by President Franklin Roosevelt, learning about the workings of foreign governments.

US #1287 was issued on Kennedy’s 50th birthday.

After graduating from Harvard, Kennedy attempted to join the military.  He entered the Navy in September 1941, after being rejected by the Army because of a back injury.  When America entered World War II a few months later, JFK volunteered for training with Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons.  He then began commanding patrol torpedo (PT) boats.

In August, Kennedy was patrolling in the Pacific near the Solomon Islands when a Japanese destroyer rammed his boat.  He rounded up his surviving crewmembers and led them on a four-mile swim to a safe island.  In spite of reinjuring his back, Kennedy swam to another island and was able to find help.  The crew was rescued after a week of surviving on coconut milk and rainwater.  Lieutenant Kennedy received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his courage and bravery and a Purple Heart for the injuries he received during the action.

US #1246 was issued on Kennedy’s 47th birthday.

The second of nine children, Kennedy did not intend to become a politician.  However, after the death of his older brother Joe Kennedy, Jr., who it was presumed would enter politics, John decided to run for Congress.  Not using the usual Democratic organization, Kennedy relied on his family and college friends to conduct his campaign.  He was easily able to defeat his opponent in the congressional election of 1946.  Kennedy was re-elected in 1948 and 1950.

US #5175 – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

In 1952, Kennedy began to campaign for the US senate.  Kennedy won the election by a solid margin, despite the majority of the state’s votes for governor and president going to the Republicans.  This made Kennedy the leading Democrat in Massachusetts and a national figure.  In 1955, while recovering from back surgery, Kennedy wrote Profiles in Courage, which won a Pulitzer Prize.

US #1246 – Classic First Day Cover.

At the 1960 Democratic National Convention, Kennedy gained the presidential nomination on the very first ballot.  In a battle against Richard Nixon, he won the presidency by fewer than 119,000 popular votes.

US #1287 – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

One of Kennedy’s most successful legislative programs was the establishment of the Peace Corps.  Created by an executive order and later passed by Congress, “Kennedy’s Corps” sent thousands of Americans abroad to improve the living standards in third world nations.  President Kennedy took many steps to fight segregation during his administration.  He asked Congress to pass legislation to prohibit racial discrimination in hotels and restaurants, and allowed the Attorney General to bring court suits for desegregation on behalf of those who could not do it themselves.

US #2219h from the Ameripex ’86 Presidents set.

In foreign affairs, President Kennedy attempted to stop the spread of communism, coming into conflict with the Soviet Union and Cuba.  Tensions with the Soviet Union led to the building of the Berlin Wall.  And in 1962, he had to diffuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The competition between the US and Soviet Union pushed the Space Race forward, leading President Kennedy to challenge America’s scientists to land a man on the Moon before the end of the decade, which did happen, though not while Kennedy was still alive. 

US #1447 was issued 11 years after the Peace Corps was established.

In 1961 and again in 1962, Kennedy ordered US military advisors to Southeast Asia to aid in opposing the Communist threats in South Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos.  In 1963, the Kennedy Administration criticized South Vietnam for its repressive policies toward the nation’s Buddhists.

Item #M10997 – Collection of 46 stamps honoring the 50th anniversary of JFK’s election.

On November 22, 1963, during a motorcade visit in Dallas, Texas, President Kennedy was assassinated.  The nation mourned.  After taking the presidential oath, Lyndon Johnson told the world, “This is a sad time for all people.  We have suffered a loss that can not be weighed…”

Click here for more about JFK’s life and legacy from his Presidential Library.

Click here for lots more JFK stamps.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

    John F. Kennedy

  2. So much history here. The 1960 presidential race pitted two Navy veterans of WW II against each other, one from a prominent family and one form a poor one. Kennedy went to Harvard, Nixon to Duke. Close race and reports of impropriety with Papa Joe involved. But be that be as it may President Kennedy proved to be a good leader when the nation faced the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as many other accomplishments. A life cut short by a senseless act.

  3. Excellent stories in an excellent service be able to have great stories glamorized and shown to us. Not Only in the printed word but in the portraiture and beauty of stamps as well ! Keep up the great stellar work ! And thanks for the great history lessons I share them with my family !

  4. The electoral vote, which determines the winner, was 303 for Kennedy to 219 for Nixon. The popular vote can be lost, but by winning the electoral college, the president can still win the election, even with fewer popular votes.

  5. I think that President Kennedy was the most inpriring president I have ever known in my 75 years on this earth. Can’t think of any politician who was a better orator. Such a tragic loss for our country when he was killed. A death still shrouded in mystery and cover up.

  6. First presidential candidate I ever campaigned for. I was 15 at the time. It was exciting to be involved. He came to our Brooklyn neighborhood and I actually shook his hand as his car glided by. What a thrill. A senseless death.

  7.  “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country, ” JFK

  8. For my generation, early 20s at the time, a certain amount of optimism and hope ended on November 22, 1963.

  9. Now for the bad stuff. True he did do some positive things but, he won because of his dad’s connections to organized crime. It was BOUGHT with organized money! If you want to know how, read “DENIAL OF JUSTICE “. It’s about a great journalist named Dorothy Kilgallen who dug deep for the truth!! She was murdered because she had a portfolio of TRUE facts to support who and why ! I have read enough to understand who the Kennedy really were and why I don’t like them!!!

  10. I was in junior hight school in Brooklyn on Nov. 22 1963. I was almost 13. I was in shop class. Our teacher had been trying to get his home made radio to work while we were working on making a circuit. He finally go it going and the first thing we hear is “the president has been …” and the radio cut out . At that moment we could hear a woman screaming in the hall and suddenly there was chaos. We were told to go home. I still remember walking home and the sky was overcast and I thought the world had come to an end. I know all this stuff about JFK came out later but at the time most of us loved him

  11. I think Kennedy was one of the worst presidents ever! He berated businessmen, the movers of our economy. His call to send a man to the moon was ludicrous. For a critique of Kennedy I recommend an article by Ayn Rand, “The Fascist New Frontier,” which details his foibles. If Kennedy had lived through what would most probably have been two terms, he would not be lionized like he is. What Oswald did was turn this person into a martyr, an honor he most emphatically does not deserve.

    1. What a bunch of nonsense. I don’t know what your credentials are Allan, but in a recent C-SPAN poll, over 100 presidential historians were asked to rank the previous 45 presidents in their domestic and foreign leadership, their accomplishments, and their moral leadership. Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and George Washington were ranked as the greatest presidents, and Kennedy was ranked as ninth. It’s interesting that you cite Ayn Rand as a source. She was kind of a fascist herself.

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