We celebrate a man who:
Pushed for aid to the elderly (which was passed as Medicare after his death).
Supported the Civil Rights Movement (reluctant at first, he worried that Southern Democrats blocking his programs in Congress would be even more combative but once he decided to support the movement, he was all in, making the first speech about civil rights from the Oval Office (June 11, 1963) and welcoming Martin Luther King, Jr., and the March On Washington organizers to the White House after a successful event on August 28, 1963).
After staring down into the nuclear abyss during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, he began to work toward a detente between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
Oh, yeah, he saved the world from blowing up!
He gave a speech at American University on June 10, 1963, signaling his desire to start thawing relations with the Soviet Union.
He succeeded in pushing through the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty on August 5, 1963.
He quietly approved a NSAM memo (October 11, 1963) to withdraw American advisors from Vietnam to conclude by the end of 1965. Withdrawals began before his trip to Dallas. After his death, a subsequent NSAM memo reversed this policy. He gave an interview to Walter Cronkite on September 2, 1963 that said the Government would not withdraw, but no candidate for President in 1964 would ever admit otherwise. The memo showed his intent. During the interview, he also said that the war would have to be won by the Vietnamese. "It's their war." He wanted no part of American ground troops in Southeast Asia.
Constantly held off his own generals, who wanted to invade Cuba (Operation Northwoods was a plot to kill Americans and blame Cuba. JFK walked out of the meeting. Needless to say, he didn't approve the operation.). During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the generals wanted to attack the missile sites, very likely triggering a nuclear response from Russia. They also wanted to launch a pre-emptive strike against Moscow. JFK refused. The generals considered JFK 'soft on Communism'. Air Force General Curtis LeMay (satirized in Dr. Strangelove) despised JFK and his brother, too, openly voicing his contempt.
JFK did come to the Presidency as a Cold Warrior, but no candidate, either Democrat or Republican, could afford to be accused of being 'soft on Communism' in 1960. He gradually realized that it was too dangerous to continue the arms race, especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
He was a visionary who predicted we would send a man to the moon and bring him back safely before the decade was out. The first moon landing was July 20, 1969.
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