Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why is J.F.K. such a famous and controversial character today?

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Why is John F Kennedy such a famous and controversial figure in history?

Jack Kennedy was born into a family already steeped in controversy. His millionaire father, Joseph Kennedy, was reputedly involved in bootlegging in the 10s during prohibition, and was said to have had links with the mob. He dreamed of a life in politics however after World War broke out he leant politically towards the Axis powers and ruined his chances forever. However, this did not stop the chances of his sons, whom he worked hard to bring into office. He first focussed his attentions on his eldest son, Joe Kennedy Jnr., however he was killed in a plane crash during WW. However his work did finally pay off, when in 146, Jack Kennedy was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives and later served as a Senator for Masachusetts.

During his time as Senator, JFK allegedly developed links to the mafia himself and was famously associated with the Rat Pack, which was a group of actors and musicians (eg. Frank Sinatra, his brother-in-law Peter Lawford) who were also connected with the mob. It is also alleged that Frank Sinatra was a runner-boy between Kennedy and the mafia during the 160 Presidential Election campaign.

J.F.K. married his wife, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in 15, however he continued to live a swinging lifestyle of drink, jazz and women. This was all, however, a life that remained hidden from the public eye for his entire political career, and was only more well known much after his death. While he was alive he cultivated his Camelot image; welcoming media into the whitehouse. He was a young good-looking president with a young good-looking family. They became a kind of Royal Family for the American people.

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In 160 he was elected president of the United States after beating Richard Nixon. This election itself was a very controversial one. It was the closest victory ever recorded (with the recent exception of George Walker Bushs controversial victory over Democrat, Al Gore). It is also alleged that Kennedy used his mafia links to buy the election for him. Despite the allegations, it has to be said he was a very charismatic character. John was a man who was made for television, whereas his opponent Nixon was more geared towards a radio election. This was the first ever televised election and both candidates were in the spotlight. JFK emerged the more charismatic and photogenic of the two, effectively beating Nixon in the first ever televised presidential debate. He was sworn in on the 0th of January 161 as the first ever Catholic president of the USA. In his Inaugaral Address he said that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans. He certainly tried to say that he was going to change things, saying his term was perhaps a new dawn for America.

His mob connections and high-living were not the only aspect of John F. Kennedy that showed his less appealing side. His foreign policy also, some might say, left a lot to be desired. The political climate of the time was a cold war one. JFK utterly embraced this climate and was happy to take on the role of cold warrior president. He made sure to be clear that he was utterly opposed to the spectre of communism. Perhaps it was growing up with a tycoon father, perhaps it was his devout Catholicism, he simply could not stand these godless communists. He took the common US view of socialism as some kind of evil disease that could spread and needed to be contained. Unfortunately this lead to a number of foolish mistakes made on the part of Kennedy and his administration.

As soon as John F Kennedy was in the whitehouse he set about trying to hire a hitman in Cuba to get rid of the leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro. He also sponsored other asassination attempts including sending him exploding cigars. This of course was nothing short of state sponsored terrorism. In fact, Cuba was a rather problematic area for the Kennedy administration.

In 160, President Eisenhower had approved a ludicrous attempt to train guerrillas for a paramilitary style campaign to overthrow Castro. When Kennedy came into office in 161 he was told about the plan. At first he was skeptical but his advisors told him Castro was an unpopular leader, and once the invasion had began, the people of Cuba would quickly support him. The attack was however a farce. Within 7 of the boats reaching the Bay of Pigs, all the invading troops had been killed, wounded or had surrendered. The political price for this blunder was very high. For a start, it was a huge embarrassment to Kennedys Administration, but it also ensured Castros Cuba enjoyed the long life that it has had as Castro came under the special care of Kruschev.

In September 16, U spy planes discovered the USSR building ICBM launch sites in Cuba. They also saw an increase in the number of ships heading for Cuba from the USSR. An emergency meeting was called where the CIA and the military recommended they invade Cuba. Remembering the CIAs earlier advice and its consequences JFK decided to put a naval blockade of Cuba. Kruschev sent two letters to Kennedy saying the USSR would dismantle the launch sites if the US removed theirs in Turkey. For a short period, the world was on the brink of nuclear war - out of 5 Americans believed this would result in head-on confrontation. At the last minute Kennedy replied to Kruschev telling him he would remove his bases in Turkey and Kruschev ordered his ships to turn around. Subsequently, Kennedy enjoyed increased popularity in the polls and in Congress, however his actions could still be described as reckless in the face of possible nuclear apocalypse.

As well as removing the bases in Turkey, Italy and Cuba, the Crisis had other effects. As a direct result of it, the two superpowers agreed to establish direct communication - the Hot Line. As well as this the Test Ban Treaty was drawn up and signed in August 16 to prohibit the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. Nearly 100 prisoners captured during the Bay of Pigs Invasion were exchanged for $60 million in food, medecines and cash.

JFK put forward the idea behind a number of new domestic policies. These included the idea of Medicare - a kind of National Health Service -, drastic improvements to the failing American education system and an attack on poverty. These ideas were fairly revolutionary considering that the vast majority of people who would benefit from these changes would be working class Americans, this being the group that most presidents are inclined to ignore because as a general rule they dont vote in nearly as large numbers. As well as this, these changes would cost money. Money that would have to be earned through higher taxation, the majority of which would be paid by the very rich. It perhaps didnt help Kennedys case that the senators and governors Kennedy would have to convince were all very rich people themselves.

These ideas in themselves were bound to cause a stir among the conservative dominated congress, but none so much as when he dared to tackle the issue of civil rights for African-Americans, specifically in the southern states. The harsh punitive laws made a mockery of the constitutions All men are equal under the eyes of God. Once again, he was tackling an issue that would benefit a generally non-voting population (because in many cases they were actually not allowed to vote). However the fact of the matter is that he still took on the issues, and suffered for it. At first he took the issue somewhat slowly, and was criticised by civil rights leaders for it. Kennedy preferred to go through the courts to change laws so as not to anger the many southern politicians he would need to keep onside if he were to pass his reforms. However, all changed when in 161, a group of courageous young students, black and white, took part in the freedom rides, where they rode across america in buses ignoring the bus segregation laws. These riders were inevitably beaten and their buses burned. This prompted Kennedys government - in this case namely Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Johns brother - to dispatch the national guard to protect the riders. Eventually it was this action that led to the desegregation of buses. Naturally it would be frankly incorrect to put down the success of the civil rights movement down to one man but still, it was this attempting to enforce the constitution that was often characteristic of JFKs domestic proposals.

Needless to say, none of his bills passed while he was alive. However, what was his most influential and ambitious domestic bill did eventually pass. In the summer of 16, African-Americans organised a March on Washington. It was at this march that The Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. gave his infamous I Have A Dream speech. In light of this pivotal moment for the civil rights movement, John Fitzgerald Kennedy submitted a civil rights bill, saying that the grandchildren of the slaves freed by Lincoln are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. It passed after his death.

By his untimely assasination, Kennedy achieved immortality. On November nd 16 John F. Kennedy, his wife and Vice President Lyndon Johnson, and Mr. and Mrs. John Connally, Texas Governor were travelling by motorcade allong Elm Street in Dallas, Texas. As they passed Dealeys Plaza shots rang out. Both the President and the Governor were wounded. The limousine picked up speed and raced to the Parkland Hospital where Kennedy was pronounced dead at 100. After this Dallas police allegedly found evidence including a rifle and spent cartridges that were linked to Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald then allegedly shot and killed a patrol man named Tippit. Oswald was charged of both murders but as he was being transferred to prison he was shot by Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner.

On November , 16, President Johnson established a commission, headed by Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, to investigate the assassination. The Warren Commission made its findings public on September 4, 164 - it concluded that Oswald acted alone when he killed the President. Discrepancies in the Warren Report led to numerous subsequent official and unofficial investigations in succeeding years. On January , 17, the House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations supported the Warren panels conclusion that Oswald fired the fatal shots. But, the committee also found that, based on audio recordings of the shooting taken from police radios at the time of the assassination, that a second gunman had fired at the motorcade from the grassy knoll. The House Select Committee concluded that President Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.

Given that there are so many questions emenating from the Warren Commission, this is an event in history which has always attracted many conspiracies, including that of Kennedy being asassinated by; the FBI, the CIA, the Mafia, Lyndon Johnson, George Bush Senior, himself... the list continues. The point is that his assasination is one that left a long legacy. Some people may argue that his cherished reforms may not have been passed were it not for the fact that his asassination developed sympathy. In any case, all but one of his laws were passed - the law on medicare.

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