John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States in 1960 after serving two terms as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. A young World War II veteran, Kennedy represented the both the idealistic aspirations of a growing American public and the hard-bitten realism of a generation facing the Soviet threat. Kennedy's 1960 election was a close battle with Vice-President Richard M. Nixon. Kennedy campaigned in Virginia, hoping to put the state back in the Democratic column. Virginia, however, cast its popular vote for Richard Nixon. In a bizarre twist, the state's leading U.S. Senator and dominant conservative Harry F. Byrd received the electoral votes of Mississippi's electors (they were not pledged to any candidate), as well as one from Alabama and Oklahoma. Byrd objected to Kennedy's liberalism throughout the campaign, even if he might have admired the young candidates strong defense posture and budget balancing rhetoric. Kennedy, for his part, began his administration with a focus on national defense and foreign policy initiatives. By the summer of 1963 Kennedy began to see the civil rights struggle as an important national issue. His June 11, 1963 televised speech calling for a civil rights bill explicitly described the problem in moral terms and linked it to America's Cold War battle for freedom around the world. Kennedy pointed out the incongruity of American soldiers defending freedom in Berlin and Vietnam while facing inequality and discrimination at home.