John F. Kennedy was sworn into office as the 35th President at noon on January 20, 1961 (Dallek 20). He had beat out Richard Nixon, 303 votes to 219 (Dallek 20). Kennedy’s reign was chocked full of firsts, all the way back to the beginning of his presidential bid. During his presidential bid Kennedy’s debates with then Vice President Richard Nixon were televised (Gerke 75). This had never been done before in United States history! More than 70 million viewers tuned in to watch the four televised “Great Debates” (Gerke 75). During the debates Nixon looked uncomfortable, uneasy, and was even perspiring at times while Kennedy remained relaxed, calm, and well poised (Gerke 76). The televised debates proved to be beneficial for Kennedy, but for those who were listening on the radio, it seemed that Nixon had the upper hand (Gerke 76). In the end, Kennedy narrowly won the popular vote 49.7% to 49.5% (Gerke 76). He became the youngest president elected to office and the first person born in the 20th century to become president (Dallek 20).
Kennedy then gave one of the most memorable inauguration addresses ever given. The young President gave this speech on a cold January day in 1961 and spoke of America uniting to end poverty, hunger, and all struggles we face as a nation and even as a world. The most memorable lines of this speech were the last: And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own (O’brien 43). His delivery of the address was sincere and full of power and promise. This was something America needed at that particular time. Kennedy won the hearts of millions of Americans that afternoon.
In the first year of his presidency, Kennedy held the first Presidential press conference ever to be televised on live television (O’brien 52). He signed an executive order that established the Peace Corps, an idea he had come up with while campaigning for his presidency (Dallek 120). Kennedy even set a national goal of landing a man on the moon before 1970, a feat thought to be impossible by many (Dallek 120). In the second year Kennedy held office he was named TIME magazine’s man of the year, asked all executive departments and federal agencies to end workplace discrimination of women, and also made many valiant attempts to end racial discrimination (O’brien 85). In his third year as President, Kennedy pushed for the biggest income tax cut in history (O’brien 90).He argued that the current tax prevented economic growth and was a burden to all Americans (O’brien 90). The remainder of the last year of Kennedy’s presidency was largely dedicated to the civil rights movement. He brought a bill to congress that