By: J.P. Chabot
The young and charismatic president John F. Kennedy died 50 years ago this month, but effects of his decisions still resonate to this day. The nation, and perhaps the world, would not be the same if not for his actions and policies.
Nuclear war loomed on the horizon during the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962, but its resolution led to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the first agreement of any form of nuclear arms restraint between the superpowers.
A direct phone hotline between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. was established to ensure that the two countries would always be able to communicate, furthering this movement towards the peace that prevails today. Had things been handled even slightly differently, though, a nuclear war could have occurred and devastated the world beyond repair. The entire geopolitical landscape of the world would be different today without Kennedy skillfully navigating between hoping for peace and preparing for war.
Kennedy was a supporter of civil rights, and though he was assassinated before it was passed, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was carried through to completion thanks to his successor Lyndon Johnson. Even while he was still alive Kennedy managed to get minor legislation passed that prohibited discrimination against those seeking financial aid or insurance claims.
Presidential support for civil rights in the 1960s has undoubtedly affected the nation today, with African-American Barack Obama elected president twice in a row. This would have been unthinkable and impossible without the social groundwork laid 50 years ago.
The space program also flourished under Kennedy’s direction. His push and resolve to put a man on the moon was more than mere one-upmanship with the Soviets; doing so forced the United States to develop powerful computer technology that we still use today, particularly the integrated circuit that allows electronics to be miniaturized. Though they were initially large, clunky machines, calculators shrank in size for the space program (particularly the Apollo moon project).
This forced evolution of technology is still felt today. Your parent’s pocket calculators and your own smartphone would not exist without the space program, much less the satellite network that makes modern global communications possible.
It may be difficult for today’s youth to properly appreciate someone who died long before they were born, but certain individuals were indispensable to history.
The America we enjoy would not exist without John F. Kennedy, so we still need to respect and remember him.