This is Rich Kleinfeldt.
And this is Stan Busby with The Making of A Nation, a VOA Special English program about
the history of the United States.
Today, we continue the story of President John Kennedy.
John Kennedy began his administration in nineteen-sixty-one with great energy to do
good things. After just three months in office, however, he had to take responsibility
for a big failure.
On April seventeenth, Cuban exiles, trained by America's Central Intelligence Agency
invaded Cuba. Their goal was to overthrow Cuba's communist leader, Fidel Castro.
Most of the exiles were killed or captured.
The last administration had planned the invasion. But Kennedy had approved it. After
the incident, some Americans wondered if he had enough experience to lead the nation.
Some asked themselves if the forty-three-year-old Kennedy was too young to be
president, after all.
Kennedy soon regained some public approval when he visited French leader general
Charles de Gaulle. The French were very interested in the new American president. They
were even more interested in his beautiful wife. The president said with a laugh that
he was the man who had come to Paris with Jacqueline Kennedy.
In Vienna, Kennedy met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Their relations would
always be difficult.
Khrushchev did not want to compromise on any issue. He threatened to have the East
Germans block all movement into and out of the western part of the city of Berlin.
Not long after, the East Germans, with Soviet support, built a wall to separate the
eastern and western parts of the city. President Kennedy quickly announced a large
increase in the number of American military forces in Germany. He said the United States
would not permit freedom to end in Berlin.
About a year later, in October, nineteen-sixty-two, President Kennedy said the United
States had discovered that the Soviets were putting nuclear missiles in Cuba.
He took several actions to protest the deployment.
One was to send American ships to the area. They were to prevent Soviet ships from
taking missile parts and related supplies to the Cuban government. In a speech broadcast
on television, Kennedy spoke about the seriousness of the situation.
"It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched
from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union
on the United States."
No fighting broke out between the United States and the Soviet Union because of the
Cuban missile crisis. The Soviet ships carrying missile parts to Cuba turned back. And
President Kennedy promised that the United States would not invade Cuba if the Soviet
Union removed its missiles and stopped building new ones there.
The two sides did, however, continue their cold war of words and influence.
In Asia, the Soviet Union continued to provide military, economic, and technical aid to
communist governments. The Kennedy administration fought communism in Vietnam by
increasing the number of American military advisers there.
The United States and the Soviet Union did make some progress on arms control, however.
In nineteen-sixty-three, the two countries reached a major agreement to ban tests of
nuclear weapons above ground, under water, and in space. The treaty did not ban nuclear
tests under the ground.
On national issues, President Kennedy supported efforts to guarantee a better life for
African Americans. One man who pushed for changes was his younger brother, Robert.
Robert Kennedy was attorney general and head of the Justice Department at that time.
The Justice Department took legal action against Southern states that violated the
voting rights acts of nineteen-fifty-seven and nineteen-sixty. The administration also
supported a voter registration campaign among African Americans. The campaign helped
them to record their names with election officials so they could vote.
As attorney general, Robert Kennedy repeatedly called on National Guard troops to
protect black citizens from crowds of angry white citizens. Incidents took place when
blacks tried to register to vote and when they tried to attend white schools.
President Kennedy said the situation was causing a moral crisis in America. He decided
it was time to propose a new civil rights law. The measure would guarantee equal
treatment for blacks in public places and in jobs. It would speed the work of ending
racial separation in schools.
Kennedy wanted the new legislation badly. But Congress delayed action. It did not pass a
broad civil rights bill until nineteen-sixty-four. After his presidency.
In November, nineteen-sixty-three, Kennedy left Washington for the state of Texas. He
hoped to help settle a local dispute in his Democratic Party. The dispute might have
affected chances for his re-election in nineteen-sixty-four.
He arrived in the city of Dallas in the late morning of November twenty-second. Dallas
was known to be a center of opposition to Kennedy. Yet many people waited to see him.
A parade of cars travelled through the streets of Dallas. Kennedy and his wife were in
the back seat of one. Their car had no top, so everyone could see them easily. Another
car filled with Secret Service security agents was next to the president's.
Suddenly, there were gunshots. Then, many Americans heard this emergency report from
television newsman Walter
"Here is a bulletin from C-B-S news. In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired
at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that
President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting."
The cars raced to Parkland Memorial Hospital. But doctors there could do little. Thirty
minutes later reporters, including Walter Cronkite, broadcast this announcement:
"From Dallas, Texas -- the flash apparently official -- President Kennedy died
at one p-m, Central Standard Time. "
As the nation mourned, police searched for the person who had killed John Kennedy. They
arrested a man named Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald worked in a building near the place where
Kennedy had been shot. People had seen him leave the building after the shooting. He had
Lee Harvey Oswald was a man with a strange past. He was a former United States Marine.
He was also a communist. He had lived for a while in the Soviet Union and had tried to
become a Soviet citizen. He worked for a committee that supported the communist
government in Cuba.
Police questioned Oswald about the death of president Kennedy. He said he did not do it.
After two days, officials decided to move him to a different jail.
As they did, television cameras recorded the death of Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was
being led by two police officials. Suddenly, a man stepped in front of them. There was a
shot, and Oswald fell to the floor.
The gunman was Jack Ruby. He owned an eating and drinking place in Dallas. He said he
killed Oswald to prevent the Kennedy family from having to live through a trial.
President Kennedy's body had been returned to Washington. After a state funeral, he was
buried in Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River. A gas flame burns at
his burial place, day and night.
An official committee was formed to investigate his death. It was headed by the chief
justice of the United States, earl Warren, and was known as the Warren commission. In
its report, the Warren commission said that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. It said there
was no plot to kill the president.
Many Americans did not accept the report. They believed there was a plot. Some blamed
Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Some blamed extremists in America's Central Intelligence
Agency. Others blamed organized crime.
The truth of what happened to John Kennedy may be what was stated in the Warren
Commission report: that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Or, perhaps, the complete truth
may never be known.
This program of The Making of A Nation was written by Jeri Watson and produced by Paul
Thompson. This is Rich Kleinfeldt.
And this Stan Busby. Join us again next week for another VOA Special English program
about the history of the United States.