A Look Back at Jack


As young children in the United States, we are taught early on to admire our founding fathers and most previous presidents. Even into our teenage years, we are taught in school of the many positive accomplishments made by our leaders, yet we seem to forget many of the “sins of our fathers.” 

Many young people seem to believe that President John F. Kennedy was a young, healthy, vigorous leader with good moral values, the man who brought civil rights to the table. Yet we seem to forget the Kennedy who also had the FBI follow Martin Luther King, Jr., the Kennedy who constantly embarrassed his wife Jacqueline with his constant philandering, and the Kennedy who was actually plagued with crippling health problems that he kept from the public. 

We are often taught about presidents in school, yet we always seem to stray away from going into any of the scandals and hard truths about them, with the exception of Richard Nixon. Today, we are going to break that habit.

Introduction and the illusion of youthful vigor

When people speak about JFK nowadays, they probably think of what I described earlier: a young, healthy, and handsome man who swept into the presidency full of liberal and youthful energy, determined to change the course of our nation. They may also think of JFK’s success when it came to civil rights, the space race, his wife Jacqueline Kennedy (later Onasis), and also the many conspiracy theories surrounding the president’s assassination.

But all of these things listed above are shrouded in deception, lies, and misinformation. Nowhere is this more clear than JFK’s health. With the information we have access to today, we now know that ever since boyhood, Kennedy was struggling with a fight against sickness. 

At the age of three, a young JFK came down with scarlet fever and nearly died; he later recovered, but he seemed to always be sick with something. At the age of 13, Kennedy was diagnosed with appendicitis after experiencing terrible pains and fatigue. He also suffered from measles, whooping cough, smallpox, and a plethora of other illnesses in his childhood.

According to Kennedy’s presidential library, it got to the point where his family began to make jokes about his poor health, saying, “His family used to joke about the great risk a mosquito took in biting him – with some of his blood the mosquito was almost sure to die!” 

JFK’s struggles with health became a serious issue for him when it came time to run for office. He had the looks on the surface, but behind that he was not healthy at all. In 1947, he was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, which some believe was caused by hormone therapy treatments that JFK had been receiving since childhood. Throughout the rest of his life, JFK suffered from excruciating pain caused by these many health issues. However, his political career lucked out as none of these issues scarred him physically.

Being a handsome young man helped Kennedy keep up his illusion of being a forward-thinking, healthy leader. And this helped him win the 1960 election. He debated Richard Nixon in the first televised presidential debates in US history, and those who watched it on TV tended to consider him the winner due to him looking young, healthy, and handsome as compared to Richard Nixon, who was tired from campaigning and looked as such. 

But in reality, as Kennedy lived in the White House he was frequently treated with experimental drugs and even illegal substances provided him through the famous Dr. Max Jacobson, who was called “Dr. Feelgood” for providing easy prescriptions to many Hollywood stars and politicians of the 1960s.

Kennedy’s Philandering

Health conditions aside, JFK was a well-known playboy ever since his time in the House of Representatives. It is often agreed upon by family friends that Kennedy only married the now-famous Jacqueline Kennedy as a way to increase his public image once becoming a senator.

Yet despite their marriage, it is well known that Kennedy frequently cheated on his wife. Most famously, JFK carried out an affair with Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe, who supposedly went on to have an affair with his brother Robert “Bobby” Kennedy.

In a biography by Danforth Prince and Darwin Porter, “Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: A Life Beyond Her Wildest Dreams,” there are claims that Jacqueline was preparing to divorce JFK just before he was assassinated in Dallas. Supposedly, Kennedy’s father Joe Kennedy Sr. paid Jacqueline a million dollars not to go through with it.

In Conclusion

There is a lot to be said about JFK that hasn’t even been touched upon here, but I made my point. Kennedy has a lot of terrible things in his legacy that we don’t remember him for, and maybe that’s for the best.

I don’t mean to say that JFK was undeserving of any praise; that simply wouldn’t be true. Kennedy’s creation of the Peace Corps and many welfare programs undeniably benefit millions of people still to this day, but to acknowledge that there is an entire forgotten legacy of Kennedy, that has become exactly that: forgotten.