John F. Kennedy's Presidency

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How successful was John F Kennedy's New Frontier program?

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Kennedy's "New Frontier" was less a coherent set of policies and programs than FDR's New Deal or LBJ's Great Society. As he described it in his nomination acceptance speech at the 1960 Democratic Party National Convention:

The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises—it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them.

The phrase "New Frontier" came to encompass all of the Kennedy administration's domestic initiatives as well as others with geopolitical ramifications, like the space program and the Peace Corps. Much of the New Frontier's domestic agenda was a response to the economic recession that gripped the nation when he took office in 1961. It included modest measures, like tax cuts and a higher minimum wage, but also more ambitious ones, like a federal health care plan for the elderly and a federal housing initiative.

In short, Kennedy was unsuccessful in getting his more sweeping plans passed into law, due to opposition from conservatives, including Southerners in his own party. The New Frontier also came to include civil rights legislation passed in response to events including the Freedom Rides and the marches in Birmingham. This legislation was still in Congress in November of 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas and would be passed as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Other initiatives associated with the New Frontier, like an education aid bill and the space program, also reached fruition after Kennedy's death, and the Peace Corps, established under Kennedy, would grow considerably in the coming years.

In short, Kennedy struggled to pass many of the measures associated with the New Frontier during his life. By this measure, his presidency was weak on domestic victories, generally hamstrung by the need to appeal to Southern conservatives. But the New Frontier would serve as a foundation for future reforms, particularly the Great Society, which marked both the realization and the expansion of Kennedy's vision.

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One of the greatest legacies of the New Frontier was Kennedy's pledge to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. Though Kennedy did not live to see it, Kennedy committed more resources to the space program and made the Moon landing in 1969 possible.

Another one of Kennedy's lasting legacies is the Peace Corps. Kennedy created the Peace Corps in order to allow humanitarian-minded young men and women to go to the developing world to help improve living conditions. Kennedy did this to win over the hearts and minds of people in poor countries in order to show them that the United States was the better ideological leader in the Cold War rivalry. The Peace Corps has long outlived Kennedy as one of his lasting achievements.

Kennedy raised the minimum wage and cut interest rates on federal home loans. He also lowered income taxes. These parts of his domestic policy rejuvenated the economy. Kennedy had some failures on the domestic front; he was not able to increase funding on mass transit and he was not able to create a Department of Urban Affairs in order to revitalize urban areas that were starting to decay with the creation of the interstate system. Kennedy was also unable to expand Medicare. He did not increase school funding. Kennedy's New Frontier programs would have met with more success had he lived and even gained a second term in the White House.

Though Kennedy was able to improve the economy and promote the United States as an example for science and humanitarian aid, much of his agenda was left unfinished at the time of his assassination.

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To a certain extent, stating whether or not the New Frontier was a success or not is an opinion.  The "New Frontier" refers to the economic and social programs that were initiated by President John F. Kennedy.  As with any political move/agenda, there are always going to be people who oppose it and believe it to be a bad idea.  Kennedy's New Frontier is no different.  

Kennedy first introduced the concept of the "New Frontier" in a speech of his in the year 1960.  The New Frontier concept is Kennedy’s commitment to renewal and change.  It’s his pitch to "get the country moving again" and is very reminiscent of Theodore Roosevelt's "Square Deal," Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal," Harry S. Truman's "Fair Deal." At the core of the plan was raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing equal pay for women, rebuilding the inner cities, increasing federal aid for education, initiating a Peace Corps, and developing a Medicare program to assist the elderly.

Judging the New Frontier based solely on whether or not it did what it set out to do, I would say that it was a partial success.  The minimum wage was raised by 25%.  The Peace Core was established, and from 1961 to 2015, nearly 225,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps and served in 141 countries. Unfortunately, Congress did oppose many parts of Kennedy’s plan. For example, the proposals for Medicare, a Department of Urban Affairs, and mass transit aid were all defeated by Congress.  I would say that the biggest success of the New Frontier was the tone that it set for the United States.   That tone was set by Kennedy’s magnetic appeal, and had Kennedy not been killed, the New Frontier likely would have actually accomplished a lot more of what it set out to do.

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The New Frontier was President Kennedy’s program for dealing with domestic and with foreign issues. Many things were accomplished under the New Frontier, but more might have been accomplished if he wasn’t assassinated.

In foreign policy, President Kennedy called on the American people to serve in underdeveloped countries to help the people in those countries improve their ways of living. The Peace Corps was created to help make this happen. President Kennedy also set a goal for our country to be the first country to put a man on the moon. This was accomplished in July 1969.

Domestically, Kennedy accomplished several things as part of this program. Minimum wage increased to $1.25 an hour. President Kennedy worked to help women gain more opportunities. The Equal pay Act was signed in 1963. An executive order ending gender discrimination in civil service jobs was signed. The Presidential Commission on the Status of Women was established.

Unfortunately, other issues of President Kennedy were held up in Congress at the time of his assassination. He wanted more money for schools, and he proposed a program that would provide health care for the elderly. These ideas eventually became reality when President Johnson became President.

The New Frontier had some successes. If President Kennedy wouldn’t have been assassinated, more things might have been accomplished.

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