President John F. Kennedy: Political Career and the Road to the White House

About the political career of President John F. Kennedy as he moves towards the White House.

On the Way to the White House: Kennedy never entirely gave up on his ambitions as a writer, and a successful book played a key role in his march to the Presidency. In 1954, the condition of his back had deteriorated to such and extent that he couldn't walk without crutches, so he submitted to a painful and potentially dangerous spinal fusion operation. At 1st, the surgery was unsuccessful and for several days the 37-year-old senator lay close to death, and only after a 2nd operation did Kennedy begin to recover. During the long months when he was unable to leave his bed at his father's Palm Beach home, Kennedy read extensively and began working on a book describing past U.S. senators who had bravely defied public opinion. Under the title Profiles in Courage, this book caused a mild sensation when it was published in '56-it went on to become a best seller and to win the Pulitzer Prize. Because of this book, Kennedy's name was inevitably associated with the idea of political courage-even though the bedridden senator had been conveniently absent during the stormy Senate debates on Joseph McCarthy's censure, and had even refused to declare himself on the issue. In the Democratic convention of 1956, Kennedy was widely respected as a young leader of national stature, and he made a strong bid for the vice-presidential nomination. When Adlai Stevenson told the delegates to make their own choice for the 2nd spot on the ticket, Kennedy was neck and neck with Sen. Estes Kefauver, until Kefauver finally won on the 3rd ballot. A graceful concession speech, however, meant that Jack's political prospects were brighter than ever. With their eyes on the 1960 presidential nomination, the Kennedys worked Jack's bid for reelection to the Senate in 1958; a landslide victory there could give Jack's national ambitions a powerful boost. Kennedy campaigned night and day to build up his vote, even though victory was assured from the very beginning. In November, he won with a staggering majority of 875,000-an all-time record for the State of Massachusetts.

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