The 1960's are often described as a turbulent decade. The years of President Kennedy's Administration coincided with some of the most dramatic and politically complex events of recent memory.
The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was at its high point. After years of building up weapons arsenals and with the still-fresh memory of the Atomic Bomb dropped on Japan, Americans lived in daily fear of a nuclear World War III.
That war was narrowly averted during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when the US discovered Soviet nuclear missiles on the nearby island of Cuba. President Kennedy's decision to block weapons supply ships from reaching Cuba and demand removal of the missiles was ultimately successful in ending the crisis and averting war. But only after the world waited through a very tense 13 days.
It was also during the Kennedy Administration that the Soviets erected the Berlin Wall, separating East and West Berlin. An international symbol of the struggle between democracy and communism. One of the President Kennedy's most famous speeches took place near the wall where he promised to support democracy for all of Berlin.
The rivalry between the Soviet Union and US was also evident in competing Space Programs. It was President Kennedy who set the national goal of landing a man on the moon by 1970, a goal ultimately achieved in 1969.
The early 1960's marked the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement when African-Americans actively demonstrated for an end to the segregation still common on buses, in restaurants and movie theaters, and in schools. It was President Kennedy who proposed the sweeping Civil Rights Bill that was passed after his death.