JFK: Father

JFK: Father

john f kennedy May 7, 2024

During his short life, President John F. Kennedy was father to two children, Caroline and John Jr., however, his legacy was also carried on by generations of Americans who believed in his goals.

President John F. Kennedy was one of the first American Presidents to live in the modern, digital age of colored photography and televised addresses. That he was a good-looking dude with a beautiful trend-setting wife and adorable kids only heightened the publicity surrounding the Kennedy tenure. As one of the nation’s first presidents who was a dad rather than a grandpa, John ‘Jack’ Kennedy stood out as a man whom young people could connect to and parents felt seen by as they toiled with dirty diapers and screaming toddlers alongside their president and his wife. 

john f kennedy as a father

It wasn’t an easy journey for John and Jackie to start their family. While she gave birth four times, two of their kids didn’t survive infancy. Only Caroline and John Jr. grew to adulthood and both were very young when they lost their father. But in the few years he was afforded with them, John doted on his kids the same as any good dad.

Being President of the United States is a big job, so even though Jack wasn’t always around, Jackie picked up the slack like a champ. A former excellent and avid student herself, the First Lady was heavily involved in the education of her kids in every subject from mathematics to history and every lesson from etiquette to horseback riding. White House nannies and Secret Service agents quickly learned not to coddle Caroline and John Jr. Fame and fortune may have been their birthright, but Jackie prioritized the importance of teaching them virtues like gratitude and responsibility. She did her best to keep her kids happy, healthy, and well-socialized while directing the public eye toward John rather than herself and the kids.

Meanwhile, John took the quintessential dad approach to parenthood. When he wasn't at work, he was playing with the kids. Photos of their precious moments together are more plentiful than they might have been otherwise, given their short time together and Jackie’s dislike of public attention on the little ones, because of a habit of Jack’s. He’d wait til the First Lady was out, and then invite photographers to sit in while he and the kids played. Once documented, photos often made their way into magazines and newspapers, where many would see and gush over President Kennedy, father. Jackie hated it.

“If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much.” – Jackie Kennedy.

president kennedy as a father

You have to wonder, though, if the First Lady came to appreciate John’s habit after his devastating death. Caroline was only five and John Jr. was just two and a half when they lost their father. As one of the nation’s most beloved figures of the time, the public’s expectation to carry on John’s legacy fell to his children when they were far too young.

john f kennedy jr saluting at his fathers funeral
john f kennedy jr saluting at his fathers funeral

On the 100th anniversary of John’s birth in 2017, Caroline Kennedy spoke of her father in a video released by the JFK Library. She said:

“I’ve thought about him and missed him every day of my life, but growing up without him was made easier thanks to all the people who kept him in their hearts; who told me that he inspired them to work and fight and believe in a better world; to give something back to this country that has given so much to so many…President Kennedy inspired a generation that transformed America: They marched for justice, they served in the Peace Corps, in the inner cities and outer space…As my father said in his inaugural address, this work will not be finished in our lifetime. It’s up to us to continue to pass these values on to our children and grandchildren.”


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