John F. Kennedy’s Foreign Policy


US History (11th) Early Cold War Through Vietnam John F. Kennedy’s Foreign Policy
Students analyze a political cartoon from 1962 illustrating the urgency to calm Cold War nuclear tensions. Then, they make a timeline of major international crises of the Kennedy administration, including the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Berlin Crisis of 1961, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Next, they examine the causes and effects of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Finally, students turn to the ongoing questions related to the Kennedy assassination, using it to evaluate the validity of sources and how historians understand the past.

This learning experience is designed for device-enabled classrooms. The teacher guides the lesson, and students use embedded resources, social media skills, and critical thinking skills to actively participate. To get access to a free version of the complete lesson, sign up for an exploros account.

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Teacher Pack

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Here are the teacher pack items for John F. Kennedy’s Foreign Policy:

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Overview

In this experience, students analyze a political cartoon from 1962 illustrating the urgency to calm Cold War nuclear tensions. Then, they make a timeline of major international crises of the Kennedy administration, including the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Berlin Crisis of 1961, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Next, they examine the causes and effects of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Finally, students turn to the ongoing questions related to the Kennedy assassination, using it to evaluate the validity of sources and how historians understand the past.

The Student Pack includes a background article providing an overview of the Kennedy Administration’s successes and failures, both internationally and domestically: John F. Kennedy as President. In addition, it contains the article The Election of 1960, for background on the Kennedy–Nixon presidential election. This election is widely viewed as the first modern presidential campaign—the first one in which the strategic use of television, especially televised live debates, played a major role in deciding the outcome.

Objectives

  • Analyze the sequence of foreign policy issues in the Kennedy administration, including the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • Describe the ongoing questions surrounding John F. Kennedy’s assassination.


The Cold War tension between the Soviet Union and the United States peaked during the presidential administration of John F. Kennedy (1961–1963). In this experience, you will learn about major international crises of those years.

Objectives

  • Analyze the sequence of foreign policy issues in the Kennedy administration, including the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • Describe the ongoing questions surrounding John F. Kennedy’s assassination.




President John F. Kennedy (right) meeting Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, 1961


Above, you see the two most powerful leaders of the peak years of the Cold War: Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Below, you see a political cartoon of the two men, which appeared less than a month after the most dangerous crisis of the era, the Cuban Missile Crisis.




Political cartoon, Washington Post, November, 1962


Study the cartoon and think about its overall message, the meaning of the visual symbols (the trunk with the clawed hand emerging; the billows of smoke), and the meaning of the caption. 


Write your interpretation of the cartoon on the wall. Write two or more complete sentences.

Post your answer

Invite students to discuss what they can learn about the Cold War era from the cartoon.

Sample response: The cartoon expresses fear of the threat of nuclear war arising through conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. In the aftermath of crisis, the cartoonist is expressing his urgent desire for the two nations to back off from the brink and find a cooperative solution for peaceful coexistence. The trunk represents the potential for nuclear war. The clawed hand represents the danger as an immediate, monstrous one that could easily break out at any moment unless the superpowers made superhuman efforts to stop it. The clouds allude to the mushroom clouds left by nuclear weapon explosions.


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