New Frontier

The term New Frontier was used by John F. Kennedy in his acceptance speech in the 1960 United States presidential election to the Democratic National Convention at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the Democratic nominee. Originally just a slogan to inspire America to support him, the phrase developed into a label for his administration's domestic and foreign programs.
We stand at the edge of a New Frontier—the frontier of unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered problems of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus.

Review of Kennedy's New Frontier

The New Frontier program was intended to boost the economy, to provide international aid, provide for national defense, and to boost the space program. Kennedy made a point to control monopoly prices, and although this made him unpopular with large companies, it prevented consumers from being forced to pay more than a product was worth. He also was an advocate of civil rights, and although he was unsuccessful at passing legislation, he paved the way for the reforms that would come later. He also managed to increase the minimum wage from $1.00 to $1.25 an hour.

On the international scale he accomplished two major things. The first of these was the Peace Corps, which sent teachers to poorer nations to help increase education levels and bolster their economies. The second was the Alliance for Progress, which provided aid in health and education in Latin America. John F. Kennedy also built up the armed forces ground troops and signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union. This treaty agreed that both countries would stop all nuclear testing in the atmosphere and limit it to underground. Kennedy also strongly advocated development of the space program; after the Soviet Union launched a cosmonaut into space in 1961, Kennedy challenged the U.S. to put a man on the Moon by 1970.

Legislation and programs


The Trade Expansion Act of 1962 authorized the President to negotiate tariff reductions on a reciprocal basis of up to 50 percent with the European Common Market. It provided legislative authority for U.S. participation in multilateral trade negotiations from 1964-1967, which became known as the Kennedy Round. The authority expired June 30, 1967, predetermining the concluding date of the Kennedy Round. U.S. duties below five percent ad valorem, duties on certain agricultural commodities, and duties on tropical products exported by developing countries could be reduced to zero under the act. The 1962 legislation explicitly eliminated the "Peril Point" provision that had limited U.S. negotiating positions in earlier General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) rounds, and instead called on the Tariff Commission and other agencies of the U.S. government to provide the president and his negotiators with information regarding the probable economic effects of specific tariff concessions.


Amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1961 greatly expanded the FLSA's scope in the retail trade sector and increased the minimum wage for previously covered workers to $1.15 an hour effective September 1961 and to $1.25 an hour in September 1963. The minimum for workers newly subject to the Act was set at $1.00 an hour effective September 1961, $1.15 an hour in September 1964, and $1.25 an hour in September 1965. Retail and service establishments were allowed to employ full-time students at wages of no more than 15 percent below the minimum with proper certification from the Department of Labor. The amendments extended coverage to employees of retail trade enterprises with sales exceeding $1 million annually, although individual establishments within those covered enterprises were exempt if their annual sales fell below $250,000. The concept of enterprise coverage was introduced by the 1961 amendments. Those amendments extended coverage in the retail trade industry from an established 250,000 workers to 2.2 million.


Omnibus Housing Bill 1961. In March 1961 Kennedy sent Congress a special message, proposing an ambitious and complex housing program to spur the economy, revitalize cities, and provide affordable housing for middle- and low-income families. The bill proposed spending $3.19 billion and placed major emphasis on improving the existing housing supply, instead of on new housing starts, and creating a cabinet-level Department of Housing and Urban Affairs to oversee the programs. The bill also promised to make the Federal Housing Administration a full partner in urban renewal program by authorizing mortgage amounts to finance rehabilitation of homes and urban renewal Committee on housing combined programs for housing, mass transportation, and open space land bills into a single bill. Increased urban renewal grants from $2 to $4 million, additional 100,000 units of public housing. Provided opportunities for coordinated planning of community development: technical assistance to state and local governments. Refocus from wrecker ball approach to small rehabilitation projects to preserve existing ‘urban texture’.


The Manpower Development and Training Act of 1962 authorized a three-year program aimed at retraining workers displaced by new technology. The bill did not exclude employed workers from benefiting and it authorized a training allowance for unemployed participants. Even though 200,000 people were recruited, there was minimal impact, comparatively. The Area Redevelopment Act, a $394 million spending package passed in 1961, followed a strategy of investing in the private sector to stimulate new job creation. It specifically targeted businesses in urban and rural depressed areas and authorized $4.5 million annually over four years for vocational training programs. The 1963 amendments to the National Defense Education Act included $731 million in appropriations to states and localities maintaining vocational training programs.


In 1963 Kennedy, who had a mentally ill sister named Rosemary, submitted the nation's first Presidential special message to Congress on mental health issues. Congress quickly passed the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act (P.L. 88-164), beginning a new era in Federal support for mental health services. The National Institute of Mental Health assumed responsibility for monitoring community mental health centers programs. Great success as there was a sixfold increase in people using Mental Health facilities. Medical Health Bill for the Aged (later known as Medicare) was proposed, however Congress failed to enact it.

Equal rights

The President’s Commission on the Status of Women was an advisory commission established on December 14, 1961, by Kennedy to investigate questions regarding women's equality in education, in the workplace, and under the law. The commission, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt until her death in 1962, was composed of 26 members including legislators and philanthropists who were active in women's rights issues. The main purpose of the committee was to document and examine employment policies in place for women. The commission's final report, American Woman (also known as the Peterson Report after the Commission's second chair, Esther Peterson), was issued in October 1963 and documented widespread discrimination against women in the workplace. Among the practices addressed by the group were labor laws pertaining to hours and wages, the quality of legal representation for women, the lack of education and counseling for working women, and federal insurance and tax laws that affected women's incomes. Recommendations included affordable child care for all income levels, hiring practices that promoted equal opportunity for women, and paid maternity leave.

In early 1960s, full-time working women were paid on average 59 percent of the earnings of their male counterparts. In order to eliminate some forms of sex-based pay discrimination, Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law on June 10, 1963. During the law's first ten years, 171,000 employees received back pay worth $84 million dollars.


The Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Offenses Control Act was signed into law September 22, 1961. The program aimed to prevent youth from committing delinquent acts. In 1963, 288 mobsters were brought to trial by a team that was headed by Kennedy's brother, Robert. However in the process he made some powerful enemies in the Mafia.


The Kennedy administration with its new Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara gave a strong priority to countering communist political subversion and guerrilla tactics in the so-called "wars of national liberation," in the rapidly decolonising Third World. As well as fighting and winning a nuclear war, the American military was also trained and equipped for counterinsurgency operations. Though the U.S. Army Special Forces had been created in 1952, Kennedy visited the Fort Bragg U.S. Army Special Warfare Center in a blaze of publicity and gave his permission for the Special Forces to adopt the green beret. The other services launched their own counterinsurgency forces in 1961; the U.S. Air Force created the 1st Air Commando Group and the U.S. Navy created the Navy SEALs.

The U.S. Military increased in size and faced possible confrontation with the Soviets in Berlin Wall escalation of tensions in 1961 and with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. American troops were sent to Laos and South Vietnam in increasing numbers. The United States provided a clandestine operation to supply military aid and support to Cuban exiles in the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion.

Notes - Full text of the New Frontier speech

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