John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29th, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts, the second son of nine children of the wealthy Roman Catholic Kennedy family. Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Kennedy's father, was a self-improving multi-millionaire who had built a financial empire through projects in banking, the stock market, ship building and the film industry and liquor distribution. Kennedy's mother, Rose Fitzgerald was of Irish ancestry like her husband, and daughter of former Boston mayor John F. Fitzgerald. As family patriarch, Joseph Kennedy pushed his children to achieve and often encouraged them to compete with one another. John Kennedy's childhood was one spent at exclusive private schools, including Canterbury School of New Milford, Connecticut and preparatory school at Choate Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut.
While Joseph Kennedy served as the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, John Kennedy, then eighteen years of age, spent a year at the London School of Economics. John returned to America to attend Princeton University, but left during his freshman term due to a case of severe jaundice. His illness is believed to have been caused by a condition the Kennedy family kept secret throughout his life. John Kennedy was of the 1 in 100,000 people afflicted with Addison's disease, a rare but serious disorder which affects the endocrine system.
Kennedy entered Harvard in 1936, where he was a cum laude graduate of the class in 1940. His senior thesis, on England's military lack of preparation had been based on his experiences in London and a 6-month service as his father's (while he was the ambassador)