John F. Kennedy Quotes
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May these John F. Kennedy quotes inspire you to never give up and keep working towards your goals. Who knows—success could be just around the corner.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (29 May 1917 – 22 November 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK and Jack, was the 35th President of the United States (1961–1963) and a United States Senator from Massachusetts (1953–1960). He is the older brother of Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy and the first husband of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
See also: John Fitzgerald Kennedy Quotes and John F. Kennedy’s Prayers
From John F. Kennedy library
Below is a selected list of quotations by John F. Kennedy, arranged alphabetically by topic. (Note: Parenthetical numbers in the titles of presidential speeches and news conferences refer to item numbers in the Public Papers of the Presidents.) For more information please contact Kennedy.Library@nara.gov. Have a research question? Ask an Archivist.
“The leadership of the American Legion has not had a constructive thought for the benefit of this country since 1918.” (Spring, 1949, during House debate on housing bill to provide federal funds for slum clearance and low income public housing. –James MacGregor Burns, John F. Kennedy: A Political Profile (Harcourt, Brace: New York, 1960), p. 75.
Arms Control and Disarmament
“With all of the history of war, and the human race’s history unfortunately has been a good deal more war than peace, with nuclear weapons distributed all through the world, and available, and the strong reluctance of any people to accept defeat, I see the possibility in the 1970’s of the President of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have these weapons.” –“The President’s News Conference of March 21, 1963 (107),” Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“My fellow Americans, let us take that first step. Let us…step back from the shadow of war and seek out the way of peace. And if that journey is a thousand miles, or even more, let history record that we, in this land, at this time, took the first step.” –“Radio and Television Address to the American People on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (316),” July 26, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“I have said that control of arms is a mission that we undertake particularly for our children and our grandchildren and that they have no lobby in Washington.” –“Statement by the President to American Women Concerning their Role in Securing World Peace (449),” November 1, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live.” — Speech at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., 14 June 1956. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Series 12.1. Speech Files, 1953-1960, Box 895, Folder: “Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 14 June 1956,” John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
“There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo da Vinci. The age Elizabeth also the age of Shakespeare. And the New Frontier for which I campaign in public life, can also be a New Frontier for American art.” –Response to letter sent by Miss Theodate Johnson, Publisher of Musical America to the two presidential candidates requesting their views on music in relation to the Federal Government and domestic world affairs. Then-Senator John Kennedy’s answer was dated September 13, 1960 and published in the October issue of the magazine.
“…I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” –“Remarks at a Closed-circuit Television Broadcast on Behalf of the National Cultural Center (527),” November 29, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“To further the appreciation of culture among all the people, to increase respect for the creative individual, to widen participation by all the processes and fulfillments of art – this is one of the fascinating challenges of these days.” –“LOOK magazine, ‘The Arts in America’ (552),” December 18, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“Too often in the past, we have thought of the artist as an idler and dilettante and of the lover of arts as somehow sissy and effete. We have done both an injustice. The life of the artist is, in relation to his work, stern and lonely. He has labored hard, often amid deprivation, to perfect his skill. He has turned aside from quick success in order to strip his vision of everything secondary or cheapening. His working life is marked by intense application and intense discipline.” –“LOOK magazine, ‘The Arts in America’ (552),” December 18, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” –“Remarks at Amherst College upon receiving an Honorary Degree (439),” October 26, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty…an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft.” –“Remarks at Amherst College upon receiving an Honorary Degree (439),” October 26, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.” –“Remarks at Amherst College upon receiving an Honorary Degree (439),” October 26, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society – in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may.” –“Remarks at Amherst College upon receiving an Honorary Degree (439),” October 26, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft.” –“Remarks at Amherst College upon receiving an Honorary Degree (439),” October 26, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose…and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.” –“LOOK magazine, ‘The Arts in America’ (552),” December 18, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962. (Inscribed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.)
“Prince Bismarck was even more specific. One third, he said, of the students of German universities broke down from overwork, another third broke down from dissipation, and the other third ruled Germany.” –“Address in Berkeley at the University of California (109),” March 23, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
Bullfight critics ranked in rows
Crowd the enormous Plaza full
But only one is there who knows
And he’s the man who fights the bull.
President Kennedy (mis)quoted this bit of doggerel by the torero Domingo Ortega (as translated by the English poet Robert Graves) in remarks during a 16 October 1962 Presidential Backgrounder before the National Foreign Policy Conference for Editors and Radio-TV Public Affairs Broadcasters (Papers of John F. Kennedy. Presidential Papers. White House Staff Files of Pierre Salinger. Series 16. Classified Background Briefing Material, Box 165, Folder: “Presidential Backgrounder 10/16/62,” JFKL). The rhyme as President Kennedy gave it was:
Bullfight critics row on row
Fill the enormous Plaza de toros
But only one is there who knows
And he is the one who fights the bull.
“But Goethe tells us in his greatest poem that Faust lost the liberty of his soul when he said to the passing moment: “Stay, thou art so fair.” And our liberty, too, is endangered if we pause for the passing moment, if we rest on our achievements, if we resist the pace of progress. For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.” –“Address in the Assembly Hall at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt (266),” June 25, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” –“Re: United States Committee for UNICEF July 25, 1963.” Papers of John F. Kennedy. Presidential Papers. White House Central Files. Chronological File. Series 1. President’s Outgoing Executive Correspondence, Box 11, Folder: “July 1963: 16-31,” JFKL.
“We can say with some assurance that, although children may be the victims of fate, they will not be the victims of our neglect.” –“Remarks upon signing the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Bill (434),” October 24, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“I have pledged myself and my colleagues in the cabinet to a continuous encouragement of initiative, responsibility and energy in serving the public interest. Let every public servant know, whether his post is high or low, that a man’s rank and reputation in this Administration will be determined by the size of the job he does, and not by the size of his staff, his office or his budget. Let it be clear that this Administration recognizes the value of dissent and daring — that we greet healthy controversy as the hallmark of healthy change. Let the public service be a proud and lively career. And let every man and woman who works in any area of our national government, in any branch, at any level, be able to say with pride and with honor in future years: ‘I served the United States Government in that hour of our nation’s need.'” –“Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union (11),” January 30, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
“The success of this Government, and thus the success of our Nation, depends in the last analysis upon the quality.of our career services. The legislation enacted by the Congress, as well as the decisions made by me and by the department and agency heads, must all be implemented by the career men and women in the Federal service. In foreign affairs, national defense, science and technology, and a host of other fields, they face problems of unprecedented importance and perplexity. We are all dependent on their sense of loyalty and responsibility as well as their competence and energy.” –“Special Message to the Congress on Federal Pay Reform (55),” February 20, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.” –Letter to a Navy friend, quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965), p. 88.
Crisis, Meaning of
“In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity.” — Speech at United Negro College Fund fundraiser, Indianapolis Indiana, 12 April 1959. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Series 12.1. Speech Files, 1953-1960, Box 902, Folder: “United Negro College Fund, Indianapolis, Indiana, 12 April 1959,” JFKL; Speech at the Valley Forge Country Club, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 29 October 1960. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Series 12.1. Speech Files, 1953-1960, Box 914, Folder: “Valley Forge Country Club, Pennsylvania, 29 October 1960,” JFKL.
“Rising tide lifts all boats”. –“Remarks in Pueblo, Colorado following Approval of the Frying Pan-Arkansas Project (336),” August 17, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“The Federal Budget can and should be made an instrument of prosperity and stability, not a deterrent to recovery.” –“Special message to Congress: Program for Economic Recovery and Growth (17),” February 2, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining – by filling three basic gaps in our anti-recession protection.” –“Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union (7),” January 11, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“It is increasingly clear that no matter what party is in power, so long as our national security needs keep rising, an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough jobs or enough profits.” –“Address and Question and Answer Period at the Economic Club of New York (549),” December 14, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“If the economy of today were operating close to capacity levels with little unemployment, or if a sudden change in our military requirements should cause a scramble for men and resources, then I would oppose tax reductions as irresponsible and inflationary; and I would not hesitate to recommend a tax increase if that were necessary.” –“Address and Question and Answer Period at the Economic Club of New York (549),” December 14, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
First, Importance of Being
“Now let me make it clear that I believe there can only be one defense policy for the United States and that is summed up in the word ‘first.’ I do not mean first, but. I do not mean first, when. I do not mean first, if. I mean first –period.” — Speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, Detroit, Michigan, 26 August 1960. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Series 12.1. Speech Files, 1953-1960, Box 910, Folder: “National VFW Convention, Detroit, Michigan, 26 August 1960,” JFKL.
“Five score years ago the ground on which we here stand shuddered under the clash of arms and was consecrated for all time by the blood of American manhood. Abraham Lincoln, in dedicating this great battlefield, has expressed, in words too eloquent for paraphrase or summary, why this sacrifice was necessary. Today, we meet not to add to his words nor to amend his sentiment but to recapture the feeling of awe that comes when contemplating a memorial to so many who placed their lives at hazard for right, as God gave them to see right. Among those who fought here were young men who but a short time before were pursuing truth in the peaceful halls of the then new University of Notre Dame. Since that time men of Notre Dame have proven, on a hundred battlefields, that the words, “For God, For Country, and For Notre Dame,” are full of meaning. Let us pray that God may grant us the wisdom to find and to follow a path that will enable the men of Notre Dame and all of our young men to seek truth in the halls of study rather than on the field of battle.” –“Message from the President on the Occasion of Field Mass at Gettysburg, June 29, 1963, delivered by John S. Gleason, Jr.” Papers of John F. Kennedy. Presidential Papers. White House Central Files. Chronological File. Series 1. President’s Outgoing Executive Correspondence, Box 10, Folder: “June 1963: 1-15,” JFKL.
“For one true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members. Let this be the measure of our nation.” –“Special message to the Congress on National Health Needs (65),” February 27, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“Our deep spiritual confidence that this nation will survive the perils of today – which may well be with us for decades to come – compels us to invest in our nation’s future, to consider and meet our obligations to our children and the numberless generations that will follow.” –“Special message to the Congress on Conservation (69),” March 1, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“I have seen in many places housing which has been developed under government influences, but I have never seen any projects in which governments have played their part which have fountains and statues and grass and trees, which are as important to the concept of the home as the roof itself.” –“Remarks at the Unidad Independencia Housing Project, City of Mexico (269),” June 30, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“It’s only when they join together in a forward movement that this country moves ahead…” –“Remarks at Los Banos, CA at the Groundbreaking Ceremonies for the San Luis Dam (337),” August 18, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“Our goal is not the victory of might but the vindication of right…not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.” –“Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Soviet Arms Build-up in Cuba (485),” October 22, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.” –“Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union (12),” January 14, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” –“Commencement Address at American University in Washington, D.C. (232),” June 10, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“‘The green beret’ is again becoming a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom. I know the United States Army will live up to its reputation for imagination, resourcefulness, and spirit as we meet this challenge.” –Letter to the United States Army, April 11, 1962. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Presidential Papers. White House Central Files. Chronological File. Series 1. President’s Outgoing Executive Correspondence, Box 5, Folder: “April 1962: 3-15,” JFKL.
“We celebrate the past to awaken the future”. — Speech at the 25th Anniverary of the Signing of the Social Security Act, Hyde Park, New York, 14 August 1960. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Series 12.1. Speech Files, 1953-1960, Box 910, Folder: “25th Anniversary of the Signing of the Social Security Act, Hyde Park, New York, 14 August 1960,” JFKL.
“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers. (439)” –“Remarks at Amherst College upon receiving an Honorary Degree (439),” October 26, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“…that we shall be as a city upon a hill – the eyes of all people are upon us.” (Winthrop) — Speech before the Massachusetts State Legislature, Boston, Massachusetts, 9 January 1961. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Presidential Papers. President’s Office Files. Series 3. Speech Files, Box 34, Folder: “Address to Massachusetts State Legislature 9 January 1961,” JFKL.
“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on”. –“Remarks Recorded for the Opening of a USIA Transmitter at Greenville, North Carolina (55),” February 8, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents, John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“This state, this city, this campus, have stood long for both human rights and human enlightenment, and let that forever be true.” –“Remarks in Nashville at the 90th Convocation of Vanderbilt University (192),” May 18, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents, John F. Kennedy, 1963.
Inaugural Address (full speech)
“Ask not what your country can do for you…ask what you can do for your country.”
“All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, not in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”
“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
“Inaugural Address (1),” January 20, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” –“Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere (161),” April 29, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“There are three things which are real; God, Human Folly and Laughter. The first two are beyond our comprehension so we must do what we can with the third.” –from Tales of the Ramayana, as told by Aubrey Menen (New York: Scribner’s, 1954), p. 276.
“Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.” –“Message to Those Participating in Roosevelt Day Commemoration, 29 January 1961.” Papers of John F. Kennedy. Presidential Papers. White House Central Subject Files. Series 14. Federal Government – Organizations (FG), Box 111, Folder: “FG2/Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Executive & General),” JFKL.
“I think we’re going to have to do better. Mr. Nixon talks about our being the strongest country in the world. I think we are today, but we were far stronger relative to the Communists 5 years ago. And what is of great concern is that the balance of power is in danger of moving with them. They made a breakthrough in missiles and by 1961, ‘2, and ‘3, they will be outnumbering us in missiles.” –Transcript of fourth debate, ABC studios, New York, New York, 21 October 1960. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Presidential Campaign Files, 1960. Series 15.06. Speeches and the Press: Press Secretary’s Subject File, 1960, Box 1052, Folder: “Television debates: ABC transcript: Fourth debate,” JFKL.
Native Americans (American Indians)
“For a subject worked and reworked so often in novels, motion pictures, and television, American Indians remain probably the least understood and most misunderstood Americans of us all.” –Alvin M. Josephy, ed., The American Heritage Book of Indians, 3rd ed. (New York: American Heritage Publishing Company, 1961), p. 7.
“I can imagine a no more rewarding career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worth while, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.'” –“Remarks at the U.S. Naval Academy (321),” August 1, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents, John F. Kennedy, 1963.
First mentioned on July 15, 1960 when accepting nomination for the U.S. presidency.
“…what really counts is not the immediate act of courage or of valor, but those who bear the struggle day in and day out – not the sunshine patriots but those who are willing to stand for a long period of time.” –“Remarks at the White House to Members of the American Legion (70),” March 1, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena – whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions – and spends himself in a worthy cause – who at best if he wins knows the thrills of high achievement – and if he fails at least fails while daring greatly – so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.'” –“Remarks at National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Banquet (496),” December 5, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961. (References Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, “Citizenship in a Republic” given at The Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910.)
“We have become more and more not a nation of athletes but a nation of spectators.” –“Remarks at National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Banquet (496),” December 5, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
“Just as I went into politics because Joe died, if anything happened to me tomorrow, my brother Bobby would run for my seat in the Senate. And if Bobby died, Teddy would take over for him.” — Quoted in Joe McCarthy, The Remarkable Kennedys (New York: Dial Press, 1960), p. 114.
“Whether I serve one or two terms in the Presidency, I will find myself at the end of that period at what might be called the awkward age–too old to begin a new career and too young to write my memoirs.” –Quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965), p. 1017. According to a footnote in Schlesinger’s manuscript (1st draft, p. 1378), this was stated on February 13, 1961.
“I have a nice home, the office is close by, and the pay is good.” –Quoted in Kenneth O’Donnell, Dave Powers, and Joseph McCarthy, Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1970), p. 262.
“If all of you had voted the other way – there’s about 5,500 of you here tonight – I would not be the President of the United States.” –“Address in Chicago at a dinner of the Democratic Party of Cook County (155),” April 28, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
“When I ran for Presidency of the United States, I knew that this country faced serious challenges, but I could not realize – nor could any man realize who does not bear the burdens of this office – how heavy and constant would be those burdens” –“Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Berlin Crisis (302),” July 25, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
“Harry Truman once said, ‘There are 14 or 15 million Americans who have the resources to have representatives in Washington to protect their interests, and that the interests of the great mass of the other people – the 150 or 160 million – is the responsibility of the president of the United States, and I propose to fulfill it.'” –“Address in Atlantic City at the Convention of the United Auto Workers (174),” May 8, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962. (This passage was featured in the Charles Guggenheim documentary that was shown to visitors in the original exhibit of the John F. Kennedy Museum.)
Profiles in Courage Quotations
“We have all seen these circus elephants complete with tusks, ivory in their head and thick skins, who move around the circus ring and grab the tail of the elephant ahead of them.” –Speech at the Cow Palace, San Francisco, California, 2 November 1960. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Series 12.1. Speech Files, 1953-1960, Box 914, Folder: “Cow Palace, San Francisco, California, 2 November 1960,” JFKL.
“Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past – let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” –Speech at Loyola College Alumni Banquet, Baltimore, Maryland, 18 February, 1958. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Series 12.1. Speech Files, 1953-1960, Box 899, Folder: “Loyola College annual alumni banquet, Baltimore, Maryland, 18 February 1958,” JFKL.
“But I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack. The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent, and the stakes too high to permit the customary passions of political debate. We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future.” –Speech accepting the Democratic nomination, Los Angeles, California, 15 July 1960. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Series 12.1. Speech Files, 1953-1960, Box 910, Folder: “Acceptance Speech of Senator Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, 15 July 1960,” JFKL. (References the Chinese proverb, “it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”)
“And we must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient – that we are only six percent of the world’s population – that we cannot impose our will upon the other ninety-four percent of mankind – that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity – and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.” –“Address in Seattle at the University of Washington’s 100th Anniversary Program (473),” November 16, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
“For I can assure you that we love our country, not for what it was, though it has always been great — not for what it is, though of this we are deeply proud — but for what it someday can, and, through the efforts of us all, someday will be.” –“Address at a Luncheon Meeting of the National Industrial Conference Board (33),” February 13, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
“But however close we sometimes seem to that dark and final abyss, let no man of peace and freedom despair. For he does not stand alone.” –“Address to the U.N. General Assembly (387),” September 25, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
“Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world – or make it the last.” –“Address before the 18th General Assembly of the United Nations (366),” September 20, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“In seeking the help of the Congress and our countrymen, I pledged no easy answers. I pledged, and asked, only toil and dedication. These the Congress and the people have given in good measure.” –“Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union,” January 14, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“When at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us…our success or failure…will be measured by the answers to four questions: First, were we truly men of courage…? Secondly, were we truly men of judgment…? Third, were we truly men of integrity…? Finally, were we truly men of dedication…?” –Speech before the Massachusetts State Legislature, Boston, Massachusetts, 9 January 1961. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Presidential Papers. President’s Office Files. Series 3. Speech Files, Box 34, Folder: “Address to Massachusetts State Legislature, 9 January 1961,” JFKL.
“…victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan…” –“President’s News Conference of April 21, 1961 (139),” Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
“We must use time as a tool, not as a couch” –“Address in New York City to the National Association of Manufacturers (496),” December 5, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
“…we must think and act not only for the moment but for our time. I am reminded of the story of the great French Marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. The Marshal replied, ‘In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon.'” –“Address in Berkeley at the University of California, (109),” March 23, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“Of those to whom much is given, much is required”. –“Remarks in Nashville at the 90th Anniversary Convocation of Vanderbilt University (192),” May 18, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963. (President Kennedy was quoting from the Bible, Gospel of Luke, Chapter 12, verse 48.)
“Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in periods of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.” –“Remarks in Bonn at the Signing of a Charter Establishing the German Peace Corps (258),” June 24, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963. (Note: Dante never made this statement. The closest to what President Kennedy meant is in the Inferno where the souls in the ante-room of hell, who “lived without disgrace and without praise,” and the coward angels, who did not rebel but did not resist the cohorts of Lucifer, are condemned to being whirled through the air by great winds while being stung by wasps and horseflies.)
“I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.” –“Remarks in Newport at the Australian Ambassador’s Dinner for the America’s Cup Crews (383),” September 14, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“‘O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.'” –“Remarks in New York City at the Dedication of the East Coast Memorial to the Missing at Sea (203),” May 23, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963. (An old Breton fisherman’s prayer that Admiral Rickover had inscribed on plaques that he gave to newly commissioned submarine captains. Rickover presented President Kennedy with one of these plaques, which sat on his desk in the Oval Office.)
Seven Days in May
When discussing the possibility of a complete military takeover in the country after reading the book Seven Days in May, President Kennedy said, “…if there were a third Bay of Pigs, it could happen.” He paused and then said “But it won’t happen on my watch.” –Related in Paul Fay, Jr., The Pleasure of His Company (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 190.
“We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of preeminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war.” –“Address at Rice University in Houston on the Nation’s Space Effort (373),” September 12, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
“We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share…I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” –“Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs (205),” May 25, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
“This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it.” –“Remarks in San Antonio at the Dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center (472),” November 21, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963. (The original anecdote from which Kennedy derived this comparison is in Frank O’Connor, An Only Child, London: MacMillan & Co. Ltd., 1961, p. 180.)
“No country can possibly move ahead, no free society can possibly be sustained, unless it has an educated citizenry whose qualities of mind and heart permit it to take part in the complicated and increasingly sophisticated decisions that pour not only upon the President and upon the Congress, but upon all the citizens who exercise the ultimate power…Quite obviously, there is a higher purpose, and that is the hope that you will turn to the service of the State the scholarship, the education, the qualities which society has helped develop in you; that you will render on the community level, or on the state level, or on the national level, or the international level a contribution to the maintenance of freedom and peace and the security of our country and those associated with it in a most critical time.” –“Commencement Address at San Diego State College (226),” June 6, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“This is a great country and requires a good deal of all of us, so I can imagine nothing more important than for all of you to continue to work in public affairs and be interested in them, not only to bring up a family, but also give part of your time to your community, your state, and your country.” –“Remarks to the Delegates of Girls Nation (322),” August 2, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“I can assure you that there is no career which you will adopt when you leave college that will bring you a more and greater sense of satisfaction and a greater feeling of participation in a great effort than will your work here or in your state or in your community…this generation of Americans – you here who will be in positions of responsibility for the rest of this century – will deal with the most difficult, sensitive, and dangerous problems that any society of people has ever dealt with at any age…The Greeks defined happiness as the full use of your powers along the lines of excellence, and I can imagine no place where you can use your powers more fully along lines more excellent in the 1960’s than to be in the service of the United States.” –“Remarks to Student Participants in the White House Seminar in Government (334),” August 27, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“What we seek to advance, what we seek to develop in all of our colleges and universities, are educated men and women who can bear the burdens of responsible citizenship, who can make judgments about life as it is, and as it must be, and encourage the people to make those decisions which can bring not only prosperity and security, but happiness to the people of the United Sates and those who depend upon it.” –“Address at the University of North Dakota (379),” September 25, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“I hope that all of you who are students here will recognize the great opportunity that lies before you in this decade, and in the decades to come, to be of service to our country. The Greeks once defined happiness as full use of your powers along lines of excellence, and I can assure you that there is no area of life where you will have an opportunity to use whatever powers you have, and to use them along more excellent lines, bringing ultimately, I think, happiness to you and those whom you serve.” –“Address at the University of Wyoming (381),” September 25, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“I ask particularly that those of you who are now in school will prepare yourselves to bear the burden of leadership over the next 40 years here in the United States, and make sure that the United States – which I believe almost alone has maintained watch and ward for freedom – that the United States meet its responsibility. That is a wonderful challenge for us as a people.” –“Remarks at the Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington (387),” September 27, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“…I come here today…not just because you are doing well and because you are outstanding students, but because we expect something of you. And unless in this free country of ours we are able to demonstrate that we are able to make this society work and progress, unless we can hope that from you we are going to get back all of the talents which society has helped develop in you, then, quite obviously, all the hopes of all of us that freedom will not only endure but prevail, of course, will be disappointed. So we ask the best of you…I congratulate you on what you have done, and most of all I congratulate you on what you are going to do.” –“Remarks in New York City to the National Convention of the Catholic Youth Organization (463),” November 15, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
“…there is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some are stationed in San Francisco. It’s very hard in the military or personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.” –“President’s News Conference of March 21, 1962 (107),” Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.
John F. Kennedy Quotes From Wikiquote
- War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.
- Undated Letter to a Navy friend; also mentioned by William Safire in his “On Language” article “Warrior” in the New York Times rubric Magazines (26 August 2007); also in A Thousand Days : John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965), by Arthur Schlesinger, p. 88
- NAURO NATIVE KNOWS POSIT HE CAN PILOT 11 ALIVE NEED SMALL BOAT KENNEDY
- Message carved into a coconut after the wreck of PT-109 (6 August 1943). This has often been misquoted as “11 ALIVE NATIVE KNOWS POSIT & REEF NAURU ISLAND KENNEDY”
- Explorer Finds Kennedy’s WWII Boat
- Message carved into a coconut after the wreck of PT-109 (6 August 1943). This has often been misquoted as “11 ALIVE NATIVE KNOWS POSIT & REEF NAURU ISLAND KENNEDY”
- Where in the hell have you guys been? I’ve been at this bus stop for a whole week now.”
- Kennedy upon being rescued.
- After visiting these places, you can easily understand how that within a few years Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived. He had boundless ambition for his country which rendered him a menace to the peace of the world, but he had a mystery about him in the way that he lived and in the manner of his death that will live and grow after him. He had in him the stuff of which legends are made.
- After visiting such Nazi strongholds as were found in Berchtesgaden and Kehlsteinhaus; Personal diary (1 August 1945); published in Prelude to Leadership (1995)
- If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live.
- Remarks at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (14 June 1956); Box 895, Senate Speech Files, John F. Kennedy Papers, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
- Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past — let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
- Remarks at “Loyola College Alumni Banquet, Baltimore, Maryland (18 February 1958); Box 899, Senate Speech Files, John F. Kennedy Papers, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
- In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity.
- Remarks at the United Negro College Fund, Indianapolis, Indiana (12 April 1959); Box 902, Senate Speech Files, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library; also in Remarks at Valley Forge Country Club, Pennsylvania (29 October 1960), Box 914, Senate Speech Files, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
- Mr. President, Senate Joint Resolution 31, concerning which there has been little, if any, public interest or knowledge, constitutes one of the most far-reaching — and I believe mistaken — schemes ever proposed to alter the American constitutional system. No one knows with any certainty what will happen if our electoral system is totally revamped as proposed by Senate Joint Resolution 31 and the various amendments which will be offered to it. Today, we have a clearly Federal system of electing our President, under which the States act as units. Today, we have the two-party system, under which third parties and splinter parties are effectively discouraged from playing more than a negligible role. Today, we have a system which in all but one instance throughout our history has given us presidents elected by a plurality of the popular vote. I refer to one instance, because the frequently mentioned situation in 1824, involving Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams, in which six States did not have popular votes, can be ignored; and the other frequently mentioned case, that of the Hayes-Tilden contest, involved outright corruption, and the decision of the electoral commission was responsible for the election of Hayes; so in the 175 years of our constitutional system, there is really only one valid example in which the present system produced the election of a candidate who did not receive the largest number of votes. And today we have an electoral vote system which gives both large States and small States certain advantages and disadvantages that offset each other.
- Debate about the Lodge-Gossett amendment, which would abolish the Electoral College; To Change Election System; Senator Explains the Resolution to Abolish Electoral College Congressional Record, March 20th 1955 Congressional Record, page 5156
Profiles in Courage (1956)
- The voters selected us, in short, because they had confidence in our judgement and our ability to exercise that judgement from a position where we could determine what were their own best interest, as a part of the nation’s interest.
- p. 15
- Only the very courageous will be able to keep alive the spirit of individualism and dissent which gave birth to this nation, nourished it as an infant, and carried it through its severest tests upon the attainment of its maturity.
- Profiles in Courage (1956), p. 17
- The true democracy, living and growing and inspiring, puts its faith in the people — faith that the people will not simply elect men who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but will also elect men who will exercise their conscientious judgment — faith that the people will not condemn those whose devotion to principle leads them to unpopular courses, but will reward courage, respect honor, and ultimately recognize right.
- 1964 Memorial Edition, p. 264
- For in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, ‘hold office’; everyone of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.
- 1964 Memorial Edition, p. 265
- For without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget those acts of courage with which men — such as the subjects of this book — have lived. The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy. A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality. In whatever area in life one may meet the challenges of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience — the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men — each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient — they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.
- 1964 Memorial Edition, p. 266
- Dick Nixon is the victim of the worst press that ever hit a politician in this country. What they did to him in the Helen Gahagan Douglas race was disgusting.
- As quoted in Kennedy and Nixon (1996) by Christopher Matthews, p.123
- We celebrate the past to awaken the future.
- “Remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Signing of the Social Security Act,” Hyde Park, New York (14 August 1960); Box 910, Senate Speech Files, John F. Kennedy Papers, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
- President Roosevelt and President Truman and President Eisenhower had the same experience, they all made the effort to get along with the Russians. But every time, finally it failed. And the reason it failed was because the Communists are determined to destroy us, and regardless of what hand of friendship we may hold out or what arguments we may put up, the only thing that will make that decisive difference is the strength of the United States.
- Speech at Democratic Rally, George Washington High School Stadium, Alexandria, Virginia (24 August 1960)
- Now let me make it clear that I believe there can only be one defense policy for the United States and that is summed up in the word ‘first.’ I do not mean ‘first, but’. I do not mean ‘first, when’. I do not mean ‘first, if’. I mean ‘first — period’.
- Speech at VFW Convention, Detroit, Michigan,” (26 August 1960); Box 910, Senate Speech Files, John F. Kennedy Papers, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
- In a world of danger and trial, peace is our deepest aspiration, and when peace comes we will gladly convert not our swords into plowshares, but our bombs into peaceful reactors, and our planes into space vessels. “Pursue peace,” the Bible tells us, and we shall pursue it with every effort and every energy that we possess. But it is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war.
- Speech at Civic Auditorium, Seattle, Washington (6 September 1960)
- That requires only one kind of defense policy, a policy summed up in a single word “first.” I do not mean “first, if,” I do not mean “first, but,” I do not mean “first, when,” but I mean “First, period.”
- Speech at Civic Auditorium, Seattle, Washington (6 September 1960)
- My call is not to those who believe they belong to the past. My call is to those who believe in the future.
- Speech at Civic Auditorium, Seattle, Washington (6 September 1960)
- We are a great and strong country — perhaps the greatest and strongest in the history of the world. But greatness and strength are not our natural right. They are not gifts which are automatically ours forever. It took toil and courage and determination to build this country — and it will take those same qualities if we are to maintain it. For, although a country may stand still, history never stands still. Thus, if we do not soon begin to move forward again, we will inevitably be left behind. And I know that Americans today are tired of standing still — and that we do not intend to be left behind. But effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction. For, as Socrates told us, “If a man does not know to what port he is sailing, no wind is favorable.”
- Speech at the Coliseum, Raleigh, North Carolina” (17 September 1960)
- There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was also the age of Shakespeare. And the New Frontier for which I campaign in public life, can also be a New Frontier for American art.
- [http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/Ready-Reference/JFK-Quotations.aspx Response to letter sent by Miss Theodate Johnson, Publisher of Musical America to the two presidential candidates requesting their views on music in relation to the Federal Government and domestic world affairs (13 September 1960); published in Musical America (October 1960), p. 11; later inscribed on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
- If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”
- Acceptance of the New York Liberal Party nomination (14 September 1960) · Address of John F. Kennedy upon Accepting the Liberal Party Nomination for President
- Their platform, made up of left-over Democratic planks, has the courage of our old convictions. Their pledge is a pledge to the status quo — and today there can be no status quo.
- Address Accepting the Democratic Party Nomination for the Presidency of the United States — Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles (15 July 1960)
- If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all — except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.
- Saturday Review (29 October 1960), p. 44
- There are indications because of new inventions, that 10, 15, or 20 nations will have a nuclear capacity, including Red China, by the end of the Presidential office in 1964. This is extremely serious. . . I think the fate not only of our own civilization, but I think the fate of world and the future of the human race, is involved in preventing a nuclear war.
- Third Nixon-Kennedy Presidential Debate (13 October 1960)
- We have all seen these circus elephants complete with tusks, ivory in their head and thick skins, who move around the circus ring and grab the tail of the elephant ahead of them.”
- Comments on members of the Republican party, in Remarks at the Cow Palace, San Francisco, California (2 November 1960); Box 914, Senate Speech Files, John F. Kennedy Papers, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
- I can assure you that every degree of mind and spirit that I possess will be devoted to the long-range interests of the United States and to the cause of freedom around the world.
- Acceptance speech (9 November 1960)
The New Frontier
- But I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack. The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent, and the stakes too high — to permit the customary passions of political debate. We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future. Today our concern must be with that future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do. […] It is a time, in short, for a new generation of leadership — new men to cope with new problems and new opportunities.
- Today some would say that those struggles are all over — that all the horizons have been explored — that all the battles have been won — that there is no longer an American frontier. But I trust that no one in this vast assemblage will agree with those sentiments. For the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won — and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier — the frontier of the 1960’s — a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils — a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.
- Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom promised our nation a new political and economic framework. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal promised security and succor to those in need. But the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises — it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook — it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.
- But I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric — and those who prefer that course should not cast their votes for me, regardless of party. But I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier. My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age — to all who respond to the Scriptural call: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.” For courage — not complacency — is our need today — leadership — not salesmanship. And the only valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously.
- There may be those who wish to hear more — more promises to this group or that — more harsh rhetoric about the men in the Kremlin — more assurances of a golden future, where taxes are always low and subsidies ever high. But my promises are in the platform you have adopted — our ends will not be won by rhetoric and we can have faith in the future only if we have faith in ourselves.
- For the harsh facts of the matter are that we stand on this frontier at a turning-point in history. We must prove all over again whether this nation — or any nation so conceived — can long endure — whether our society — with its freedom of choice, its breadth of opportunity, its range of alternatives — can compete with the single-minded advance of the Communist system.
Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure? That is the real question. Have we the nerve and the will? Can we carry through in an age where we will witness not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction — but also a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space and the inside of men’s minds?
Are we up to the task — are we equal to the challenge? Are we willing to match the Russian sacrifice of the present for the future — or must we sacrifice our future in order to enjoy the present?
That is the question of the New Frontier. That is the choice our nation must make — a choice that lies not merely between two men or two parties, but between the public interest and private comfort — between national greatness and national decline — between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of “normalcy” — between determined dedication and creeping mediocrity. All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we will do. We cannot fail their trust, we cannot fail to try.
- It has been a long road from that first snowy day in New Hampshire to this crowded convention city. Now begins another long journey, taking me into your cities and homes all over America. Give me your help, your hand, your voice, your vote. Recall with me the words of Isaiah: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary.” As we face the coming challenge, we too, shall wait upon the Lord, and ask that he renew our strength. Then shall we be equal to the test. Then we shall not be weary. And then we shall prevail.
Speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
- While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election; the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida — the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power — the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms — an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space. These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues — for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.
- I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute — where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote — where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference — and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
- I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish — where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source — where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials — and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all. For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew — or a Quaker — or a Unitarian — or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
- Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end — where all men and all churches are treated as equal — where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice — where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind — and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
- That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe — a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
- I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so — and neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test — even by indirection — for it. If they disagree with that safeguard they should be out openly working to repeal it.
- I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none — who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him — and whose fulfillment of his Presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.
- But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or persecute the free exercise of any other religion. And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny their Presidency to Protestants and those which deny it to Catholics.
- But let me stress again that these are my views — for contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters — and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.
- If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.
Address at Convention Hall, Philadelphia
- Speech at Convention Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (31 October 1960)
- I believe in an America where the free enterprise system flourishes for all other systems to see and admire — where no businessman lacks either competition or credit — and where no monopoly, no racketeer, no government bureaucracy can put him out of business that he built up with his own initiative.
- I believe in an America where the rights that I have described are enjoyed by all, regardless of their race or their creed or their national origin — where every citizen is free to think and speak as he pleases and write and worship as he pleases — and where every citizen is free to vote as he pleases, without instructions from anyone, his employer, the union leader or his clergyman.
- Finally, I believe in an America with a government of men devoted solely to the public interests — men of ability and dedication, free from conflict or corruption or other commitment — a responsible government that is efficient and economical, with a balanced budget over the years of the cycle, reducing its debt in prosperous times — a government willing to entrust the people with the facts that they have — not a businessman’s government, with business in the saddle, as the late Secretary McKay described this administration of which he was a member — not a labor government, not a farmer’s government, not a government of one section of the country or another, but a government of, for and by the people.
- In short, I believe in an America that is on the march — an America respected by all nations, friends and foes alike — an America that is moving, doing, working, trying — a strong America in a world of peace. That peace must be based on world law and world order, on the mutual respect of all nations for the rights and powers of others and on a world economy in which no nation lacks the ability to provide a decent standard of living for all of its people. But we cannot have such a world, and we cannot have such a peace, unless the United States has the vitality and the inspiration and the strength. If we continue to stand still, if we continue to lie at anchor, if we continue to sit on dead center, if we content ourselves with the easy life and the rosy assurances, then the gates will soon be open to a lean and hungry enemy.
Speech at East Los Angeles College Stadium, Los Angeles, California
- John F. Kennedy, at East Los Angeles College Stadium, Los Angeles, CA (November 1, 1960)
- Our prestige abroad, what other peoples think of us, is not of importance only to those Americans who work or travel abroad. The sign “Yankee go home” does not apply only to our diplomats, foreign-aid specialists, and military personnel who are stationed overseas.
- The great struggle in the world today is not one of popularity but one of power, and our power depends in considerable measure upon our ability to influence other nations, upon their willingness to associate themselves with our efforts, upon the strength of our stature and leadership. … this deterioration in our prestige abroad threatens our bases, our alliances, our security and the peace itself and it is time we were respected once again throughout the would as the good neighbor.
- We live under majority rule and if that majority is not well educated in its responsibilities, the whole Nation suffers.
Sport at the New Frontier: The Soft American
- John F. Kennedy, “Sport at the New Frontier: The Soft American” in Sports Illustrated Vol. 13, Issue 26 (26 December 1960), p. 14-17
- This knowledge, the knowledge that the physical well-being of the citizen is an important foundation for the vigor and vitality of all the activities of the nation, is as old as Western civilization itself.
- But the harsh fact of the matter is that there is also an increasingly large number of young Americans who are neglecting their bodies — whose physical fitness is not what it should be — who are getting soft. And such softness on the part of individual citizens can help to strip and destroy the vitality of a nation. For the physical vigor of our citizens is one of America’s most precious resources. If we waste and neglect this resource, if we allow it to dwindle and grow soft then we will destroy much of our ability to meet the great and vital challenges which confront our people. We will be unable to realize our full potential as a nation.
- Throughout our history we have been challenged to armed conflict by nations which sought to destroy our independence or threatened our freedom. The young men of America have risen to those occasions, giving themselves freely to the rigors and hardships of warfare. But the stamina and strength which the defense of liberty requires are not the product of a few weeks’ basic training or a month’s conditioning. These only come from bodies which have been conditioned by a lifetime of participation in sports and interest in physical activity. Our struggles against aggressors throughout our history have been won on the playgrounds and corner lots and fields of America. Thus, in a very real and immediate sense, our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our security.
- But physical fitness is as vital to the activities of peace as to those of war, especially when our success in those activities may well determine the future of freedom in the years to come. We face in the Soviet Union a powerful and implacable adversary determined to show the world that only the Communist system possesses the vigor and determination necessary to satisfy awakening aspirations for progress and the elimination of poverty and want. To meet the challenge of this enemy will require determination and will and effort on the part of all Americans. Only if our citizens are physically fit will they be fully capable of such an effort.
- For physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. The relationship between the soundness of the body and the activities of the mind is subtle and complex. Much is not yet understood. But we do know what the Greeks knew: that intelligence and skill can only function at the peak of their capacity when the body is healthy and strong; that hardy spirits and tough minds usually inhabit sound bodies.
- In this sense, physical fitness is the basis of all the activities of our society. And if our bodies grow soft and inactive, if we fail to encourage physical development and prowess, we will undermine our capacity for thought, for work and for the use of those skills vital to an expanding and complex America. Thus the physical fitness of our citizens is a vital prerequisite to America’s realization of its full potential as a nation, and to the opportunity of each individual citizen to make full and fruitful use of his capacities.
- It is ironic that at a time when the magnitude of our dangers makes the physical fitness of our citizens a matter of increasing importance, it takes greater effort and determination than ever before to build the strength of our bodies. The age of leisure and abundance can destroy vigor and muscle tone as effortlessly as it can gain time. Today human activity, the labor of the human body, is rapidly being engineered out of working life.
- Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.
- “Message to Those Participating in Roosevelt Day Commemoration (29 January 1961).” Papers of John F. Kennedy. Presidential Papers, “New Minute Men Urged by Kennedy,” The New York Times(30 January 1961) pg. 13
- I have pledged myself and my colleagues in the cabinet to a continuous encouragement of initiative, responsibility and energy in serving the public interest. Let every public servant know, whether his post is high or low, that a man’s rank and reputation in this Administration will be determined by the size of the job he does, and not by the size of his staff, his office or his budget. Let it be clear that this Administration recognizes the value of dissent and daring — that we greet healthy controversy as the hallmark of healthy change. Let the public service be a proud and lively career. And let every man and woman who works in any area of our national government, in any branch, at any level, be able to say with pride and with honor in future years: “I served the United States government in that hour of our nation’s need.”
For only with complete dedication by us all to the national interest can we bring our country through the troubled years that lie ahead. Our problems are critical. The tide is unfavorable. The news will be worse before it is better. And while hoping and working for the best, we should prepare ourselves now for the worst.
- First State of the Union Address (30 January 1961)
- The Federal Budget can and should be made an instrument of prosperity and stability, not a deterrent to recovery.
- “Special message to Congress: Program for Economic Recovery and Growth (17)”, (2 February 1961)
- For I can assure you that we love our country, not for what it was, though it has always been great — not for what it is, though of this we are deeply proud — but for what it someday can, and, through the efforts of us all, someday will be.
- “Address at a Luncheon Meeting of the National Industrial Conference Board (33)”, (13 February 1961)
- Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. Our requirements for world leadership, our hopes for economic growth, and the demands of citizenship itself in an era such as this all require the maximum development of every young American’s capacity. The human mind is our fundamental resource.
- Special Message to the Congress on Education (20 February 1961)
- It cannot be surprising that, as resistance within Cuba grows, refugees have been using whatever means are available to return and support their countrymen in the continuing struggle for freedom. Where people are denied the right of choice, recourse to such struggle is the only means of achieving their liberties.
- Message to Chairman Khrushchev Concerning the Meaning of Events in Cuba (18 April 1961)
- The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution of those determined to be free.
- Message to Chairman Khrushchev Concerning the Meaning of Events in Cuba (18 April 1961).
- There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan…. I’m the responsible officer of the Government.
- State Department press conference (21 April 1961), following the Bay of Pigs Invasion, as quoted in A Thousand Days : John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965, 2002 edition), by Arthur Schlesinger, p. 262; also in The Quote Verifier (2006) by Ralph Keyes, p. 234). The exact wording used by Kennedy (a hundred, not a thousand) had appeared in the 1951 film The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel, as reported in Safire’s New Political Dictionary (1993) by William Safire, pp 841–842). The earliest known occurrence is Galeazzo Ciano, Diary 1937-1943, entry for 9 September 1942 (“La victoria trova cento padri, e nessuno vuole riconoscere l’insuccesso.“), but the earliest known occurrence on such a theme is in Tacitus’s : Agricola Book 1 ab paragraph 27: “Iniquissima haec bellorum condicio est: prospera omnes sibi vindicant, adversa uni imputantur.” (It is the singularly unfair peculiarity of war that the credit of success is claimed by all, while a disaster is attributed to one alone.)
- If all of you had voted the other way — there’s about 5500 of you here tonight — I would not be the President of the United States.
- “Address in Chicago at a dinner of the Democratic Party of Cook County (155),” (28 April 1961)
- Commander Shepard has pointed out from the time that this flight began and from the time this flight was a success, that this was a common effort in which a good many men were involved. I think it does credit to him that he is associated with such a distinguished group of Americans whom we are all glad to honor today, his companions in the flight into outer space, so I think we want to give them all a hand. … I also want to take cognizance of the fact that this flight was made out in the open with all the possibilities of failure, which would have been damaging to our country’s prestige. Because great risks were taken in that regard, it seems to me that we have some right to claim that this open society of ours which risked much, gained much. … This is a civilian award for a great civilian accomplishment, and therefore I want to again express my congratulations to Alan Shepard. We are very proud of him, and I speak on behalf of the Vice President, who is Chairman of our Space Council and who bears great responsibilities in this field, and the Members of the House and Senate Space Committee who are with us today. [accidentally drops the medallion, and picks it up] This decoration which has gone from the ground up — here.
- Remarks at the presentation of NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal to Astronaut Alan B. Shepard (8 May 1961) — Video of presentation at YouTube
- Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.
- Address to the Canadian Parliament (17 May 1961)
- It is not a pleasure for any President of the United States, as I am sure it was not a pleasure for my predecessors, to come before the Congress and ask for new appropriations which place burdens on our people. I came to this conclusion with some reluctance. But in my judgment, this is a most serious time in the life of our country and in the life of freedom around the globe, and it is the obligation, I believe, of the President of the United States to at least make his recommendations to the Members of the Congress, so that they can reach their own conclusions with that judgment before them. You must decide yourselves, as I have decided, and I am confident that whether you finally decide in the way that I have decided or not, that your judgment–as my judgment–is reached on what is in the best interests of our country.
- May 1961 in address to joint session of congress
- There is danger that totalitarian governments, not subject to vigorous popular debate, will underestimate the will and unity of democratic societies where vital interests are concerned.
- President Kennedy’s 13th News Conferences on June 28, 1961 John Source: F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum
- And lastly, Chairman Khrushchev has compared the United States to a worn-out runner living on its past performance, and stated that the Soviet Union would out-produce the United States by 1970. Without wishing to trade hyperbole with the Chairman, I do suggest that he reminds me of the tiger hunter who has picked a place on the wall to hang the tiger’s skin long before he his caught the tiger. This tiger has other ideas.
- President Kennedy’s 13th News Conferences on June 28, 1961 John Source: F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum
- The education of our people should be a lifelong process by which we continue to feed new vigor into the lifestream of the Nation through intelligent, reasoned decisions. Let us not think of education only in terms of its costs, but rather in terms of the infinite potential of the human mind that can be realized through education. Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our Nation.
- “Proclamation 3422 — American Education Week, 1961” (25 July 1961)
- Freedom is not merely a word or an abstract theory, but the most effective instrument for advancing the welfare of man.
- Message to the Inter-American Economic and Social Conference at Punta del Este, Uruguay (5 August 1961)
- Somebody once said that Washington was a city of Northern charm and Southern efficiency.
- Speech to the Trustees and Advisory Committee of the National Cultural Center in the White House Movie Theater, 14 November 1961
- We have become more and more not a nation of athletes but a nation of spectators.
- “Remarks at National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Banquet (496),” December 5 1961. Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
- We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.
- “Address in New York City to the National Association of Manufacturers (496),” December 5, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
- I wonder how it is with you, Harold? If I don’t have a woman for three days, I get terrible headaches.
- Conversation with Harold Macmillan, in Bermuda (1961) as recounted by Richard Reeves in his book President Kennedy: Profile of Power (1994)
The City upon a Hill speech
- Speech to Massachusetts State Legislature (9 January 1961) in The State House, Boston; Congressional Record, January 10, 1961, vol. 107, Appendix, p. A169. In this speech, given eleven days prior to his inauguration, the President-elect quotes John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” sermon and highlights four qualities that he hopes to bring to his presidency: courage, judgment, integrity and dedication.
- During the last sixty days, I have been at the task of constructing an administration. It has been a long and deliberate process. Some have counseled greater speed. Others have counseled more expedient tests. But I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arbella three hundred and thirty-one years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. “We must always consider,” he said, “that we shall be as a city upon a hill — the eyes of all people are upon us.” Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us — and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill — constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities. For we are setting out upon a voyage in 1961 no less hazardous than that undertaken by the Arbella in 1630. We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less awesome than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, beset as it was then by terror without and disorder within. History will not judge our endeavors — and a government cannot be selected — merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these.
- For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us — recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state — our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions:
First, were we truly men of courage — with the courage to stand up to one’s enemies — and the courage to stand up, when necessary, to one’s associates — the courage to resist public pressure, as well as private greed?
Secondly, were we truly men of judgment — with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past — of our mistakes as well as the mistakes of others — with enough wisdom to know what we did not know and enough candor to admit it?
Third, were we truly men of integrity — men who never ran out on either the principles in which we believed or the men who believed in us — men whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust?
Finally, were we truly men of dedication — with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and comprised of no private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest?
Courage — judgment — integrity — dedication — these are the historic qualities … which, with God’s help … will characterize our Government’s conduct in the 4 stormy years that lie ahead.
- Inaugural address, Washington D.C. (20 January 1961) (video file). In his speech President Kennedy urges American citizens to participate in public service and “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” This is also the speech he delivered announcing the dawn of a new era as young Americans born in the 20th century first assumed leadership of the Nation.
- Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom — symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning — signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.
- The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.
- Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage — and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
- The quote “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans” is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery. One can see it inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
- Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
- This is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
- To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do — for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.
- To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom — and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.
- To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
- Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction. We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.
- So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us. […] Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.
Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah — to “undo the heavy burdens … and to let the oppressed go free.”
- If a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.
All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.
- In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
- Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation” — a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself. Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?
- The bold portions are one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
- In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
- “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it.” is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
- “The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.” is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
- “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
- It has been reported at various places on the internet that in JFK’s Inaugural address, the famous line “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”, was inspired by, or even a direct quotation of the famous and much esteemed writer and poet Khalil Gibran. Gibran in 1925 wrote in Arabic a line that has been translated as:
- Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country?
- If you are the first, then you are a parasite; if the second, then you are an oasis in a desert.
- However, this translation of Gibran is one that occurred over a decade after Kennedy’s 1961 speech, appearing in A Third Treasury of Kahlil Gibran (1975) edited by Andrew Dib Sherfan, and the translator most likely drew upon Kennedy’s famous words in expressing Gibran’s prior ideas. For a further discussion regarding the quote see here.
- Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.
- This is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy, Arlington National Cemetery.
State of the Union
- First State of the Union Address (30 January 1961)
- Our Constitution wisely assigns both joint and separate roles to each branch of the government; and a President and a Congress who hold each other in mutual respect will neither permit nor attempt any trespass.
- Where nature makes natural allies of us all, we can demonstrate that beneficial relations are possible even with those with whom we most deeply disagree-and this must someday be the basis of world peace and world law.
- The deadly arms race, and the huge resources it absorbs, have too long overshadowed all else we must do. We must prevent that arms race from spreading to new nations, to new nuclear powers and to the reaches of outer space.
Address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors
Address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors at the Statler Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. (April 20, 1961) In his speech President Kennedy discusses the purpose of American intervention abroad and the spread of communist ideology to Latin America and Southeast Asia, with particular emphasis on the Bay of Pigs incident that occurred in Cuba four days prior.
Following his address before the American Society of Newspapers President Kennedy assumed responsibily for the Bay of Pigs Invasion at the next day by saying: “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan…. I’m the responsible officer of the Government.” (Source: State Department press conference 21 April 1961, following the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr. 1965, 2002. A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House. Houghton Mifflin ISBN 1-57912-449-6 ISBN 978-1-57912-449-6, p. 262.)
- The President of a great democracy such as ours, and the editors of great newspapers such as yours, owe a common obligation to the people: an obligation to present the facts, to present them with candor, and to present them in perspective.
- If the self-discipline of the free cannot match the iron discipline of the mailed fist-in economic, political, scientific and all the other kinds of struggles as well as the military-then the peril to freedom will continue to rise.
- The complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history. Only the strong, only the industrious, only the determined, only the courageous, only the visionary who determine the real nature of our struggle can possibly survive.
Address to ANPA
- Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association (27 April 1961) Audio President Kennedy’s address was delivered to the American Newspaper Publishers Association at a Bureau of Advertising dinner held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. In his speech President Kennedy addresses his discontent with the press’s news coverage before, during, and after the Bay of Pigs incident, suggesting that there is a need for “far greater public information” and “far greater official secrecy.”
- I appreciate very much your generous invitation to be here tonight. You bear heavy responsibilities these days and an article I read some time ago reminded me of how particularly heavily the burdens of present day events bear upon your profession. You may remember that in 1851 the New York Herald Tribune under the sponsorship and publishing of Horace Greeley, employed as its London correspondent an obscure journalist by the name of Karl Marx.
We are told that foreign correspondent Marx, stone broke, and with a family ill and undernourished, constantly appealed to Greeley and managing editor Charles Dana for an increase in his munificent salary of $5 per installment, a salary which he and Engels ungratefully labeled as the “lousiest petty bourgeois cheating.”
But when all his financial appeals were refused, Marx looked around for other means of livelihood and fame, eventually terminating his relationship with the Tribune and devoting his talents full time to the cause that would bequeath the world the seeds of Leninism, Stalinism, revolution and the cold war.
If only this capitalistic New York newspaper had treated him more kindly; if only Marx had remained a foreign correspondent, history might have been different. And I hope all publishers will bear this lesson in mind the next time they receive a poverty-stricken appeal for a small increase in the expense account from an obscure newspaper man.
- I want to talk about our common responsibilities in the face of a common danger. The events of recent weeks may have helped to illuminate that challenge for some; but the dimensions of its threat have loomed large on the horizon for many years. Whatever our hopes may be for the future — for reducing this threat or living with it — there is no escaping either the gravity or the totality of its challenge to our survival and to our security — a challenge that confronts us in unaccustomed ways in every sphere of human activity.
This deadly challenge imposes upon our society two requirements of direct concern both to the press and to the President — two requirements that may seem almost contradictory in tone, but which must be reconciled and fulfilled if we are to meet this national peril. I refer, first, to the need for a far greater public information; and, second, to the need for far greater official secrecy.
- The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.
- Today no war has been declared — and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired.
If the press is awaiting a declaration of war before it imposes the self-discipline of combat conditions, then I can only say that no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of “clear and present danger,” then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent.
It requires a change in outlook, a change in tactics, a change in missions — by the government, by the people, by every businessman or labor leader, and by every newspaper. For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence — on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match.
Nevertheless, every democracy recognizes the necessary restraints of national security — and the question remains whether those restraints need to be more strictly observed if we are to oppose this kind of attack as well as outright invasion.
- No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.
I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers — I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.
- Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment — the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- –not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants” — but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.
This means greater coverage and analysis of international news — for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security — and we intend to do it.
- It was early in the Seventeenth Century that Francis Bacon remarked on three recent inventions already transforming the world: the compass, gunpowder and the printing press. Now the links between the nations first forged by the compass have made us all citizens of the world, the hopes and threats of one becoming the hopes and threats of us all. In that one world’s efforts to live together, the evolution of gunpowder to its ultimate limit has warned mankind of the terrible consequences of failure.
And so it is to the printing press — to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news — that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.
- Kennedy here references Francis Bacon’s Aphorism 129 of Novum Organum: Again, we should notice the force, effect, and consequences of inventions, which are nowhere more conspicuous than in those three which were unknown to the ancients; namely, printing, gunpowder, and the compass. For these three have changed the appearance and state of the whole world; first in literature, then in warfare, and lastly in navigation: and innumerable changes have been thence derived, so that no empire, sect, or star, appears to have exercised a greater power and influence on human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.
Speech to Special Joint Session of Congress
- Address to a Joint Session of Congress (25 May 1961); this includes his Special Message to the Congress on urgent national needs the goal of sending a Man to the Moon before the 1960’s are over. More specifically President Kennedy asked for an additional $7 billion to $9 billion over the next five years for the space program, proclaiming that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” President Kennedy settled upon this dramatic goal as a means of focusing and mobilizing our lagging space efforts. He did not justify the needed expenditure on the basis of science and exploration, but placed the program clearly in the camp of the competing ideologies of democracy vs. communism.
- I stress the strength of our economy because it is essential to the strength of our nation. And what is true in our case is true in the case of other countries. Their strength in the struggle for freedom depends on the strength of their economic and their social progress. We would be badly mistaken to consider their problems in military terms alone. For no amount of arms and armies can help stabilize those governments which are unable or unwilling to achieve social and economic reform and development. Military pacts cannot help nations whose social injustice and economic chaos invite insurgency and penetration and subversion. The most skillful counter-guerrilla efforts cannot succeed where the local population is too caught up in its own misery to be concerned about the advance of communism.
- Military and economic assistance has been a heavy burden on our citizens for a long time, and I recognize the strong pressures against it; but this battle is far from over, it is reaching a crucial stage, and I believe we should participate in it. We cannot merely state our opposition to totalitarian advance without paying the price of helping those now under the greatest pressure. We cannot merely state our opposition to totalitarian advance without paying the price of helping those now under the greatest pressure.
- Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take. […] Now it is time to take longer strides — time for a great new American enterprise — time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth. I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure theft fulfillment.
Recognizing the head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines, which gives them many months of lead-time, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.
- I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations — explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon — if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.
- Let it be clear — and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make — let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action — a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal ’62 — an estimated seven to nine billion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.
- I believe we should go to the moon. But I think every citizen of this country as well as the Members of the Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year.
- This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel. New objectives and new money cannot solve these problems. They could in fact, aggravate them further — unless every scientist, every engineer, every serviceman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.
Berlin Crisis speech
- We are clear about what must be done–and we intend to do it. I want to talk frankly with you tonight about the first steps that we shall take. These actions will require sacrifice on the part of many of our citizens. More will be required in the future. They will require, from all of us, courage and perseverance in the years to come. But if we and our allies act out of strength and unity of purpose–with calm determination and steady nerves–using restraint in our words as well as our weapons–I am hopeful that both peace and freedom will be sustained.
- I hear it said that West Berlin is militarily untenable. And so was Bastogne. And so, in fact, was Stalingrad. Any dangerous spot is tenable if men–brave men–will make it so.
- We do not want to fight — but we have fought before. And others in earlier times have made the same dangerous mistake of assuming that the West was too selfish and too soft and too divided to resist invasions of freedom in other lands. Those who threaten to unleash the forces of war on a dispute over West Berlin should recall the words of the ancient philosopher: “A man who causes fear cannot be free from fear.”
- Everything essential to the security of freedom must be done; and if that should require more men, or more taxes, or more controls, or other new powers, I shall not hesitate to ask them. […] I realize that no public revenue measure is welcomed by everyone. But I am certain that every American wants to pay his fair share, and not leave the burden of defending freedom entirely to those who bear arms. For we have mortgaged our very future on this defense–and we cannot fail to meet our responsibilities.
- We do not intend to abandon our duty to mankind to seek a peaceful solution. As signers of the UN Charter, we shall always be prepared to discuss international problems with any and all nations that are willing to talk — and listen — with reason. If they have proposals — not demands — we shall hear them. If they seek genuine understanding — not concessions of our rights — we shall meet with them. We have previously indicated our readiness to remove any actual irritants in West Berlin, but the freedom of that city is not negotiable. We cannot negotiate with those who say “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.” But we are willing to consider any arrangement or treaty in Germany consistent with the maintenance of peace and freedom, and with the legitimate security interests of all nations. […] In short, while we are ready to defend our interests, we shall also be ready to search for peace–in quiet exploratory talks–in formal or informal meetings.
- The strength of the alliance on which our security depends is dependent in turn on our willingness to meet our commitments to them.
- We will at all times be ready to talk, if talk will help. But we must also be ready to resist with force, if force is used upon us. Either alone would fail. Together, they can serve the cause of freedom and peace.
- And as Americans know from our history on our own old frontier, gun battles are caused by outlaws, and not by officers of the peace.
- And if there is one path above all others to war, it is the path of weakness and disunity.
- When I ran for Presidency of the United States, I knew that this country faced serious challenges, but I could not realize — nor could any man realize who does not bear the burdens of this office — how heavy and constant would be those burdens.
- Now, in the thermonuclear age, any misjudgment on either side about the intentions of the other could rain more devastation in several hours than has been wrought in all the wars of human history. Therefore I, as President and Commander-in-Chief, and all of us as Americans, are moving through serious days. I shall bear this responsibility under our Constitution for the next three and one-half years, but I am sure that we all, regardless of our occupations, will do our very best for our country, and for our cause. For all of us want to see our children grow up in a country at peace, and in a world where freedom endures. I know that sometimes we get impatient, we wish for some immediate action that would end our perils. But I must tell you that there is no quick and easy solution. […] We must look to long days ahead, which if we are courageous and persevering can bring us what we all desire.
- The steps I have indicated tonight are aimed at avoiding that war. To sum it all up: we seek peace — but we shall not surrender. That is the central meaning of this crisis, and the meaning of your government’s policy. With your help, and the help of other free men, this crisis can be surmounted. Freedom can prevail and peace can endure.
- We meet in an hour of grief and challenge. Dag Hammarskjold is dead. But the United Nations lives. His tragedy is deep in our hearts, but the task for which he died is at the top of our agenda. A noble servant of peace is gone. But the quest for peace lies before us.
The problem is not the death of one man — the problem is the life of this organization. It will either grow to meet the challenges of our age, or it will be gone with the wind, without influence, without force, without respect. Were we to let it die, to enfeeble its vigor, to cripple its powers, we would condemn our future. For in the development of this organization rests the only true alternative to war — and war appeals no longer as a rational alternative. Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve to settle disputes. It can no longer concern the great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by wind and water and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike. Mankind must put an end to war — or war will put an end to mankind.
So let us here resolve that Dag Hammarskjold did not live, or die, in vain. Let us call a truce to terror. Let us invoke the blessings of peace. And as we build an international capacity to keep peace, let us join in dismantling the national capacity to wage war.
- Disarmament without checks is but a shadow — and a community without law is but a shell.
- The great question which confronted this body in 1945 is still before us: whether man’s cherished hopes for progress and peace are to be destroyed by terror and disruption, whether the “foul winds of war” can be tamed in time to free the cooling winds of reason, and whether the pledges of our Charter are to be fulfilled or defied — pledges to secure peace, progress, human rights and world law.
- The Secretary General, in a very real sense, is the servant of the General Assembly. Diminish his authority and you diminish the authority of the only body where all nations, regardless of power, are equal and sovereign. Until all the powerful are just, the weak will be secure only in the strength of this Assembly.
- Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.
- Men no longer debate whether armaments are a symptom or a cause of tension. The mere existence of modern weapons — ten million times more powerful than any that the world has ever seen, and only minutes away from any target on earth — is a source of horror, and discord and distrust. Men no longer maintain that disarmament must await the settlement of all disputes — for disarmament must be a part of any permanent settlement. And men may no longer pretend that the quest for disarmament is a sign of weakness — for in a spiraling arms race, a nation’s security may well be shrinking even as its arms increase.
- For fifteen years this organization has sought the reduction and destruction of arms. Now that goal is no longer a dream — it is a practical matter of life or death. The risks inherent in disarmament pale in comparison to the risks inherent in an unlimited arms race.
In short, general and complete disarmament must no longer be a slogan, used to resist the first steps. It is no longer to be a goal without means of achieving it, without means of verifying its progress, without means of keeping the peace. It is now a realistic plan, and a test — a test of those only willing to talk and a test of those willing to act.
Such a plan would not bring a world free from conflict and greed — but it would bring a world free from the terrors of mass destruction. It would not usher in the era of the super state — but it would usher in an era in which no state could annihilate or be annihilated by another.
But to halt the spread of these terrible weapons, to halt the contamination of the air, to halt the spiraling nuclear arms race, we remain ready to seek new avenues of agreement, our new Disarmament Program thus includes the following proposals:
- First, signing the test-ban treaty by all nations. This can be done now. Test ban negotiations need not and should not await general disarmament.
- Second, stopping the production of fissionable materials for use in weapons, and preventing their transfer to any nation now lacking in nuclear weapons.
- Third, prohibiting the transfer of control over nuclear weapons to states that do not own them.
- Fourth, keeping nuclear weapons from seeding new battlegrounds in outer space.
- Fifth, gradually destroying existing nuclear weapons and converting their materials to peaceful uses; and
- Finally, halting the unlimited testing and production of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, and gradually destroying them as well.
- But we are well aware that all issues of principle are not settled, and that principles alone are not enough. It is therefore our intention to challenge the Soviet Union, not to an arms race, but to a peace race- -to advance together step by step, stage by stage, until general and complete disarmament has been achieved. We invite them now to go beyond agreement in principle to reach agreement on actual plans.
- Peace is not solely a matter of military or technical problems — it is primarily a problem of politics and people. And unless man can match his strides in weaponry and technology with equal strides in social and political development, our great strength, like that of the dinosaur, will become incapable of proper control — and like the dinosaur vanish from the earth.
- Political sovereignty is but a mockery without the means of meeting poverty and illiteracy and disease. Self-determination is but a slogan if the future holds no hope.
- I do not ignore the remaining problems of traditional colonialism which still confront this body. Those problems will be solved, with patience, good will, and determination. Within the limits of our responsibility in such matters, my Country intends to be a participant and not merely an observer, in the peaceful, expeditious movement of nations from the status of colonies to the partnership of equals. That continuing tide of self-determination, which runs so strong, has our sympathy and our support. But colonialism in its harshest forms is not only the exploitation of new nations by old, of dark skins by light, or the subjugation of the poor by the rich. My Nation was once a colony, and we know what colonialism means; the exploitation and subjugation of the weak by the powerful, of the many by the few, of the governed who have given no consent to be governed, whatever their continent, their class, their color.
- For a city or a people to be truly free they must have the secure right, without economic, political or police pressure, to make their own choice and to live their own lives.
- The political disposition of peoples should rest upon their own wishes, freely expressed in plebiscites or free elections. If there are legal problems, they can be solved by legal means. If there is a threat of force, it must be rejected. If there is desire for change, it must be a subject for negotiation, and if there is negotiation, it must be rooted in mutual respect and concern for the rights of others.
- I pledge you that we will neither commit nor provoke aggression, that we shall neither flee nor invoke the threat of force, that we shall never negotiate out of fear, we shall never fear to negotiate.
- Terror is not a new weapon. Throughout history it has been used by those who could not prevail, either by persuasion or example. But inevitably they fail, either because men are not afraid to die for a life worth living, or because the terrorists themselves came to realize that free men cannot be frightened by threats, and that aggression would meet its own response. And it is in the light of that history that every nation today should know, be he friend or foe, that the United States has both the will and the weapons to join free men in standing up to their responsibilities.
- I come here today to look across this world of threats to a world of peace. In that search we cannot expect any final triumph — for new problems will always arise. We cannot expect that all nations will adopt like systems — for conformity is the jailor of freedom, and the enemy of growth. Nor can we expect to reach our goal by contrivance, by fiat or even by the wishes of all.
But however close we sometimes seem to that dark and final abyss, let no man of peace and freedom despair. For he does not stand alone. If we all can persevere, if we can in every land and office look beyond our own shores and ambitions, then surely the age will dawn in which the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.
- Ladies and gentlemen of this Assembly, the decision is ours. Never have the nations of the world had so much to lose, or so much to gain. Together we shall save our planet, or together we shall perish in its flames. Save it we can — and save it we must — and then shall we earn the eternal thanks of mankind and, as peacemakers, the eternal blessing of God.
Address at the University of Washington
- The basis of self-government and freedom requires the development of character and self-restraint and perseverance and the long view. And these are qualities which require many years of training and education.
- We increase our arms at a heavy cost, primarily to make certain that we will not have to use them. We must face up to the chance of war, if we are to maintain the peace. We must work with certain countries lacking in freedom in order to strengthen the cause of freedom. We find some who call themselves neutral who are our friends and sympathetic to us, and others who call themselves neutral who are unremittingly hostile to us. And as the most powerful defender of freedom on earth, we find ourselves unable to escape the responsibilities of freedom, and yet unable to exercise it without restraints imposed by the very freedoms we seek to protect.
We cannot, as a free nation, compete with our adversaries in tactics of terror, assassination, false promises, counterfeit mobs and crises.
We cannot, under the scrutiny of a free press and public, tell different stories to different audiences, foreign and domestic, friendly and hostile.
We cannot abandon the slow processes of consulting with our allies to match the swift expediencies of those who merely dictate to their satellites.
We can neither abandon nor control the international organization in which we now cast less than 1 percent of the vote in the General Assembly.
We possess weapons of tremendous power — but they are least effective in combating the weapons most often used by freedom’s foes: subversion, infiltration, guerrilla warfare, civil disorder.
We send arms to other peoples — just as we send them the ideals of democracy in which we believe — but we cannot send them the will to use those arms or to abide by those ideals.
And while we believe not only in the force of arms but in the force of right and reason, we have learned that reason does not always appeal to unreasonable men — that it is not always true that “a soft answer turneth away wrath” — and that right does not always make might.
In short, we must face problems which do not lend themselves to easy or quick or permanent solutions. And we must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient — that we are only 6 percent of the world’s population — that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind — that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity — and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.
- Also quoted in “Warrior for Peace” by David Talbot, in TIME (2 July 2007), p. 50
- These burdens and frustrations are accepted by most Americans with maturity and understanding. They may long for the days when war meant charging up San Juan Hill-or when our isolation was guarded by two oceans — or when the atomic bomb was ours alone — or when much of the industrialized world depended upon our resources and our aid. But they now know that those days are gone — and that gone with them are the old policies and the old complacency’s. And they know, too, that we must make the best of our new problems and our new opportunities, whatever the risk and the cost.
But there are others who cannot bear the burden of a long twilight struggle. They lack confidence in our long-run capacity to survive and succeed. Hating communism, yet they see communism in the long run, perhaps, as the wave of the future. And they want some quick and easy and final and cheap solution — now.
There are two groups of these frustrated citizens, far apart in their views yet very much alike in their approach. On the one hand are those who urge upon us what I regard to be the pathway of surrender-appeasing our enemies, compromising our commitments, purchasing peace at any price, disavowing our arms, our friends, our obligations. If their view had prevailed, the world of free choice would be smaller today.
On the other hand are those who urge upon us what I regard to be the pathway of war: equating negotiations with appeasement and substituting rigidity for firmness. If their view had prevailed, we would be at war today, and in more than one place.
It is a curious fact that each of these extreme opposites resembles the other. Each believes that we have only two choices: appeasement or war, suicide or surrender, humiliation or holocaust, to be either Red or dead. Each side sees only “hard” and “soft” nations, hard and soft policies, hard and soft men. Each believes that any departure from its own course inevitably leads to the other: one group believes that any peaceful solution means appeasement; the other believes that any arms build-up means war. One group regards everyone else as warmongers, the other regards everyone else as appeasers. Neither side admits that its path will lead to disaster — but neither can tell us how or where to draw the line once we descend the slippery slopes of appeasement or constant intervention.
In short, while both extremes profess to be the true realists of our time, neither could be more unrealistic. While both claim to be doing the nation a service, they could do it no greater disservice. This kind of talk and easy solutions to difficult problems, if believed, could inspire a lack of confidence among our people when they must all — above all else — be united in recognizing the long and difficult days that lie ahead. It could inspire uncertainty among our allies when above all else they must be confident in us. And even more dangerously, it could, if believed, inspire doubt among our adversaries when they must above all be convinced that we will defend our vital interests.
The essential fact that both of these groups fail to grasp is that diplomacy and defense are not substitutes for one another. Either alone would fail. A willingness to resist force, unaccompanied by a willingness to talk, could provoke belligerence — while a willingness to talk, unaccompanied by a willingness to resist force, could invite disaster.
- But as long as we know what comprises our vital interests and our long-range goals, we have nothing to fear from negotiations at the appropriate time, and nothing to gain by refusing to take part in them. At a time when a single clash could escalate overnight into a holocaust of mushroom clouds, a great power does not prove its firmness by leaving the task of exploring the other’s intentions to sentries or those without full responsibility. Nor can ultimate weapons rightfully be employed, or the ultimate sacrifice rightfully demanded of our citizens, until every reasonable solution has been explored. “How many wars,” Winston Churchill has written, “have been averted by patience and persisting good will! …. How many wars have been precipitated by firebrands!”
- If vital interests under duress can be preserved by peaceful means, negotiations will find that out. If our adversary will accept nothing-less than a concession of our rights, negotiations will find that out. And if negotiations are to take place, this nation cannot abdicate to its adversaries the task of choosing the forum and the framework and the time.
- No one should be under the illusion that negotiations for the sake of negotiations always advance the cause of peace. If for lack of preparation they break up in bitterness, the prospects of peace have been endangered. If they are made a forum for propaganda or a cover for aggression, the processes of peace have been abused. But it is a test of our national maturity to accept the fact that negotiations are not a contest spelling victory or defeat. They may succeed — they may fail. They are likely to be successful only if both sides reach an agreement which both regard as preferable to the status quo — an agreement in which each side can consider its own situation to be improved. And this is most difficult to obtain. But, while we shall negotiate freely, we shall not negotiate freedom. Our answer to the classic question of Patrick Henry is still no-life is not so dear, and peace is not so precious, “as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery.” And that is our answer even though, for the first time since the ancient battles between Greek city-states, war entails the threat of total annihilation, of everything we know, of society itself. For to save mankind’s future freedom, we must face up to any risk that is necessary. We will always seek peace — but we will never surrender.
- In short, we are neither “warmongers” nor “appeasers,” neither “hard” nor “soft.” We are Americans, determined to defend the frontiers of freedom, by an honorable peace if peace is possible, but by arms if arms are used against us. And if we are to move forward in that spirit, we shall need all the calm and thoughtful citizens that this great University can produce, all the light they can shed, all the wisdom they can bring to bear. It is customary, both here and around the world, to regard life in the United States as easy. Our advantages are many. But more than any other people on earth, we bear burdens and accept risks unprecedented in their size and their duration, not for ourselves alone but for all who wish to be free.
- The success of this Government, and thus the success of our Nation, depends in the last analysis upon the quality of our career services. The legislation enacted by the Congress, as well as the decisions made by me and by the department and agency heads, must all be implemented by the career men and women in the Federal service. In foreign affairs, national defense, science and technology, and a host of other fields, they face problems of unprecedented importance and perplexity. We are all dependent on their sense of loyalty and responsibility as well as their competence and energy.”
- “Special Message to the Congress on Federal Pay Reform (55)” (20 February 1962)
- We welcome the views of others. We seek a free flow of information across national boundaries and oceans, across iron curtains and stone walls. We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
- John F. Kennedy: “Remarks on the 20th Anniversary of the Voice of America” (26 February 1962)
- For one true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members. Let this be the measure of our nation.
- Special message to the Congress on National Health Needs (65)” (27 February 1962)
- Our deep spiritual confidence that this nation will survive the perils of today — which may well be with us for decades to come — compels us to invest in our nation’s future, to consider and meet our obligations to our children and the numberless generations that will follow.
- “Special message to the Congress on Conservation (69)” (1 March 1962)
- …what really counts is not the immediate act of courage or of valor, but those who bear the struggle day in and day out — not the sunshine patriots but those who are willing to stand for a long period of time.
- “Remarks at the White House to Members of the American Legion (70)” (1 March 1962)
- …there is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some are stationed in San Francisco. It’s very hard in the military or personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.
- [http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/Ready-Reference/JFK-Quotations.aspx “President’s News Conference (107)” (21 March 1962)
- And Prince Bismarck was even more specific. One third, he said, of the students of German universities broke down from overwork, another third broked down from dissipation, and the other third ruled Germany.
- “Address in Berkeley at the University of California (109)” (23 March 1962)
- The green beret’ is again becoming a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom. I know the United States Army will live up to its reputation for imagination, resourcefulness, and spirit as we meet this challenge.
- “Letter to the United States Army” (11 April 1962); Box 5, President’s Outgoing Executive Correspondence, White House Central Chronological Files, Papers of John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
- I think it is most appropriate that the President of the United States, whose business place is in Washington, should come to this city and participate in these rallies. Because the business of the Government is the business of the people — and the people are right here.
- Speech at Madison Square Garden in New York City to support his program of “medical care for the aged.” (20 May 1962)
- The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
- Commencement address, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (11 June 1962) 
- Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
- Address to Latin American diplomats at the White House (13 March 1962) 
- I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.
- Address at a White House dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners (29 April 1962), quoted in The White House Diary, at the JFK Library
- While geography has made us neighbors, tradition has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies — in a vast Alianza para el Progreso. Those whom nature has so joined together, let no man put asunder.
- Address by the President at a Luncheon Given in His Honor by President Lopez Matcos (29 June 1962)
- I have seen in many places housing which has been developed under government influences, but I have never seen any projects in which governments have played their part which have fountains and statues and grass and trees, which are as important to the concept of the home as the roof itself.”
- Remarks at the Unidad Independencia Housing Project, City of Mexico (269)” (30 June 1962)
- It’s only when they join together in a forward movement that this country moves ahead…
- “Remarks at Los Banos, CA at the Groundbreaking Ceremonies for the San Luis Dam (337)” (18 August 1962)
- I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it — we are going back from whence we came.”
- “Remarks in Newport at the Australian Ambassador’s Dinner for the America’s Cup Crews (383)” (14 September 1962)
- All students, members of the faculty, and public officials in both Mississippi and the Nation will be able, it is hoped, to return to their normal activities with full confidence in the integrity of American law. This is as it should be, for our Nation is founded on the principle that observance of the law is the eternal safeguard of liberty and defiance of the law is the surest road to tyranny. The law which we obey includes the final rulings of the courts, as well as the enactments of our legislative bodies. Even among law-abiding men few laws are universally loved, but they are uniformly respected and not resisted. Americans are free, in short, to disagree with the law but not to disobey it. For in a government of laws and not of men, no man, however prominent or powerful, and no mob however unruly or boisterous, is entitled to defy a court of law. If this country should ever reach the point where any man or group of men by force or threat of force could long defy the commands of our court and our Constitution, then no law would stand free from doubt, no judge would be sure of his writ, and no citizen would be safe from his neighbors.
- Radio and Television Report to the Nation on the Situation at the University of Mississippi (30 September 1962)
- In 1945 a Mississippi sergeant, Jake Lindsey, was honored by an unusual joint session of the Congress. I close therefore, with this appeal to the students of the University, the people who are most concerned. You have a great tradition to uphold, a tradition of honor and courage won on the field of battle and on the gridiron as well as the University campus. You have a new opportunity to show that you are men of patriotism and integrity. For the most effective means of upholding the law is not the State policeman or the marshals or the National Guard. It is you. It lies in your courage to accept those laws with which you disagree as well as those with which you agree.
- Radio and Television Report to the Nation on the Situation at the University of Mississippi (30 September 1962)
- Bullfight critics row on row
Fill the enormous Plaza de toros
But only one is there who knows
And he is the one who fights the bull.
- Slightly misquoting Domingo Ortega, as translated by the English poet Robert Graves), in remarks during a Presidential Backgrounder before the National Foreign Policy Conference for Editors and Radio-TV Public Affairs Broadcasters (16 October 1962)]; “Presidential Backgrounder 16 October 1962 #50,” Box 134, Classified Background Briefing Material Series, Pierre Salinger Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
- The original poem: Bullfight critics ranked in rows
Crowd the enormous Plaza full
But only one is there who knows
And he’s the man who fights the bull.
- I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.
- “Remarks at a Closed-circuit Television Broadcast on Behalf of the National Cultural Center (527)” (29 November 1962)
- There is a limitation, in other words, upon the power of the United States to bring about solutions. I think our people get awfully impatient and maybe fatigued and tired, and saying “We have been carrying this burden for 17 years; can we lay it down?” We can’t lay it down, and I don’t see how we are going to lay it down in this century. So that I would say that the problems are more difficult than I had imagined them to be. The responsibilities placed on the United States are greater than I imagined them to be, and there are greater limitations upon our ability to bring about a favorable result than I had imagined them to be. And I think that is probably true of anyone who becomes President, because there is such a difference between those who advise or speak or legislate, and between the man who must select from the various alternatives proposed and say that this shall be the policy of the United States. It is much easier to make the speeches than it is to finally make the judgments, because unfortunately your advisers are frequently divided. If you take the wrong course, and on occasion I have, the President bears the burden of the responsibility quite rightly. The advisers may move on to new advice.
- John F. Kennedy: “Television and Radio Interview: “After Two Years — a Conversation With the President” (17 December 1962)
- To further the appreciation of culture among all the people, to increase respect for the creative individual, to widen participation by all the processes and fulfillments of art — this is one of the fascinating challenges of these days.
- “The Arts in America” in LOOK magazine (18 December 1962), p. 110; also reported in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 907 and inscribed on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
- Too often in the past, we have thought of the artist as an idler and dilettante and of the lover of arts as somehow sissy and effete. We have done both an injustice. The life of the artist is, in relation to his work, stern and lonely. He has labored hard, often amid deprivation, to perfect his skill. He has turned aside from quick success in order to strip his vision of everything secondary or cheapening. His working life is marked by intense application and intense discipline.
- “LOOK Magazine Article ‘The Arts in America’ (552)” (18 December 1962)
- The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose…and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.
- “LOOK Magazine Article ‘The Arts in America’ (552)” (18 December 1962); also inscribed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
Second State of the Union Address
- Second State of the Union Address (11 January 1962)
- Members of the Congress, the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress. We are all trustees for the American people, custodians of the American heritage. It is my task to report the State of the Union — to improve it is the task of us all.
- The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining — by filling three basic gaps in our anti-recession protection.
- World order will be secured only when the whole world has laid down these weapons which seem to offer us present security but threaten the future survival of the human race. That armistice day seems very far away. The vast resources of this planet are being devoted more and more to the means of destroying, instead of enriching, human life.
But the world was not meant to be a prison in which man awaits his execution. Nor has mankind survived the tests and trials of thousands of years to surrender everything — including its existence — now. This Nation has the will and the faith to make a supreme effort to break the log jam on disarmament and nuclear tests — and we will persist until we prevail, until the rule of law has replaced the ever dangerous use of force.
- These various elements in our foreign policy lead, as I have said, to a single goal — the goal of a peaceful world of free and independent states. This is our guide for the present and our vision for the future — a free community of nations, independent but interdependent, uniting north and south, east and west, in one great family of man, outgrowing and transcending the hates and fears that rend our age.
We will not reach that goal today, or tomorrow. We may not reach it in our own lifetime. But the quest is the greatest adventure of our century. We sometimes chafe at the burden of our obligations, the complexity of our decisions, the agony of our choices. But there is no comfort or security for us in evasion, no solution in abdication, no relief in irresponsibility.
Address at Independence Hall
- The necessity for comity between the National Government and the several States is an indelible lesson of our long history. Because our system is designed to encourage both differences and dissent, because its checks and balances are designed to preserve the rights of the individual and the locality against preeminent central authority, you and I, Governors, recognize how dependent we both are, one upon the other, for the successful operation of our unique and happy form of government. Our system and our freedom permit the legislative to be pitted against the executive, the State against the Federal Government, the city against the countryside, party against party, interest against interest, all in competition or in contention one with another. Our task — your task in the State House and my task in the White House — is to weave from all these tangled threads a fabric of law and progress. We are not permitted the luxury of irresolution. Others may confine themselves to debate, discussion, and that ultimate luxury — free advice. Our responsibility is one of decision — for to govern is to choose.
- The theory of independence is as old as man himself, and it was not invented in this hall. But it was in this hall that the theory became a practice; that the word went out to all, in Thomas Jefferson’s phrase, that “the God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.” And today this Nation — conceived in revolution, nurtured in liberty, maturing in independence — has no intention of abdicating its leadership in that worldwide movement for independence to any nation or society committed to systematic human oppression.
- As apt and applicable as the Declaration of Independence is today, we would do well to honor that other historic document drafted in this hall — the Constitution of the United States. For it stressed not independence but interdependence — not the individual liberty of one but the indivisible liberty of all.
- A great new edifice is not built overnight. It was 11 years from the Declaration of Independence to the writing of the Constitution. The construction of workable federal institutions required still another generation. The greatest works of our Nation’s founders lay not in documents and in declarations, but in creative, determined action. The building of the new house of Europe has followed the same practical, purposeful course. Building the Atlantic partnership now will not be easily or cheaply finished.
- In most of the old colonial world, the struggle for independence is coming to an end. Even in areas behind the Curtain, that which Jefferson called “the disease of liberty” still appears to be infectious. With the passing of ancient empires, today less than 2 percent of the world’s population lives in territories officially termed “dependent.” As this effort for independence, inspired by the American Declaration of Independence, now approaches a successful close, a great new effort — for interdependence — is transforming the world about us. And the spirit of that new effort is the same spirit which gave birth to the American Constitution. That spirit is today most clearly seen across the Atlantic Ocean. The nations of Western Europe, long divided by feuds far more bitter than any which existed among the 13 colonies, are today joining together, seeking, as our forefathers sought, to find freedom in diversity and in unity, strength.
- Acting on our own, by ourselves, we cannot establish justice throughout the world; we cannot insure its domestic tranquility, or provide for its common defense, or promote its general welfare, or secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. But joined with other free nations, we can do all this and more. We can assist the developing nations to throw off the yoke of poverty. We can balance our worldwide trade and payments at the highest possible level of growth. We can mount a deterrent powerful enough to deter any aggression. And ultimately we can help to achieve a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion.
- On this fourth day of July, 1962, we who are gathered at this same hall, entrusted with the fate and future of our States and Nation, declare now our vow to do our part to lift the weights from the shoulders of all, to join other men and nations in preserving both peace and freedom, and to regard any threat to the peace or freedom of one as a threat to the peace and freedom of all.
Rice University speech
- The greater our knowledge increases the greater our ignorance unfolds.
- No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50 thousand years of man’s recorded history in a time span of but a half-century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power. Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America’s new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.
This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.
So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this state of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward — and so will space.
- If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.
- Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it — we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.
- Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.
- We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.
- There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again.
- We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
- We have had our failures, but so have others, even if they do not admit them. And they may be less public.
- The growth of our science and education will be enriched by new knowledge of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school. Technical institutions, such as Rice, will reap the harvest of these gains. And finally, the space effort itself, while still in its infancy, has already created a great number of new companies, and tens of thousands of new jobs. Space and related industries are generating new demands in investment and skilled personnel, and this city and this state, and this region, will share greatly in this growth.
- Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.” Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
Cuban Missile Crisis speech
- Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation’s security to constitute maximum peril. Nuclear weapons are so destructive and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace.
- The 1930’s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged ultimately leads to war.
- We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of a worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth — but neither shall we shrink from that risk any time it must be faced.
- The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are; but it is one of the most consistent with our character and our courage as a nation and our commitments around the world. The cost of freedom is always high — but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and this is the path of surrender or submission. Our goal is not victory of might but the vindication of right — not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved. Thank you, and good night.
First letter to Nikita Khrushchev
- JFK points out that the U.S. is pursuing a “minimum response” but will do whatever is necessary to assure its security.(22 October 1962)
- A copy of the statement I am making tonight concerning developments in Cuba and the reaction of my Government thereto has been handed to your Ambassador in Washington. In view of the gravity of the developments to which I refer, I want you to know immediately and accurately the position of my Government in this matter.
- In our discussions and exchanges on Berlin and other international questions, the one thing that has most concerned me has been the possibility that your Government would not correctly understand the will and determination of the United States in any given situation, since I have not assumed that you or any other sane man would, in this nuclear age, deliberately plunge the world into war which it is crystal clear no country could win and which could only result in catastrophic consequences to the whole world, including the aggressor.
- At our meeting in Vienna and subsequently, I expressed our readiness and desire to find, through peaceful negotiation, a solution to any and all problems that divide us. At the same time. I made clear that in view of the objectives of the ideology to which you adhere, the United States could not tolerate any action on your part which in a major way disturbed the existing over-all balance of power in the world. I stated that an attempt to force abandonment of our responsibilities and commitments in Berlin would constitute such an action and that the United States would resist with all the power at its command.
- It was in order to avoid any incorrect assessment on the part of your Government with respect to Cuba that I publicly stated that if certain developments in Cuba took place, the United States would do whatever must be done to protect its own security and that of its allies.
- Moreover, the Congress adopted a resolution expressing its support of this declared policy. Despite this, the rapid development of long-range missile bases and other offensive weapons systems in Cuba has proceeded. I must tell you that the United States is determined that this threat to the security of this hemisphere be removed. At the same time, I wish to point out that the action we are taking is the minimum necessary to remove the threat to the security of the nations of this hemisphere. The fact of this minimum response should not be taken as a basis, however, for any misjudgment on your part.
- I hope that your Government will refrain from any action which would widen or deepen this already grave crisis and that we can agree to resume the path of peaceful negotiation.
Second Letter to Nikita Khrushchev
- This is a response from Kennedy to Nikita Khrushchev reassuring the Soviets that the U.S. would not invade Cuba. President Kennedy responded to the requests of Khrushchev’s first letter to him, disregarding the second letter. Upon agreement of these letters, the Missile Crisis was over (27 October 1962)
- I have read your letter of October 26th with great care and welcomed the statement of your desire to seek a prompt solution to the problem. The first thing that needs to be done, however, is for work to cease on offensive missile bases on Cuba and for all weapons systems in Cuba capable of offensive use to be rendered inoperable, under effective United Nations arrangements.
- Assuming this is done promptly, I have given my representatives in New York instructions that will permit them to work out this weekend — in cooperation with the Acting Secretary General and your representative — an arrangement for a permanent solution to the Cuban problem along the lines suggested in your letter of October 26th. As I read your letter, the key elements of your proposals — which seem generally acceptable as I understand them — are as follows:
- 1) You would agree to remove these weapons systems from Cuba under appropriate United Nations observation and supervision; and undertake, with suitable safeguards, to halt the further introduction of such weapons systems into Cuba.
- 2) We, on our part, would agree — upon the establishment of adequate arrangements through the United Nations to ensure the carrying out and continuation of these commitments — (a) to remove promptly the quarantine measures now in effect and (b) to give assurances against an invasion of Cuba. I am confident that other nations of the Western Hemisphere would be prepared to do likewise.
- If you will give your representative similar instructions, there is no reason why we should not be able to complete these arrangements and announce them to the world within a couple of days. The effect of such a settlement on easing world tensions would enable us to work toward a more general arrangement regarding “other armaments,” as proposed in your second letter which you made public. I would like to say again that the United States is very much interested in reducing tensions and halting the arms race; and if your letter signifies that you are prepared to discuss a detente affecting NATO and the Warsaw Pact, we are quite prepared to consider with our allies any useful proposals.
- But the first ingredient, let me emphasize, is the cessation of work on missile sites on Cuba and measures to render such weapons inoperable, under effective international guarantees. The continuations of this threat, or prolonging of this discussion concerning Cuba by linking these problems to the broader questions of European and world security, would surely lead to the peace of the world. For this reason I hope we can quickly agree along the lines outlined in this letter of October 26th.
Address and Question and Answer Period at the Economic Club of New York (549)
- (14 December 1962) Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962 )]
- It is increasingly clear that no matter what party is in power, so long as our national security needs keep rising, an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough jobs or enough profits.
- If the economy of today were operating close to capacity levels with little unemployment, or if a sudden change in our military requirements should cause a scramble for men and resources, then I would oppose tax reductions as irresponsible and inflationary; and I would not hesitate to recommend a tax increase if that were necessary.
- The final and best means of strengthening demand among consumers and business is to reduce the burden on private income and the deterrents to private initiative which are imposed by our present tax system.
- In short, to increase demand and lift the economy, the Federal Government’s most useful role is not to rush into a program of excessive increases in public expenditures, but to expand the incentives and opportunities for private expenditures.
- [O]ur present tax system, developed as it was, in good part, during World War II to restrain growth, exerts too heavy a drag on growth in peace time; that it siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power; that it reduces the financial incentives for personal effort, investment, and risk-taking.
- When consumers purchase more goods, plants use more of their capacity, men are hired instead of laid off, investment increases and profits are high.
- Corporate tax rates must also be cut to increase incentives and the availability of investment capital. The Government has already taken major steps this year to reduce business tax liability and to stimulate the modernization, replacement, and expansion of our productive plant and equipment.
- In short, it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now.
- A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.
- Remarks Recorded for the Opening of a USIA Transmitter at Greenville, North Carolina (8 February 1963) Audio at JFK Library (01:29 – 01:40) · Text of speech at The American Presidency Project
- This increase in the life span and in the number of our senior citizens presents this Nation with increased opportunities: the opportunity to draw upon their skill and sagacity — and the opportunity to provide the respect and recognition they have earned. It is not enough for a great nation merely to have added new years to life — our objective must also be to add new life to those years.
- Special message to the Congress on the needs of the nation’s senior citizens (21 February 1963); in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 189
- With all of the history of war, and the human race’s history unfortunately has been a good deal more war than peace, with nuclear weapons distributed all through the world, and available, and the strong reluctance of any people to accept defeat, I see the possibility in the 1970’s of the President of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have these weapons.”
- The President’s News Conference (107)” (21 March 1963)
- “…we must think and act not only for the moment but for our time. I am reminded of the story of the great French Marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. The Marshal replied, ‘In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon.'”
- “Address in Berkeley at the University of California (109)” (23 March 1962)
- The dangers in the proliferation of national nuclear weapons systems are so obvious that I am sure I need not repeat them here.
It is because of our preoccupation with this problem that my Government has sought to arrange with you for periodic visits to Dimona. When we spoke together in May 1961 you said that we might make whatever use we wished of the information resulting from the first visit of American scientists to Dimona and that you would agree to further visits by neutrals as well. I had assumed from Mrs. Meir’s comment that there would be no problem between us on this.
We are concerned with the disturbing effects on world stability which would accompany the development of a nuclear weapons capability by Israel. I cannot imagine that the Arabs would refrain from turning to the Soviet Union for assistance if Israel were to develop a nuclear weapons capability–with all the consequences this would hold. But the problem is much larger than its impact on the Middle East. Development of a nuclear weapons capability by Israel would almost certainly lead other larger countries, that have so far refrained from such development, to feel that they must follow suit.
I can well appreciate your concern for developments in the UAR. But I see no present or imminent nuclear threat to Israel from there. I am assured that our intelligence on this question is good and that the Egyptians do not presently have any installation comparable to Dimona, nor any facilities potentially capable of nuclear weapons production. But, of course, if you have information that would support a contrary conclusion, I should like to receive it from you through Ambassador Barbour. We have the capacity to check it.
- 18 May 1963 letter to David Ben-Gurion the Prime Minister of Israel
- I think when we talk about corporal punishment, and we have to think about our own children, and we are rather reluctant, it seems to me, to have other people administering punishment to our own children, because we are reluctant, it puts a special obligation on us to maintain order and to send children out from our homes who accept the idea of discipline. So I would not be for corporal punishment in the school, but I would be for very strong discipline at home so we don’t place an unfair burden on our teachers.
- News Conference 56 (22 May 1963)
- “O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”
- “Remarks in New York City at the Dedication of the East Coast Memorial to the Missing at Sea (203)” (23 May 1963) Quoting an old Breton fishermen’s prayer that Admiral Rickover had inscribed on plaques that he gave to newly commissioned submarine captains. Rickover presented President Kennedy with one of these plaques, which sat on his desk in the Oval Office.
- No country can possibly move ahead, no free society can possibly be sustained, unless it has an educated citizenry whose qualities of mind and heart permit it to take part in the complicated and increasingly sophisticated decisions that pour not only upon the President and upon the Congress, but upon all the citizens who exercise the ultimate power…Quite obviously, there is a higher purpose, and that is the hope that you will turn to the service of the State the scholarship, the education, the qualities which society has helped develop in you; that you will render on the community level, or on the state level, or on the national level, or render on the community level, or on the state level, or on the national level, or the international level a contribution to the maintenance of freedom and peace and the security of our country and those associated with it in a most critical time.
- “Commencement Address at San Diego State College (226)” (6 June 1963)
- This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.
- Radio and television report to the American people on civil rights (11 June 1963)]
- Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.
- At the signing of a charter establishing the German Peace Corps, Bonn, West Germany (24 June 1963);
- according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum President Kennedy got his facts wrong. Dante never made this statement. The closest to what President Kennedy meant is in the Inferno where the souls in the ante-room of hell, who “lived without disgrace and without praise,” and the coward angels, who did not rebel but did not resist the cohorts of Lucifer, are condemned to being whirled through the air by great winds while being stung by wasps and horseflies. Dante placed those who “non furon ribelli né fur fedeli” — were neither for nor against God, in a special region near the mouth of Hell; the lowest part of Hell, a lake of ice, was for traitors. According to Bartleby.com Kennedy’s remark may have been inspired by the passage from Dante Alighieri’s La Comedia Divina “Inferno,” canto 3, lines 35–42 (1972) passage as translated by Geoffrey L. Bickersteth: “by those disbodied wretches who were loth when living, to be either blamed or praised. […] Fear to lose beauty caused the heavens to expel these caitiffs; nor, lest to the damned they theng ave cause to boast, receives them the deep hell.” A more modern-sounding translation from the foregoing Dante’s Inferno passage was translataed 1971 by Mark Musa thus: “They are mixed with that repulsive choir of angels … undecided in neutrality. Heaven, to keep its beauty, cast them out, but even Hell itself would not receive them for fear the wicked there might glory over them.”
- There are those who regard this history of past strife and exile as better forgotten. But, to use the phrase of Yeats, let us not casually reduce “that great past to a trouble of fools.” For we need not feel the bitterness of the past to discover its meaning for the present and the future.
- Speech to a joint session of the Dail and the Seanad, Dublin, Ireland (28 June 1963)
- The world is even smaller today, though the enemy of John Boyle O’Reilly is no longer a hostile power. Indeed, across the gulfs and barriers that now divide us, we must remember that there are no permanent enemies. Hostility today is a fact, but it is not a ruling law. The supreme reality of our time is our indivisibility as children of God and our common vulnerability on this planet.
- Speech to a joint session of the Dail and the Seanad, Dublin, Ireland (28 June 1963)
- The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were and ask “why not?”.
- Speech delivered to the Dail (Parliament of Ireland) (28 June 1963)
- The peace-keeping machinery of the United Nations cannot work without the help of the smaller nations, nations whose forces threaten no one and whose forces can thus help create a world in which no nation is threatened. Great powers have their responsibilities and their burdens, but the smaller nations of the world must fulfill their obligations as well.
- Speech to a joint session of the Dail and the Seanad, Dublin, Ireland (28 June 1963)
- Five score years ago the ground on which we here stand shuddered under the clash of arms and was consecrated for all time by the blood of American manhood. Abraham Lincoln, in dedicating this great battlefield, has expressed, in words too eloquent for paraphrase or summary, why this sacrifice was necessary. Today, we meet not to add to his words nor to amend his sentiment but to recapture the feeling of awe that comes when contemplating a memorial to so many who placed their lives at hazard for right, as God gave them to see right. Among those who fought here were young men who but a short time before were pursuing truth in the peaceful halls of the then new University of Notre Dame. Since that time men of Notre Dame have proven, on a hundred battlefields, that the words, “For God, For Country, and For Notre Dame,” are full of meaning. Let us pray that God may grant us the wisdom to find and to follow a path that will enable the men of Notre Dame and all of our young men to seek truth in the halls of study rather than on the field of battle.”
- “Message from the President on the Occasion of Field Mass at Gettysburg, delivered by John S. Gleason, Jr.” (29 June 1963); Box 10, President’s Outgoing Executive Correspondence, White House Central Chronological Files, Papers of John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
- I must say that though other days may not be so bright, as we look toward the future, that the brightest days will continue to be those we spent with you here in Ireland.
- Speech at Eyre Square, Galway, Ireland (29 June 1963)
- This is not the land of my birth, but it is the land for which I hold the greatest affection, and I certainly will come back in the springtime
- Speech at Limerick, Ireland (29 June 1963)
- Communism has sometimes succeeded as a scavenger, but never as a leader. It has never come to power in a country that was not disrupted by war or corruption, or both.
- Speech at NATO Headquarters, Naples Italy (2 July 1963)
- Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.
- Re: United States Committee for UNICEF (25 July 1963); Box 11, President’s Outgoing Executive Correspondence Series, White House Central Chronological File, Presidential Papers, Papers of John F. Kennedy
- And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worth while, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: “I served in the United States Navy.”
- Remarks at the U.S. Naval Academy (1 August 1963), Public Papers of the Presidents 321, p. 620
- I want to drink a cup of tea to all those Kennedys who went and all those Kennedys who stayed.
- While visiting his ancestral homestead in Wexford, as quoted in BBC News
- This is a great country and requires a good deal of all of us, so I can imagine nothing more important than for all of you to continue to work in public affairs and be interested in them, not only to bring up a family, but also give part of your time to your community, your state, and your country.
- “Remarks to the Delegates of Girls Nation (322)” (2 August 1963)
- As this State’s income rises, so does the income of Michigan. As the income of Michigan rises, so does the income of the United States. A rising tide lifts all the boats and as Arkansas becomes more prosperous so does the United States and as this section declines so does the United States. So I regard this as an investment by the people of the United States in the United States.
- Remarks in Heber Springs, Arkansas, at the Dedication of Greers Ferry Dam (3 October 1963)
- Variant: Rising tide lifts all boats.
- Remarks in Pueblo, Colorado following Approval of the Frying Pan-Arkansas Project (336)” (17 August 1962)
- I can assure you that there is no career which you will adopt when you leave college that will bring you a more and greater sense of satisfaction and a greater feeling of participation in a great effort than will your work here or in your state or in your community…this generation of Americans — you here who will be in positions of responsibility for the rest of this century — will deal with the most difficult, sensitive, and dangerous problems that any society of people has ever dealt with at any age…The Greeks defined happiness as the full use of your powers along the lines of excellence, and I can imagine no place where you can use your powers more fully along lines more excellent in the 1960’s than to be in the service of the United States.
- “Remarks to Student Participants in the White House Seminar in Government (334)” (27 August 1963)
- A tax cut means higher family income and higher business profits and a balanced federal budget…. As the national income grows, the federal government will ultimately end up with more revenues. Prosperity is the real way to balance our budget. By lowering tax rates, by increasing jobs and income, we can expand tax revenues and finally bring our budget into balance.
- “Radio and Television Address to the Nation on the Test Ban Treaty and the Tax Reduction Bill” (18 September 1963)
- What we seek to advance, what we seek to develop in all of our colleges and universities, are educated men and women who can bear the burdens of responsible citizenship, who can make judgments about life as it is, and as it must be, and encourage the people to make those decisions which can bring not only prosperity and security, but happiness to the people of the United Sates and those who depend upon it.
- “Address at the University of North Dakota (379)” (25 September 1963)
- I hope that all of you who are students here will recognize the great opportunity that lies before you in this decade, and in the decades to come, to be of service to our country. The Greeks once defined happiness as full use of your powers along lines of excellence, and I can assure you that there is no area of life where you will have an opportunity to use whatever powers you have, and to use them along more excellent lines, bringing ultimately, I think, happiness to you and those whom you serve.”
- “Address at the University of Wyoming (381)” (25 September 1963)
- I ask particularly that those of you who are now in school will prepare yourselves to bear the burden of leadership over the next 40 years here in the United States, and make sure that the United States — which I believe almost alone has maintained watch and ward for freedom — that the United States meet its responsibility. That is a wonderful challenge for us as a people.
- “Remarks at the Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington (387)” (27 September 1963)
- A young man who does not have what it takes to perform military service is not likely to have what it takes to make a living. Today’s military rejects include tomorrow’s hard core unemployed.
- President JOHN F. KENNEDY, statement on the need for training or rehabilitation of Selective Service rejectees” (30 September 1963); also: John F. Kennedy: “Statement by the President on the Need for Training or Rehabilitation of Selective Service Rejectees” (30 September 1963)
- Things don’t just happen, they are made to happen.
- Speech given at the Arkansas State Fairground, Little Rock, United States of America (3 October 1963); quoted in John F. Kennedy in Quotations: A Topical Dictionary, with Sources (2013), McFarland, entry 1729
- We can say with some assurance that, although children may be the victims of fate, they will not be the victims of our neglect.
- “Remarks upon signing the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Bill (434)” (24 October 1963)]
- A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.
- Remarks at Amherst College (26 October 1963)
- The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.
- Remarks at Amherst College (26 October 1963)
- When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.
- Remarks at Amherst College (26 October 1963)
- The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure.
- Remarks at Amherst College (26 October 1963)
- We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.
- Remarks at Amherst College (26 October 1963)
- I have said that control of arms is a mission that we undertake particularly for our children and our grandchildren and that they have no lobby in Washington.
- “Statement by the President to American Women Concerning their Role in Securing World Peace (449)” (1 November 1963)
- This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it.
- “Remarks in San Antonio at the Dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center (472),” (21 November 1963); the original anecdote from which Kennedy derived this comparison is in An Only Child (1961) by Frank O’Connor, p. 180.
- Much time has passed since the first colonists came to rocky shores and dark forests of an unknown continent, much time since President Washington led a young people into the experience of nationhood, much time since President Lincoln saw the American nation through the ordeal of fraternal war — and in these years our population, our plenty and our power have all grown apace. Today we are a nation of nearly two hundred million souls, stretching from coast to coast, on into the Pacific and north toward the Arctic, a nation enjoying the fruits of an ever-expanding agriculture and industry and achieving standards of living unknown in previous history. We give our humble thanks for this.
Yet, as our power has grown, so has our peril. Today we give our thanks, most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers — for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.
Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings — let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals — and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world.
- Proclamation 3560 — Thanksgiving Day (5 November 1963); this was a proclamation released on 5 November for the Thanksgiving Day of 1963, which in that year fell upon the 28th day of that month.
- I come here today…not just because you are doing well and because you are outstanding students, but because we expect something of you. And unless in this free country of ours we are able to demonstrate that we are able to make this society work and progress, unless we can hope that from you we are going to get back all of the talents which society has helped develop in you, then, quite obviously, all the hopes of all of us that freedom will not only endure but prevail, of course, will be disappointed. So we ask the best of you…I congratulate you on what you have done, and most of all I congratulate you on what you are going to do.
- “Remarks in New York City to the National Convention of the Catholic Youth Organization (463),” (15 November 1963)
Third State of the Union Address
- Little more than 100 weeks ago I assumed the office of President of the United States. In seeking the help of the Congress and our countrymen, I pledged no easy answers. I pledged — and asked — only toil and dedication. These the Congress and the people have given in good measure.
- In short, both at home and abroad, there may now be a temptation to relax. For the road has been long, the burden heavy, and the pace consistently urgent. But we cannot be satisfied to rest here. This is the side of the hill, not the top. The mere absence of war is not peace. The mere absence of recession is not growth. We have made a beginning — but we have only begun. Now the time has come to make the most of our gains — to translate the renewal of our national strength into the achievement of our national purpose.
- I am convinced that the enactment this year of tax reduction and tax reform overshadows all other domestic problems in this Congress. For we cannot for long lead the cause of peace and freedom, if we ever cease to set the pace here at home. For we cannot for long lead the cause of peace and freedom, if we ever cease to set the pace here at home.
- This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.
- The future of any country which is dependent upon the will and wisdom of its citizens is damaged, and irreparably damaged, whenever any of its children is not educated to the full extent of his talent, from grade school through graduate school.
- As the idealism of our youth has served world peace, so can it serve the domestic tranquility.
- These are not domestic concerns alone. For upon our achievement of greater vitality and strength here at home hang our fate and future in the world: our ability to sustain and supply the security of free men and nations, our ability to command their respect for our leadership, our ability to expand our trade without threat to our balance of payments, and our ability to adjust to the changing demands of cold war competition and challenge. We shall be judged more by what we do at home than by what we preach abroad. Nothing we could do to help the developing countries would help them half as much as a booming U.S. economy. And nothing our opponents could do to encourage their own ambitions would encourage them half as much as a chronic lagging U.S. economy. These domestic tasks do not divert energy from our security — they provide the very foundation for freedom’s survival and success.
- But complacency or self-congratulation can imperil our security as much as the weapons of tyranny. A moment of pause is not a promise of peace.
- For the road to world peace and freedom is still long, and there are burdens which only full partners can share — in supporting the common defense, in expanding world trade, in aligning our balance of payments, in aiding the emergent nations, in concerting political and economic policies, and in welcoming to our common effort other industrialized nations, notably Japan, whose remarkable economic and political development of the 1950’s permits it now to play on the world scene a major constructive role.
- For the unity of freedom has never relied on uniformity of opinion.
- While we shall never weary in the defense of freedom, neither shall we ever abandon the pursuit of peace.
- For we seek not the worldwide victory of one nation or system but a worldwide victory of man. The modern globe is too small, its weapons are too destructive, and its disorders are too contagious to permit any other kind of victory.
Address at Vanderbilt University
- The essence of Vanderbilt is still learning, the essence of its outlook is still liberty, and liberty and learning will be and must be the touchstones of Vanderbilt University and of any free university in this country or the world. I say two touchstones, yet they are almost inseparable, inseparable if not indistinguishable, for liberty without learning is always in peril, and learning without liberty is always in vain.
- This State, this city, this campus, have stood long for both human rights and human enlightenment — and let that forever be true. This Nation is now engaged in a continuing debate about the rights of a portion of its citizens. This Nation is now engaged in a continuing debate about the rights of a portion of its citizens. That will go on, and those rights will expand until the standard first forged by the Nation’s founders has been reached, and all Americans enjoy equal opportunity and liberty under law. But this Nation was not founded solely on the principle of citizens’ rights. Equally important, though too often not discussed, is the citizen’s responsibility. For our privileges can be no greater than our obligations. The protection of our rights can endure no longer than the performance of our responsibilities. Each can be neglected only at the peril of the other. I speak to you today, therefore, not of your rights as Americans, but of your responsibilities. They are many in number and different in nature. They do not rest with equal weight upon the shoulders of all. Equality of opportunity does not mean equality of responsibility. All Americans must be responsible citizens, but some must be more responsible than others, by virtue of their public or their private position, their role in the family or community, their prospects for the future, or their legacy from the past. Increased responsibility goes with increased ability, for “of those to whom much is given, much is required.”
- You have responsibilities, in short, to use your talents for the benefit of the society which helped develop those talents. You must decide, as Goethe put it, whether you will be an anvil or a hammer, whether you will give to the world in which you were reared and educated the broadest possible benefits of that education. Of the many special obligations incumbent upon an educated citizen, I would cite three as outstanding: your obligation to the pursuit of learning, your obligation to serve the public, your obligation to uphold the law.
- If the pursuit of learning is not defended by the educated citizen, it will not be defended at all. For there will always be those who scoff at intellectuals, who cry out against research, who seek to limit our educational system. Modern cynics and skeptics see no more reason for landing a man on the moon, which we shall do, than the cynics and skeptics of half a millennium ago saw for the discovery of this country. They see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.
But the educated citizen knows how much more there is to know. He knows that “knowledge is power,” more so today than ever before. He knows that only an educated and informed people will be a free people, that the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all, and that if we can, as Jefferson put it, “enlighten the people generally … tyranny and the oppressions of mind and body will vanish, like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” And, therefore, the educated citizen has a special obligation to encourage the pursuit of learning, to promote exploration of the unknown, to preserve the freedom of inquiry, to support the advancement of research, and to assist at every level of government the improvement of education for all Americans, from grade school to graduate school.
- Secondly, the educated citizen has an obligation to serve the public. He may be a precinct worker or President. He may give his talents at the courthouse, the State house, the White House. He may be a civil servant or a Senator, a candidate or a campaign worker, a winner or a loser. But he must be a participant and not a spectator. “At the Olympic games,” Aristotle wrote, “it is not the finest and strongest men who are crowned, but they who enter the lists-for out of these the prize-men are elected. So, too, in life, of the honorable and the good, it is they who act who rightly win the prizes.”
- I urge all of you today, especially those who are students, to act, to enter the lists of public service and rightly win or lose the prize. For we can have only one form of aristocracy in this country, as Jefferson wrote long ago in rejecting John Adams’ suggestion of an artificial aristocracy of wealth and birth. It is, he wrote, the natural aristocracy of character and talent, and the best form of government, he added, was that which selected these men for positions of responsibility.
- I would hope that all educated citizens would fulfill this obligation — in politics, in Government, here in Nashville, here in this State, in the Peace Corps, in the Foreign Service, in the Government Service, in the Tennessee Valley, in the world. You will find the pressures greater than the pay. You may endure more public attacks than support. But you will have the unequaled satisfaction of knowing that your character and talent are contributing to the direction and success of this free society.
- Third, and finally, the educated citizen has an obligation to uphold the law. This is the obligation of every citizen in a free and peaceful society — but the educated citizen has a special responsibility by the virtue of his greater understanding. For whether he has ever studied history or current events, ethics or civics, the rules of a profession or the tools of a trade, he knows that only a respect for the law makes it possible for free men to dwell together in peace and progress.
- He knows that law is the adhesive force in the cement of society, creating order out of chaos and coherence in place of anarchy. He knows that for one man to defy a law or court order he does not like is to invite others to defy those which they do not like, leading to a breakdown of all justice and all order. He knows, too, that every fellowman is entitled to be regarded with decency and treated with dignity. Any educated citizen who seeks to subvert the law, to suppress freedom, or to subject other human beings to acts that are less than human, degrades his heritage, ignores his learning, and betrays his obligation.
- Certain other societies may respect the rule of force — we respect the rule of law.
- Ninety years from now I have no doubt that Vanderbilt University will still be fulfilling this mission. It will still uphold learning, encourage public service, and teach respect for the law. It will neither turn its back on proven wisdom or turn its face from newborn challenge. It will still pass on to the youth of our land the full meaning of their rights and their responsibilities. And it will still be teaching the truth — the truth that makes us free and will keep us free.
American University speech
- I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived — yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace. What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women — not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.
- I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn. Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need to use them is essential to keeping the peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles — which can only destroy and never create — is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace. I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war — and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.
- Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament — and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitude — as individuals and as a Nation — for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward — by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace, toward the Soviet Union, toward the course of the cold war and toward freedom and peace here at home.
- Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable — that mankind is doomed — that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade — therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable — and we believe they can do it again.
- I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal. Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace — based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions — on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace — no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process — a way of solving problems.
- Kennedy’s “focus on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution of human institutions.” was quoted by Barack Obama in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
- World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor — it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors.
- Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.
- No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue.
- In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours — and even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest. So, let us not be blind to our differences — but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.
- Let us reexamine our attitude toward the cold war, remembering that we are not engaged in a debate, seeking to pile up debating points. We are not here distributing blame or pointing the finger of judgment. We must deal with the world as it is, and not as it might have been had the history of the last 18 years been different. We must, therefore, persevere in the search for peace in the hope that constructive changes within the Communist bloc might bring within reach solutions which now seem beyond us. We must conduct our affairs in such a way that it becomes in the Communists’ interest to agree on a genuine peace. Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy — or of a collective death-wish for the world. To secure these ends, America’s weapons are nonprovocative, carefully controlled, designed to deter, and capable of selective use. Our military forces are committed to peace and disciplined in self- restraint. Our diplomats are instructed to avoid unnecessary irritants and purely rhetorical hostility. For we can seek a relaxation of tension without relaxing our guard. And, for our part, we do not need to use threats to prove that we are resolute. We do not need to jam foreign broadcasts out of fear our faith will be eroded. We are unwilling to impose our system on any unwilling people — but we are willing and able to engage in peaceful competition with any people on earth.
- The one major area of these negotiations where the end is in sight, yet where a fresh start is badly needed, is in a treaty to outlaw nuclear tests. The conclusion of such a treaty, so near and yet so far, would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. It would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms. It would increase our security — it would decrease the prospects of war. Surely this goal is sufficiently important to require our steady pursuit, yielding neither to the temptation to give up the whole effort nor the temptation to give up our insistence on vital and responsible safeguards.
- The quality and spirit of our own society must justify and support our efforts abroad.
- And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights — the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation — the right to breathe air as nature provided it — the right of future generations to a healthy existence?
- While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests. And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both.
- No treaty, however much it may be to the advantage of all, however tightly it may be worded, can provide absolute security against the risks of deception and evasion. But it can — if it is sufficiently effective in its enforcement and if it is sufficiently in the interests of its signers — offer far more security and far fewer risks than an unabated, uncontrolled, unpredictable arms race.
- The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough — more than enough — of war and hate and oppression. We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on — not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace.
Civil Rights Address
- This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.
- Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Vietnam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops.
- It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal. It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.
- This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety. Nor is this a partisan issue. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone. It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right. We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.
- The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?
- One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.
- We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is a land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?
- The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives. We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives. It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all. Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.
- This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents. We cannot say to 10 percent of the population that you can’t have that right; that your children can’t have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go into the streets and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that. Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents. As I have said before, not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or an equal motivation, but they should have the equal right to develop their talent and their ability and their motivation, to make something of themselves.
- We have a right to expect that the Negro community will be responsible, will uphold the law, but they have a right to expect that the law will be fair, that the Constitution will be color blind, as Justice Harlan said at the turn of the century.
Address in the Assembly Hall at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt
- Partnership is not a posture but a process-a continuous process that grows stronger each year as we devote ourselves to common tasks.
- As they say on my own Cape Cod, a rising tide lifts all the boats. And a partnership, by definition, serves both partners, without domination or unfair advantage. Together we have been partners in adversity — let us also be partners in prosperity.
- But Goethe tells us in his greatest poem that Faust lost the liberty of his soul when he said to the passing moment: “Stay, thou art so fair.” And our liberty, too, is endangered if we pause for the passing moment, if we rest on our achievements, if we resist the pace of progress. For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.
- Variant: Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.
- Documents on International Affairs, 1963, Royal Institute of International Affairs, ed. Sir John Wheeler Wheeler-Bennett, p. 36.
- Variant: Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.
- The mission is to create a new social order, rounded on liberty and justice, in which men are the masters of their fate, in which states are the servants of their citizens, and in which all men and women can share a better life for themselves and their children. That is the object of our common policy. To realize this vision, we must seek a world of peace — a world in which peoples dwell together in mutual respect and work together in mutual regard — a world where peace is not a mere interlude between wars, but an incentive to the creative energies of humanity. We will not find such a peace today, or even tomorrow. The obstacles to hope are large and menacing. Yet the goal of a peaceful world — today and tomorrow-must shape our decisions and inspire our purposes. So we are all idealists. We are all visionaries. Let it not be said of this Atlantic generation that we left ideals and visions to the past, nor purpose and determination to our adversaries. We have come too far, we have sacrificed too much, to disdain the future now. And we shall ever remember what Goethe told us — that the “highest wisdom, the best that mankind ever knew” was the realization that “he only earns his freedom and existence who daily conquers them anew.”
Ich bin ein Berliner
- Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was “civis Romanus sum.” Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner.”
- There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.
- Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. […] While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.
- What is true of this city is true of Germany — real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.
- Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.
All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner.”
Address at the Free University of Berlin
- Prince Bismarck once said that one-third of the students of German universities broke down from overwork; another third broke down from dissipation, and the other third ruled Germany.
- The duty of the scholar, of the educated man, of the man or woman whom society has developed talents in, the duty of that man or woman is to help build the society which has made their own advancement possible.
- The scholar, the teacher, the intellectual, have a higher duty than any of the others, for society has trained you to think as well as do.
- First, what does truth require? It requires us to face the facts as they are, not to involve ourselves in self-deception; to refuse to think merely in slogans. If we are to work for the future of the city, let us deal with the realities as they actually are, not as they might have been, and not as we wish they were.
- We must first bring others to see their own true interests better than they do today.
- Secondly, what does justice require? In the end, it requires liberty.
- This right of free choice is no special privilege claimed by the Germans alone. It is an elemental requirement of human justice.
- The truth doesn’t die. The desire for liberty cannot be fully suppressed.
- As I said this morning, I am not impressed by the opportunities open to popular fronts throughout the world. I do not believe that any democrat can successfully ride that tiger. But I do believe in the necessity of great powers working together to preserve the human race, or otherwise we can be destroyed.
- But life is never easy. There is work to be done and obligations to be met — obligations to truth, to justice, and to liberty.
Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty speech
- Eighteen years ago the advent of nuclear weapons changed the course of the world as well as the war. Since that time, all mankind has been struggling to escape from the darkening prospect of mass destruction on earth. In an age when both sides have come to possess enough nuclear power to destroy the human race several times over, the world of communism and the world of free choice have been caught up in a vicious circle of conflicting ideology and interest. Each increase of tension has produced an increase of arms; each increase of arms has produced an increase of tension.
- Yesterday a shaft of light cut into the darkness. Negotiations were concluded in Moscow on a treaty to ban all nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water. For the first time, an agreement has been reached on bringing the forces of nuclear destruction under international control-a goal first sought in 1946 when Bernard Baruch presented a comprehensive control plan to the United Nations.
- I do not say that a world without aggression or threats of war would be an easy world. It will bring new problems, new challenges from the Communists, new dangers of relaxing our vigilance or of mistaking their intent. But those dangers pale in comparison to those of the spiraling arms race and a collision course towards war. Since the beginning of history, war has been mankind’s constant companion. It has been the rule, not the exception. Even a nation as young and as peace-loving as our own has fought through eight wars.
- A war today or tomorrow, if it led to nuclear war, would not be like any war in history. A full-scale nuclear exchange, lasting less than 60 minutes, with the weapons now in existence, could wipe out more than 300 million Americans, Europeans, and Russians, as well as untold numbers elsewhere. And the survivors, as Chairman Khrushchev warned the Communist Chinese, “the survivors would envy the dead.” For they would inherit a world so devastated by explosions and poison and fire that today we cannot even conceive of its horrors. So let us try to turn the world away from war. Let us make the most of this opportunity, and every opportunity, to reduce tension, to slow down the perilous nuclear arms race, and to check the world’s slide toward final annihilation.
- Continued unrestricted testing by the nuclear powers, joined in time by other nations which may be less adept in limiting pollution, will increasingly contaminate the air that all of us must breathe. Even then, the number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural health hazard — and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby — who may be born long after we are gone — should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent.
- During the next several years, in addition to the four current nuclear powers, a small but significant number of nations will have the intellectual, physical, and financial resources to produce both nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. In time, it is estimated, many other nations will have either this capacity or other ways of obtaining nuclear warheads, even as missiles can be commercially purchased today. I ask you to stop and think for a moment what it would mean to have nuclear weapons in so many hands, in the hands of countries large and small, stable and unstable, responsible and irresponsible, scattered throughout the world. There would be no rest for anyone then, no stability, no real security, and no chance of effective disarmament. There would only be the increased chance of accidental war, and an increased necessity for the great powers to involve themselves in what otherwise would be local conflicts. If only one thermonuclear bomb were to be dropped on any American, Russian, or any other city, whether it was launched by accident or design, by a madman or by an enemy, by a large nation or by a small, from any corner of the world, that one bomb could release more destructive power on the inhabitants of that one helpless city than all the bombs dropped in the Second World War.
- No one can be certain what the future will bring. No one can say whether the time has come for an easing of the struggle. But history and our own conscience will judge us harsher if we do not now make every effort to test our hopes by action. And this is the place to begin.
- According to the ancient Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” My fellow Americans, let us take that first step. Let us, if we can, step back from the shadows of war and seek out the way of peace. And if that journey is a thousand miles, or even more, let history record that we, in this land, at this time, took the first step.
- The world has not escaped from the darkness. The long shadows of conflict and crisis envelop us still. But we meet today in an atmosphere of rising hope, and at a moment of comparative calm. My presence here today is not a sign of crisis, but of confidence. I am not here to report on a new threat to the peace or new signs of war. I have come to salute the United Nations and to show the support of the American people for your daily deliberations. For the value of this body’s work is not dependent on the existence of emergencies — nor can the winning of peace consist only of dramatic victories. Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. And however undramatic the pursuit of peace, that pursuit must go on.
- The task of building the peace lies with the leaders of every nation, large and small. For the great powers have no monopoly on conflict or ambition. The cold war is not the only expression of tension in this world — and the nuclear race is not the only arms race. Even little wars are dangerous in a nuclear world. The long labor of peace is an undertaking for every nation — and in this effort none of us can remain unaligned. To this goal none can be uncommitted.
- Chronic disputes which divert precious resources from the needs of the people or drain the energies of both sides serve the interests of no one — and the badge of responsibility in the modern world is a willingness to seek peaceful solutions.
- I would say to the leaders of the Soviet Union, and to their people, that if either of our countries is to be fully secure, we need a much better weapon than the H-bomb — a weapon better than ballistic missiles or nuclear submarines — and that better weapon is peaceful cooperation.
- In these and other ways, let us move up the steep and difficult path toward comprehensive disarmament, securing mutual confidence through mutual verification, and building the institutions of peace as we dismantle the engines of war. We must not let failure to agree on all points delay agreements where agreement is possible. And we must not put forward proposals for propaganda purposes.
- Finally, in a field where the United States and the Soviet Union have a special capacity — in the field of space — there is room for new cooperation, for further joint efforts in the regulation and exploration of space. I include among these possibilities a joint expedition to the moon. Space offers no problems of sovereignty; by resolution of this Assembly, the members of the United Nations have foresworn any claim to territorial rights in outer space or on celestial bodies, and declared that international law and the United Nations Charter will apply. Why, therefore, should man’s first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition? Why should the United States and the Soviet Union, in preparing for such expeditions, become involved in immense duplications of research, construction, and expenditure? Surely we should explore whether the scientists and astronauts of our two countries — indeed of all the world — cannot work together in the conquest of space, sending someday in this decade to the moon not the representatives of a single nation, but the representatives of all of our countries.
- The contest will continue — the contest between those who see a monolithic world and those who believe in diversity — but it should be a contest in leadership and responsibility instead of destruction, a contest in achievement instead of intimidation. Speaking for the United States of America, I welcome such a contest. For we believe that truth is stronger than error — and that freedom is more enduring than coercion. And in the contest for a better life, all the world can be a winner.
- The effort to improve the conditions of man, however, is not a task for the few. It is the task of all nations — acting alone, acting in groups, acting in the United Nations, for plague and pestilence, and plunder and pollution, the hazards of nature, and the hunger of children are the foes of every nation. The earth, the sea, and the air are the concern of every nation. And science, technology, and education can be the ally of every nation. Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world — or to make it the last.
- New efforts are needed if this Assembly’s Declaration of Human Rights, now 15 years old, is to have full meaning. And new means should be found for promoting the free expression and trade of ideas — through travel and communication, and through increased exchanges of people, and books, and broadcasts. For as the world renounces the competition of weapons, competition in ideas must flourish — and that competition must be as full and as fair as possible.
- The United Nations cannot survive as a static organization. Its obligations are increasing as well as its size. Its Charter must be changed as well as its customs. The authors of that Charter did not intend that it be frozen in perpetuity. The science of weapons and war has made us all, far more than 18 years ago in San Francisco, one world and one human race, with one common destiny. In such a world, absolute sovereignty no longer assures us of absolute security. The conventions of peace must pull abreast and then ahead of the inventions of war. The United Nations, building on its successes and learning from its failures, must be developed into a genuine world security system.
- But peace does not rest in charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people. And if it is cast out there, then no act, no pact, no treaty, no organization can hope to preserve it without the support and the wholehearted commitment of all people. So let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper; let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace, in the hearts and minds of all our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings.
- Two years ago I told this body that the United States had proposed, and was willing to sign, a limited test ban treaty. Today that treaty has been signed. It will not put an end to war. It will not remove basic conflicts. It will not secure freedom for all. But it can be a lever, and Archimedes, in explaining the principles of the lever, was said to have declared to his friends: “Give me a place where I can stand — and I shall move the world.” My fellow inhabitants of this planet: Let us take our stand here in this Assembly of nations. And let us see if we, in our own time, can move the world to a just and lasting peace.
Speech at Amherst College
- Privilege is here, and with privilege goes responsibility.
- A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.
- The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.
- When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.
- The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure. He has, as Frost said, a lover’s quarrel with the world. In pursuing his perceptions of reality, he must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role. If Robert Frost was much honored in his lifetime, it was because a good many preferred to ignore his darker truths. Yet in retrospect, we see how the artist’s fidelity has strengthened the fibre of our national life. If sometimes our great artist have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our Nation falls short of its highest potential. I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.
- If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. And as Mr. MacLeish once remarked of poets, there is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style. In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society — in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man, the fate of having “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.”
- I look forward to a great future for America, a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.
- I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well. And I look forward to a world which will be safe not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction.
President John F. Kennedy’s last formal speech and public words
- For more than 3 years I have spoken about the New Frontier. This is not a partisan term, and it is not the exclusive property of Republicans or Democrats. It refers, instead, to this Nation’s place in history, to the fact that we do stand on the edge of a great new era, filled with both crisis and opportunity, an era to be characterized by achievement and by challenge. It is an era which calls for action and for the best efforts of all those who would test the unknown and the uncertain in every phase of human endeavor. It is a time for pathfinders and pioneers.
- Many Americans make the mistake of assuming that space research has no values here on earth. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as the wartime development of radar gave us the transistor, and all that it made possible, so research in space medicine holds the promise of substantial benefit for those of us who are earthbound. For our effort in space is not as some have suggested, a competitor for the natural resources that we need to develop the earth. It is a working partner and a coproducer of these resources. And nothing makes this clearer than the fact that medicine in space is going to make our lives healthier and happier here on earth.
- I give you three examples: first, medical space research may open up new understanding of man’s relation to his environment. Examinations of the astronaut’s physical, and mental, and emotional reactions can teach us more about the differences between normal and abnormal, about the causes and effects of disorientation, about changes in metabolism which could result in extending the life span. When you study the effects on our astronauts of exhaust gases which can contaminate their environment, and you seek ways to alter these gases so as to reduce their toxicity, you are working on problems similar to those in our great urban centers which themselves are being corrupted by gases and which must be clear.
- And second, medical space research may revolutionize the technology and the techniques of modern medicine. Whatever new devices are created, for example, to monitor our astronauts, to measure their heart activity, their breathing, their brain waves, their eye motion, at great distances and under difficult conditions, will also represent a major advance in general medical instrumentation. Heart patients may even be able to wear a light monitor which will sound a warning if their activity exceeds certain limits. An instrument recently developed to record automatically the impact of acceleration upon an astronaut’s eyes will also be of help to small children who are suffering miserably from eye defects, but are unable to describe their impairment. And also by the use of instruments similar to those used in Project Mercury, this Nation’s private as well as public nursing services are being improved, enabling one nurse now to give more critically ill patients greater attention than they ever could in the past.
- And third, medical space research may lead to new safeguards against hazards common to many environments. Specifically, our astronauts will need fundamentally new devices to protect them from the ill effects of radiation which can have a profound influence upon medicine and man’s relations to our present environment.
- I think the United States should be a leader. A country as rich and powerful as this which bears so many burdens and responsibilities, which has so many opportunities, should be second to none. And in December, while I do not regard our mastery of space as anywhere near complete, while I recognize that there are still areas where we are behind — at least in one area, the size of the booster — this year I hope the United States will be ahead. And I am for it. We have a long way to go. Many weeks and months and years of long, tedious work lie ahead. There will be setbacks and frustrations and disappointments. There will be, as there always are, pressures in this country to do less in this area as in so many others, and temptations to do something else that is perhaps easier. But this research here must go on. This space effort must go on. The conquest of space must and will go ahead. That much we know. That much we can say with confidence and conviction.
- Frank O’Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall — and then they had no choice but to follow them.
- This Nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it. Whatever the difficulties, they will be overcome. Whatever the hazards, they must be guarded against. With the vital help of this Aerospace Medical Center, with the help of all those who labor in the space endeavor, with the help and support of all Americans, we will climb this wall with safety and with speed-and we shall then explore the wonders on the other side.
- The original anecdote from whence Kennedy derived this comparison is in An Only Child, Frank O’Connor, London: MacMillan & Co. Ltd., 1961; p. 180.
Remarks Prepared for Delivery at the Trade Mart in Dallas
- It is fitting that these two symbols of Dallas progress are united in the sponsorship of this meeting, for they represent the best qualities, I am told, of leadership and learning in this city — and leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. The advancement of learning depends on community leadership for financial and political support and the products of that learning, in turn, are essential to the leadership’s hopes for continued progress and prosperity. It is not a coincidence that those communities possessing the best in research and graduate facilities — from MIT to Cal Tech — tend to attract the new and growing industries. […] This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level, it is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country’s security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason, or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.
- We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will “talk sense to the American people”. But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.
- I want to discuss with you today the status of our strength and our security because this question clearly calls for the most responsible qualities of leadership and the most enlightened products of scholarship. For this Nation’s strength and security are not easily or cheaply obtained, nor are they quickly and simply explained. There are many kinds of strength and no one kind will suffice. Overwhelming nuclear strength cannot stop a guerrilla war. Formal pacts of alliance cannot stop internal subversion. Displays of material wealth cannot stop the disillusionment of diplomats subjected to discrimination. Above all, words alone are not enough. The United States is a peaceful nation. And where our strength and determination are clear, our words need merely to convey conviction, not belligerence. If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.
- In this administration also it has been necessary at times to issue specific warnings — warnings that we could not stand by and watch the Communists conquer Laos by force, or intervene in the Congo, or swallow West Berlin, or maintain offensive missiles on Cuba. But while our goals were at least temporarily obtained in these and other instances, our successful defense of freedom was due not to the words we used, but to the strength we stood ready to use on behalf of the principles we stand ready to defend. This strength is composed of many different elements, ranging from the most massive deterrents to the most subtle influences. And all types of strength are needed — no one kind could do the job alone.
- Our security and strength, in the last analysis, directly depend on the security and strength of others, and that is why our military and economic assistance plays such a key role in enabling those who live on the periphery of the Communist world to maintain their independence of choice. Our assistance to these nations can be painful, risky and costly, as is true in Southeast Asia today. But we dare not weary of the task. For our assistance makes possible the stationing of 3-5 million allied troops along the Communist frontier at one-tenth the cost of maintaining a comparable number of American soldiers.
- Our foreign aid program is not growing in size, it is, on the contrary, smaller now than in previous years. It has had its weaknesses, but we have undertaken to correct them. And the proper way of treating weaknesses is to replace them with strength, not to increase those weaknesses by emasculating essential programs. Dollar for dollar, in or out of government, there is no better form of investment in our national security than our much-abused foreign aid program.
- Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live. And only an America which is growing and prospering economically can sustain the worldwide defenses of freedom, while demonstrating to all concerned the opportunities of our system and society.
- Our adversaries have not abandoned their ambitions, our dangers have not diminished, our vigilance cannot be relaxed. But now we have the military, the scientific, and the economic strength to do whatever must be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom. That strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions — it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations — it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.
- We in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of “peace on earth, good will toward men”. That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
Remarks Intended for Delivery to the Texas Democratic State Committee in the Municipal Auditorium in Austin
- JFK’s words at a speech he planned to give at Texas Welcome Dinner at Municipal Auditorium, Austin, Texas, night of 11/22/1963. The following quotes were meant to be delivered on 22 November 1963, in Austin, Texas. They were however never delivered; Kennedy was on his way to the Trade Mart when he was assassinated. Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian and PBS contributor, flagged the final lines of the speech that JFK would have given on the night of his assassination. Sources: John F. Kennedy: “Remarks Intended for Delivery to the Texas Democratic State Committee in the Municipal Auditorium in Austin,” November 22, 1963. , [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10425030/JFK-the-last-word.html JFK: the last word by The Guardian’s Alex Hannaford on November 6, 2013, The Last Lines Of The Speech JFK Would Have Given The Night Of His Assassination by The Huffington Post’s Paige Lavender on November 7, 2013, and Read the Last Lines of the Speech JFK Was Supposed to Give on the Night of His Assassination by The Blaze’s Jason Howert on November 7, 2013
- Civilization, it was once said, is a race between education and catastrophe — and we intend to win that race for education.
- For this country is moving and it must not stop. It cannot stop. For this is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a Party is not to our Party alone, but to the nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.
- So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake.
- Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause — united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future — and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.
- Just as I went into politics because Joe died, if anything happened to me tomorrow, my brother Bobby would run for my seat in the Senate. And if Bobby died, Teddy would take over for him.
- Quoted in The Remarkable Kennedys, Joe McCarthy, New York: Dial Press, 1960, page 114.
- I’m always rather nervous about how you talk about women who are active in politics, whether they want to be talked about as women or as politicians.
- Quoted in Bill Adler, “The Presidency,” The Wit of President Kennedy (1964).
- [JFK was speaking]…To a group of women delegates to the United Nations who had suggested that there might one day be a woman President.
- Whether I serve one or two terms in the Presidency, I will find myself at the end of that period at what might be called the awkward age — too old to begin a new career and too young to write my memoirs.
- Quoted in A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, Arthur Schlesinger (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965), page 1017. According to a footnote in Schlesinger’s manuscript (1st draft, page 1378), this was stated on February 13, 1961.
- All my life I’ve known better than to depend on the experts. How could I have been so stupid, to let them go ahead?
- Conversation with Theodore C. Sorensen concerning the Bay of Pigs Invasion; as quoted in Sorensen’s Kennedy (1965), p. 309.
- If anyone is crazy enough to want to kill a president of the United States, he can do it. All he must be prepared to do is give his life for the president’s.
- Pierre Salinger, With Kennedy (1966), Chapter 1: Lancer to Wayside, page 1
- When discussing the possibility of a complete military takeover in the country after reading the book Seven Days in May, President Kennedy said, “…if there were a third Bay of Pigs, it could happen.” He paused and then said “But it won’t happen on my watch.”
- Related in The Pleasure of His Company, Paul Fay, Jr., New York: Harper & Row, 1966, p. 190.
- I have a nice home, the office is close by, and the pay is good.
- Quoted in Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye, Kenneth O’Donnell, Dave Powers, and Joseph McCarthy, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1970, page 262.
- I was assured by every son of a bitch I checked with — all the military experts and the CIA — that the plan would succeed.
- Comment to Richard Nixon, about the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, as quoted in The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (1978) by Richard Nixon
- Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.
- As quoted in Mayor (1984) by Ed Koch
- It really is true that foreign affairs is the only important issue for a president to handle, isn’t? … I mean, Who gives a shit if the minimum wage is $1.15 or $1.25 in comparison to something like this?
- Comment to Richard Nixon, after the Bay of Pigs Invasion, as quoted in John F. Kennedy: The Presidential Portfolio : History as told through the collection of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum (2000) by Charles Kenney
- A wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.
- Upon hearing about the construction of the Berlin Wall, as quoted in “Savage century” in “The Sunday Times (28 May 2006)
- I think ‘Hail to the Chief’ has a nice ring to it.
- When asked what his favorite song was, as quoted in The Ultimate Book of Useless Information (2007) by Noel Botham
- I’m an idealist without illusions.
- Comment about JFK by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as quoted in the Audiobook Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (December 27, 2011) by Caroline Kennedy (Author, Narrator), Michael Beschloss (Author, Narrator), Jacqueline Kennedy (Narrator) & Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (Narrator) and published by Hyperion AudioBooks.
- What would Lincoln have been without the Civil War? Just another railroad lawyer!
- JFK to Gore Vidal, quoted in David Swanson’s Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union (2011).
- A revolution is coming — a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough — But a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability.
- Robert F. Kennedy, in a speech in the US Senate (9 May 1966)
- One person can make a difference, and every person should try.
- Political scientist Thomas E. Cronin, “Leadership and Democracy”, in ‘Liberal Education’, 1987
- A child miseducated is a child lost.
- Umaru Tanko Al-Makura on 29th July, 2013 at The Official Commissioning Of Ta’al Model School, Lafia By Nigeria’s President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan where Umaru Tanko Al-Makura said: “And, because the human mind is our fundamental resource, we are determined to avail our children the opportunity to acquire the best education possible, since a child mis-educated is a child lost.”
- There’s a plot in this country to enslave every man, woman, and child. Before I leave this high and noble office, I intend to expose this plot. – President John F. Kennedy 7 days before his assassination
- a fake quote debunked on several websites, including metabunk.org
Quotes about Kennedy
- I hate to say this because I know it’s going to be misunderstood, but his reputation is greater because of the tragedy of his death than it would have been if he had lived out two terms. … He was a most attractive person. He had real charm. He did not seem to be in any sense a great man. I do not think he knew a great deal about the matters which it’s desirable that a chief of state or a President of the United States should know about. He was not decisive.
- Dean Acheson, interview with Kenneth Harris for Life magazine (July 18, 1971), quoted in The Times (July 19, 1971), p. 4
- McCarthy was a Republican. The Democrats, however, have skeletons in their own closet and it’s worth remembering them, too. For example, Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, who was just as rabid an anti-Communist as McCarthy, did far more to repress free speech and political freedom than McCarthy ever attempted. It wasn’t a Republican president who locked up thousands of loyal Americans of Japanese descent in concentration camps for years. It was Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. And it wasn’t a Republican who wiretapped and snooped on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but Democrats John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, who signed the order as Attorney General.
- Bruce Bartlett, as quoted in Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past (2008), by B. Bartlett, p. xi.
- I met him in the 1950s when I was at Harvard, and I thought the world of him. I was greatly inspired by him when he became president, I found his inaugural address moving, I liked that special sense of vigor and enthusiasm that he injected into an America that seemed to be a little bit uncertain of itself, especially after the launch of the Sputnik. And I was profoundly shocked when he was shot. I remember that moment vividly, but I have to add that the more I learned about him later on, the more I became inclined to temper my enthusiasm for him. I began to see that he was much more manipulative, much more opportunistic, much more self-serving, much less guided by any profound sort of code of conduct or standard than I had believed. So it was, in a way, a disillusioning reassessment.
- Zbigniew Brzezinski, “The World According to Zbig” by Charles Gati in Politico, November 27, 2013.
- This story, prepared in close cooperation with the late President Kennedy, was scheduled for publication in Superman No. 168, when word of his tragic assassination reached us. We immediately took it off the press and substituted other material. How-ever, white house officials have since informed us that President Johnson wanted it published, as a tribute to his great predecessor, and so we dedicate to the memory of our late, beloved president this plea for his physical fitness program, to which he was wholeheartedly devoted during his life…”Superman’s mission for president Kennedy!”
- E. Nelson Bridwell, “Superman’s mission for president Kennedy!”, Superman #170 July 1964, as quoted in “Revisiting Superman’s Mission for JFK”, Emma Roller, Slate, Nov 22 2013.
- Kennedy was at the hawkish end of the administration.
- Noam Chomsky in Rethinking Camelot (1993).
- There are people who always want to get rid of anyone who is doing good for the world – like Martin Luther King, or President Kennedy; it always happens… he had a vision of right relationships for humanity.
- Benjamin Creme, Maitreya’s Emergence FAQ, Share International, (April 1999)
- President Kennedy was not aware of the Space Brothers per se, nor was he aware of the source of information. But he was aware of certain individuals in the diplomatic corps of America who were agents of the Space Brothers. He thought highly of their advice and information, and acted on it. It was always given through that agency in the diplomatic service.
Likewise, President George W.Bush, when he was in office, was informed by such an agent in the diplomatic service that there would be an attack on America – the White House, the Pentagon and major buildings – which came to pass on 9/11. The government was warned three months in advance of this event and did nothing about it. That is the extraordinary thing, the difference between Presidents Kennedy and Bush. Bush was advised not to react to the events of 9/11. Of course, the first thing he did was to react immediately in the wrong way.
- Benjamin Creme, UFOs: Their Spiritual Mission Conference Q & A, Part 1, Share International magazine (March 2010)
- “I’m sure Obama is an atheist, I’m sure Kennedy was an atheist, but I doubt if Pope Frank is.
- Richard Dawkins Interview with Bill Maher (2013)
- Kennedy survived as an orator to the point of delivering his own funeral oration, since Theodore Sorensen continued to write speeches for his successor in the same style that had contributed so much toward the dead man’s public persona.
- Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (1967)
- [The] premise is that Kennedy was a very good president, and might have been a great one if he’d lived. Few serious historians take this view … In reality, the kindest interpretation of Kennedy’s presidency is that he was a mediocrity whose death left his final grade as “incomplete.” The harsher view would deem him a near disaster — ineffective in domestic policy, evasive on civil rights and a serial blunderer in foreign policy, who barely avoided a nuclear war that his own brinksmanship had pushed us toward … We confuse charisma with competence, rhetoric with results, celebrity with genuine achievement.
- Ross Douthat The Enduring Cult of Kennedy, New York Times, November 26, 2011.
- President Kennedy was assassinated for a constellation of related issues: UFOs and extraterrestrial intelligence are part of a set of problems that include the world banking system, the intelligence directorates, this shadowy group that controls our society through interlocking corporate, financial and institutional interests and corrupt corporate interests in military and government affairs.
Jack Kennedy knew a great deal about this and was going to take decisive actions to try to correct it. He was going to rein in the military industrial complex. He was going to make peace with the Soviets; he was going to end the Cold War. In short, he was going to upset the fascist apple cart. And you have to understand that Jack Kennedy also was bright enough to know that Marilyn Monroe was murdered because she was going to talk about some of the things he had told her about ETs and related issues.
- Steven M. Greer in Hidden Truth Forbidden Knowledge, (2013)
- Jack Kennedy, as I understand it from my sources, was in the process, in the fall of 1963, of putting through the federal system an executive order that would have altered the dynamics of many of these projects. He was very much in favor of virtually dissolving the CIA. He wanted the UFO matter disclosed and the technologies used to benefit humanity He wanted to change the course we were taking in Vietnam. Well, this rogue entity was not going to let all this happen. He was, of course, assassinated before these changes could be effected.
- Steven M. Greer in Hidden Truth Forbidden Knowledge, (2013)
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, has been taken from us by an act which outrages decent men everywhere. He upheld the faith of our fathers, which is freedom for all men. He broadened the frontiers of that faith, and backed it with the energy and the courage which are the mark of the Nation he led. A man of wisdom, strength, and peace, he moulded and moved the power of our Nation in the service of a world of growing liberty and order. All who love freedom will mourn his death. As he did not shrink from his responsibilities, but welcomed them, so he would not have us shrink from carrying on his work beyond this hour of national tragedy. […] I earnestly recommend the people […] to pay their homage of love and reverence to the memory of a great and good man.
- Lyndon B. Johnson, Lyndon B. Johnson declaration upon John F. Kennedy’s assassination (1963)
- The greatest leader of our time has been struck down by the foulest deed of our time. Today ‘John Fitzgerald Kennedy lives on in the immortal words and works that he left behind. He lives on in the mind and memories of mankind. He lives on in the hearts of his countrymen. No words are sad enough to express our sense of loss. No words are strong enough to express our determination to continue the forward thrust of America that he began. The dream of conquering the vastness of space — the dream of partnership across the Atlantic — and across the Pacific as well-the dream of a Peace Corps in less developed nations — the dream of education for all of our children — the dream of jobs for all who seek them and need them — the dream of care for our elderly — the dream of an all-out attack on mental illness — and above all, the dream of equal rights for all Americans, whatever their race or color — these and other American dreams have been vitalized by his drive and by his dedication. And now the ideas and the ideals which he so nobly represented must and will be translated into effective action.
- Lyndon B. Johnson, [http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=25988&st=&st1= Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress (27 November 1963)
- Courage is the virtue that President Kennedy most admired. He sought out those people who had demonstrated in some way, whether it was on a battlefield or a baseball diamond, in a speech or fighting for a cause, that they had courage that they would stand up, that they could be counted on.
- Robert F. Kennedy, 1964 Memorial Edition of Profiles in Courage, Foreword by Robert F. Kennedy, p. 9
- But if there was one thing that ‘President Kennedy stood for that touched the most profound feeling of young people around the world, it was the belief that idealism, high aspirations, and deep convictions are not incompatible with the most practical and efficient of programs — that there is no basic inconsistency between ideals and realistic possibilities, no separation between the deepest desires of heart and of mind and the rational application of human effort to human problems.
- Robert F. Kennedy, Day of Affirmation Address (1966).
- In the Vietnam War, the leaders of the White House claimed at the time that it was a necessary and crucial war, and during it, Donald Rumsfeld and his aides murdered two million villagers. And when Kennedy took over the presidency and deviated from the general line of policy drawn up for the White House and wanted to stop this unjust war, that angered the owners of the major corporations who were benefiting from its continuation. And so Kennedy was killed, and al-Qaida wasn’t present at that time, but rather, those corporations were the primary beneficiary from his killing. And the war continued after that for approximately one decade. But after it became clear to you that it was an unjust and unnecessary war, you made one of your greatest mistakes, in that you neither brought to account nor punished those who waged this war, not even the most violent of its murderers, Rumsfeld.
- Osama bin Laden, as quoted in Not Popular.
- Kennedy’s posthumous reputation has undergone an extraordinary series of metamorphoses. As could have been predicted, the first revaluation of his character and achievement was almost as depressing as the conspiracy theories; his histoire amoureuse was being touted around before the first blade of grass had grown on his grave, and soon every whore in America was announcing that he had enjoyed her favours.
- Bernard Levin, “The Last Hurrah”, The Times, November 21, 1988.
- And none so poor to do it reverence. What happened? Surely something did, for that portrait of Kennedy can hardly be recognised from the version we have today. He is now widely thought of, when he is thought of at all, as either an earlier model of President Carter, all goodwill and muddle, or a belligerent adventurer likely to follow the Bay of Pigs fiasco with an unprovoked nuclear strike on Moscow. Was it all show and froth, good looks and rhetoric? I do not believe it. In the first place, Kennedy was not a liberal in the Carter mode (let alone the Dukakis version); it would almost be closer to the reality to say that he was a liberal in the sense of the Manchester school.
- Kennedy would have ordered nuclear retaliation on Cuba — and perhaps the Soviet Union — if nuclear weapons had been fired at United States forces.
- Robert McNamara, U.S. secretary of defense under President John F. Kennedy, according to The New York Times; On the Brink of Nuclear War, Awake! magazine, May 22, 1992.
- Nikita Krushchev’s eagerness to challenge U.S. interests around the world contributed to the spread of the Cold War in the Middle East, East Asia, Latin America, and even Africa. Krushchev’s aggressiveness was motivated not only by a desire to take advantage of an opportunity to expand Soviet influence but also by the perceived Soviet need to fend off a growing challenge by China for leadership of the communist movement. Krushchev’s willingness to engage the United States in a nuclear arms race was motivated primarily by his realization that the Soviet Union, despite the continuing development of its nuclear arsenal, was still vulnerable to an American nuclear strike. He undoubtedly believed that the best defense is a good offense and that a forward policy would conceal Soviet nuclear weakness while serving to pressure the West to resolve issues, such as Berlin, to the satisfaction of the Soviet Union. Krushchev’s aggressiveness also made Soviet-American reconciliation impossible during the 1950s.
- Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 133-134
- Krushchev’s public rhetoric also made Soviet-American reconciliation difficult, if not impossible, early in Kennedy’s presidency. On January 6, 1961, the Soviet leader declared his country would support “wars of national liberation” in the underdeveloped world. Krushchev’s declaration, wrote the president’s confidante and historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., “alarmed Kennedy more than Moscow’s amiable signals assuaged him.” Although Kennedy was willing to negotiate an end to the Cold War, the Third World challenge which Krushchev threw at him would have to be dealt with first.
- Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 135
- In the opinion of another historian, Bruce Miroff, Kennedy’s reaction to Krushchev’s blustering revealed an acute inferiority complex, which the president manifested by a perverse need to prove his leadership capabilities. As a result, rather than ignoring or minimizing Krushchev’s threats, as Eisenhower usually did, Kennedy personalized them and converted them into tests of will, in the process manufacturing crises that need not have been. “There was really nothing in that [Eisenhower] era comparable to the Berlin crisis of 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis of 1962,” Miroff observes, both of which represented the closest approaches to a superpower nuclear war during the Cold War. For whatever reasons, whether they were primarily ideological, political, or psychological- and all were important- in formulating his initial response to the Soviet Union Kennedy chose to emphasize Krushchev’s bellicose actions rather than his friendly gestures. Only after Kennedy had proved to the Soviet leader that he was not soft on communism would diplomacy make any headway during his presidency.
- Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 136
- Kennedy was praised nationwide, even by his Republican critics, for his masterly handling of the Cuban missile crisis, a response Schlesinger characterized as a “combination of toughness and restraint.” Yet few discussed what could have happened had he failed. Historian Louise FitzSimons points out what many preferred not to think about: “In the flush of success and relief from danger, Kennedy was determined to force Krushchev’s total capitulation- no matter the cost.” During the height of the crisis, the president himself placed the likelihood of disaster at “somewhere between one out of three and even,” and lamented that the world’s children might not live out their lives. Ironically, the enhanced short-term prestige that Kennedy experienced in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis only produced greater long-term insecurity for his country. The humiliation Krushchev suffered at the hands of Kennedy during the missile crisis contributed to his removal from power in October 1964. The new Soviet leadership, headed by Leonid Brezhnev, was determined to avoid a repetition of the humiliation Krushchev had experienced. Beginning in early 1965, the Kremlin embarked on a massive expansion of the Soviet nuclear arsenal that would enable the Soviet Union to achieve nuclear parity with the United States by the end of the decade. in addition, Kennedy’s triumph in the Cuban missile crisis contributed to the development of what historian William J. Medland has called an “arrogance of power,” a belief that the United States had the communists on the run. This new attitude helped to explain the growing U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
- Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 144
- The Cuban missile crisis also had beneficial consequences. The close brush with nuclear war helped create a climate for productive arms control negotiations, which had not existed since the abortive Paris summit of May 1960. Attempting to reduce tensions with the West, Krushchev, on December 19, 1962, sent Kennedy a personal letter inviting him to intensify the effort to conclude a nuclear test ban treaty. With the humiliation of the Bay of Pigs fiasco erased by his astute performance during the Cuban missile crisis, and sobered by the close superpower approach to nuclear war, Kennedy accepted Krushchev’s invitation. Six months later, Kennedy delivered the most conciliatory speech on the Soviet Union of his career. In a commencement address at American University on June 10, 1963, he called on Americans to reexamine their attitudes toward the Soviet Union. “In the final analysis,” he told his audience, “we all inhabit this small planet… And we are all mortal.” Kennedy called on the American people to support his effort to conclude a nuclear test ban agreement. It would be an initial step toward preserving the life of the planet. As a sign of good faith in the ultimate success of the test ban talks, Kennedy announced that the United States would not conduct atmospheric nuclear tests as long as the Soviet Union employed similar restraint.
- Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 144-145
- Despite the limited nature of Kennedy’s philosophical transformation after the Cuban missile crisis, his American University speech nevertheless had an extremely favorable impact on the Soviet leadership. Krushchev told Averell Harriman that it was the best speech delivered by a U.S. president since Franklin Roosevelt. In response, on June 20 the Soviet signed a “hot line” agreement, which established a direct teletype link between Moscow and Washington. The agreement was designed to reduce the risks of an accidental nuclear was as well as ease tensions during international crises.
- Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 145
- Shouldn’t someone tag Mr. Kennedy’s “bold new imaginative” program with its proper age? Under the tousled boyish haircut it is still old Karl Marx — first launched a century ago. There is nothing new in the idea of a government being Big Brother to us all. Hitler called his “State Socialism” and way before him it was “benevolent monarchy.”
- Ronald Reagan in a 1960 letter to the GOP presidential candidate Richard Nixon, quoted in Matthew Dallek’s The Right Moment: Ronald Reagan’s First Victory and the Decisive Turning Point in American Politics (2000), p. 38
- Yet another universally held conviction [among Europeans is that] Americans make it a point of honor to elect only mental defectives as Presidents. From the Missouri tie salesman Harry Truman to the Texas cretin George W. Bush, not to mention the peanut farmer Jimmy Carter and the B-movie actor Ronald Reagan, the White House offers us a gallery of nincompoops. Only John F. Kennedy, in the eyes of the French, rose a little above this undistinguished bunch, probably because he had the merit of having married someone of French extraction; naturally, this union could not fail to raise President Kennedy’s intelligence to at least average level — but doubtless still too high for his fellow citizens, who never forgave him and ended up assassinating him.
- Jean-François Revel, “Europe’s Anti-American Obsession” (2003)
- Jack ought to show a little less profile and a little more courage.
- Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, quoted in James C. Humes’s My Fellow Americans: Presidential Addresses that Shaped History (1992).
- There was a civil war in this country… Kennedy provoked such hostility and hatred. His death was cheered in the South because of his support for Martin Luther King. He was moving to change things on all fronts. He was starting to end the Cold War. He made a deal with Khruschev and Russia in 1962 to end the missile crisis, and he furthered the deal when he signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. He installed the Hot Line. He… described the Soviets for the first time in American history as mortals, like us, who care about their children. He seemed to have an expanding vision of the world, much like Gorbachev did in Russia in the ’80s. *People in power are afraid to ask the obvious questions. From Day 1, they accepted the cover story that Oswald did it [assassinated JFK] alone. Oswald said he was the patsy. A lot of people believed him, but not the establishment. Since that day, the media has chanted the mantra that Oswald did it alone. But the American public, which has been brainwashed with that for 28 years, has never accepted it. They smell a rat.
- Oliver Stone in Oliver Stone Defends ‘JFK’ against conspirancy Dunces by Roger Ebert Interviews 22 December 1991
- I was charmed and delighted by Kennedy personally, and certainly he was intelligent. But any man who gave us an invasion of Cuba, a missile crisis, and the war in Vietnam in 1,000 days — give him another 1,000 days, and we would be irradiated atoms in space. No, he was a mistake as president.
- Gore Vidal, quoted in I Told You So: Gore Vidal Talks Politics: Interviews with Jon Wiener (2013).
- He was in my view the most dangerous cold warrior that we have had since the end of World War II.
- Historian Richard Walton, “Kennedy Remembered”, Newsweek, November 28, 1983.
- John Kennedy, in his youth and good looks, brought a new generation to replace the dour faces of the Eisenhower administration, and added social glamour and greater public-relations skills to the presidency’s power. He was the first president for whom television- particularly his witty and informative news conferences, broadcast live- became a calculated political instrument. In his term, too, the president’s responsibility for managing the national economy was acknowledged and accepted. Kennedy’s brief tenure, coinciding with the apogee of American power in the world, made him a sort of young emperor; and his murder was doubly shocking because Americans, by 1963, considered their president somehow preeminent over mere mortals, as superior as the nation itself, thus lacking ordinary human vulnerability.
- Tom Wicker, One Of Us: Richard Nixon and the American Dream (1991), p. 677
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