This generation of Americans, your generation of Americans, has a rendezvous with destiny . . .
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT
JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY
I think we will see a very changing world in 1964 . . .
JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY
"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?
"Second, were we truly men of judgment, with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past, of our own 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 people 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 not to a single individual or group, and compromised by 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 of the Bay Colony and the Bay State, the qualities which this state has consistently sent to Beacon Hill here in Boston and to Capital Hill back in Washington. And these are the qualities which, with God's help, this son of Massachusetts hopes will characterize our government's conduct in the four stormy years that lie ahead. Humbly I ask His help in this undertaking; but aware that on earth His will is worked by men, I ask for your help and your prayers as I embark on this new and solemn journey."
Less than two years later, the final year of this 'hazardous' voyage" began. On January 14, 1963, President Kennedy sent his last State of the Union Message to Congress:
"I can report to you that the state of this old but youthful Union, in the 175th year of its life, is good . . . At home the recession is behind us . . . 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 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 . . .
"Tax reduction alone, however, is not enough to strengthen our society, to provide opportunities for the four million Americans who are born every year, to improve the lives of 32 million Americans who live on the outskirts of poverty. The quality of American life must keep pace with the quantity of American goods. This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.
"Therefore, by holding down the budgetary cost of existing programs to keep within the limitations I have set, it is both possible and imperative to adopt other new measures that we cannot afford to postpone. These measures are based on a series of fundamental premises, grouped under four related headings:
"First, we need to strengthen our Nation by investing in our youth . . .
"Second, we need to strengthen our Nation by safeguarding its health . . .
"Third, we need to strengthen our Nation by protecting the basic rights of its citizens . . .
"Fourth, we need to strengthen our Nation by making the best and the most economical use of its resources and facilities . . .
"We are not lulled by the momentary calm of the sea or the somewhat clearer skies above. We know the turbulence that lies below, and the storms that are beyond the horizon this year. But now the winds of change appear to be blowing more strongly than ever, in the world of communism as well as our own. For 175 years we have sailed with those winds at our back, and with the tides of human freedom in our favor. We steer our ship with hope, as Thomas Jefferson said, 'leaving Fear astern.'"
On January 15, he wrote: "Our 'bet' is that the future will be a world community of independent nations, with a diversity of economic, political and religious systems, united by a common respect for the rights of others . . . But history is what men make of it -- and we would be foolish to think that we can realize our own vision of a free and diverse future without unceasing vigilance, discipline and labor . . .
"Above all, we must both demonstrate and develop the affirmative power of the democratic ideal -- remembering always that nations are great, not for what they are against, but what they are 'for.'
On the 16th, he offered a toast: "It reminds me of a story of Abraham Lincoln. After he was elected President, someone said, "What are you going to do with your enemies, Mr. President?' Lincoln said, I am going to destroy them. I am going to make them my friends.'"
On the 18th, he celebrated the second anniversary of his inauguration: "I said the other day in the State of the Union that we were not on the top of the hill, but on the side of the hill. I don't think in this administration or in our generation or time will this country be at the top of the hill, but some day it will be, and I hope when it is that they will think we have done our part . . ."
On the 29th, he addressed Congress once again:
"Education is the keystone in the arch of freedom and progress . . . For the individual, the doors to the schoolhouse, to the library and to the college lead to the richest treasures of our open society: to the power of knowledge -- to the training and skills necessary for productive employment -- to the wisdom, the ideals, and the culture which enrich life -- and to the creative, self-disciplined understanding of society needed for good citizenship in today's changing and challenging world."
On February 5, he sent a 10,000 word message to Congress on the subject of mental illness and mental retardation. On the 7th, he admonished his countrymen: "Each morning and evening, let us remember the advice of my fellow Bostonian, the Reverend Phillips Brooks: 'Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.'"
On the 8th, he devoted another 8,000 words to the problem of improving the nation's health, on the 14th, 8,000 words to the nation's youth, and on the 21st, 12,000 words to the needs of the nation's senior citizens. On March 5, he told a delegation representing the American Indians: "I know that when I first took this office, one of the things which concerned me most was the fact that there were nearly 5,000 Indian boys and girls who had no school to go to. Now we built classrooms for about 7,000 in the last 2 years."(1)
On March 11, he declared, "Manpower is the basic resource. It is the indispensable means of converting other resources to mankind's use and benefit. How well we develop and employ human skills is fundamental in deciding how much we will accomplish as a nation."
On the 13th, he remarked: "In front of the Archives building there is a statue and under it it says, 'The past is prologue.' Not necessarily, and it is because we do not wish to regard the past as necessarily a prologue in the 1960s that we have attempted to put forward our proposals . . . 'The great advantage of Americans,' wrote de Tocqueville in 1835, 'consists in their being able to commit faults which they may afterwards repair.' To this I would add the fact that the great advantage of hindsight consists of our applying its lessons by way of foresight. If this Nation can apply the lesson and repair the faults of the last 5 years, if we can stick to the facts, and cast out those things which really don't apply to the situation, then surely this country can reach its goals . . ."
And on the 20th, he told his audience at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose: "What Franklin Roosevelt said to the American people in the 1930s I say to you now: This generation of Americans, your generation of Americans, has a rendezvous with destiny . . . We are committed to four basic principles in this hemisphere in the Alliance for Progress. The first is the right of every nation to govern itself, to be free from outside dictation and coercion, to mold its own economy and society in any fashion consistent with the will of the people. Second is the right of every individual citizen to political liberty, the right to speak his own views, to worship God in his own way, to select the government which rules him, and to reject it when it no longer serves the need of a nation. And Third, is the right to social justice, the right of every citizen to participate in the progress of his nation. This means land for the landless, and education for those who are denied their education today in this hemisphere. It means that ancient institutions which perpetuate privilege must give way. It means that rich and poor alike must bear the burden and the opportunity of building a nation . . ."
On the 23rd, he told another audience, this time at Chicago, "Twenty-five hundred years ago the Greek poet Alcaeus laid down the principle which best sums up the greatness of Chicago: 'Not houses firmly roofed,' he wrote, 'or the stones of walls well builded, nay, nor canals and dockyards, make the city -- but men able to use their opportunities.'"
On March 25, he welcomed twelve visiting French Generals: ". . . So we welcome you, coming as you do from a martial and distinguished race who have shown a mastery in the use of arms for a thousand years . . ."(2)
On April 2, he told the Congress: "'Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war,' wrote Milton . . . This, for the American people, is a time for vision, for patience, for work, and for wisdom. For better or worse, we are the pacesetters. Freedom's leader cannot flag of falter, or another runner will set the pace. We have dared to label the Sixties the Decade of Development. But it is not the eloquence of our slogans, but the quality of our endurance, which will determine whether this generation of Americans deserves the leadership which history has thrust upon us."
On the 11th, he remarked at the White House: "This administration is watching closely the possibilities of a general across the board increase in steel. I opposed such an increase last year. I oppose such an increase now . . . What it needs is more business at competitive prices, not less business at higher prices . . . I urge similar restraint on the steel workers union. With over 100,000 steel workers still unemployed, their need is for more jobs with job security, not fewer jobs at higher wages."
On May 9, he spoke at Arlington National Cemetery: "It is no accident that men of genius in music like Paderewski or Chopin should also have been great patriots. You have to be a free man to be a great artist."
On the 18th, he declared in Alabama: "'At the Olympic Games,' Aristotle wrote, 'it is not the finest and the 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 have read much of George Norris from Nebraska, and his favorite phrase, recurring throughout all of his speeches, was his reference, and his dedication, to 'generations yet unborn.' The first of those generations is now enjoying the fruits of his labor, as will others for decades to come. So let us all, whether we are public officials or private citizens, northerners or southerners, easterners or westerners, farmers or city dwellers, live up to the ideals and ideas of George Norris, and resolve that we, too, in our time, 30 years later, will ourselves build a better Nation for. generations yet unborn.'"
On the 23rd, speaking at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, he remarked: "I think it is because the two political parties in our history have always been divided, as Emerson said, into the party of hope and into the party of memory. From the time of Jefferson, I think we have been the party of Hope. And therefore it is natural that artists, men and women who work in the theater and all the other related arts, should find themselves most at home in the party of hope. Up the way in this corridor tonight, the steel industry is presenting to my distinguished predecessor its annual award, to President Eisenhower, as the man who has done most for the steel industry this year. Last year I won the award and they came to Washington to present it to me, but the Secret Service just wouldn't let them in."
President Kennedy sometimes showed signs of bitterness, but that same morning he had seemed listless and pensive. Did he somehow know that his last trip was halfway over, that he had less than six months to live? That noon, in New York's Battery Park, he recited an old Breton fisherman's prayer:
"O God, the sea is so great and my boat is so small . . ."
On June 5, he was in Texas: "I am glad to leave Washington, DC, and come to the Pass of the North, El Paso, a part of the Old West, but also a part of a new America . . ."
He had so little time left . . .
The following day he spoke at San Diego State College: "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."
On June 10, he gave the commencement address at American University in Washington:
"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 . . . 'When a man's way please the Lord,' the Scriptures tell us, 'he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.' . . . 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 t 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."
On June 11, he addressed the American people from his office:
"This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all me are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened . . . One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln free the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons are not fully free. hey are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are no yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free till all its citizens are free.
"We preach freedom around the world, and we me 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?
"Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise . . . 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 street. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time t act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative bodies, and above all, in all of our daily lives . . . Next week I shall as the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that ace has no place in American life or law . . ."
On June 19, he asked the Congress to act: "I therefore ask every member of Congress to set aside sectional and political ties, and to look at this issue from the viewpoint of the Nation. I ask you to look into your hearts -- not in search of charity, for the Negro neither wants nor needs condescension -- but for the one plain, proud and priceless quality that unites us all as Americans: a sense of Justice. In this year of the Emancipation Centennial, justice requires us to insure the blessings of liberty for all Americans and their posterity -- not merely for reasons of economic efficiency, world diplomacy and domestic tranquillity -- but, above all, because it is right." He also asked Congress to establish an Advisory Council on the Arts: "As education needs schools, so art needs museums, actors and playwrights need theaters, and composers and musicians need opera companies and orchestras . . . The concept of the public welfare should reflect cultural as well as economic considerations. We have agencies of the Government which are concerned with the welfare and advancement of science and technology, of education, recreation, and health. We should now begin to give similar attention to the arts. I am particularly interested in the opportunities for young people to develop their gifts . . ."
At Frankfurt on June 25, he remarked: "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 . . .
"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.'"
At Dublin on June 28, he declared: "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 . . ."
On June 29, as he left his beloved Ireland, he read a poem:
Tis it is the Shannon's brightly glancing stream,"Well, I am going to come back and see old Shannon's face again and I am taking, as I go back to America, all of you with me . . ."
Brightly gleaming, silent in the morning beam
Oh, the sight entrancing,
Thus returns from travels long,
Years of exile, years of pain,
To see old Shannon's face again,
O'er the waters dancing.
On July 17, he declared: "The United States has to move very fast to even stand still . . . We are going to have to find in the next decade 22 million jobs to take care of those coming into the labor market and those who are eliminated by technological gains . . ."
On July 26, he told American people: "Yesterday a shaft of light cut into the darkness. Negations were concluded in Moscow on a treaty to ban all nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water . . .
"This treaty is for all of us. It is particularly for our children and our grandchildren, and they have no lobby here in Washington . . . (But now) for the first time in many years, the path of peace may be open. 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 . . ."(3)
On August 1, he remarked: "I think we will see a very changing world in 1964 . . ." And that same day he warned: "The end of this summer of 1963 will be an especially critical time for 400,000 young Americans who, according to the experience of earlier years, will not return to school when the summer is ended. Moreover, without a special effort to reverse this trend, another 700,000 students will return to school in September, but will fail to complete the school year . . ."
And, turning to another subject: "I think there has been a common recognition that there is the necessity for revolution in Latin America, and it is either going to be peaceful or bloody. But there must be progress, there must be revolution . . ."
On August 27, he remarked, ". . . To govern is to choose . . ."
On September 2, " I don't think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government (of South Vietnam) to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Vietnam against the Communists. We are prepared to continue to assist them, but I don't think that the war can be won unless the people support the effort and, in my opinion, in the last two months, the government has gotten out of touch with the people."(4)
On September 20, he addressed the United Nations General Assembly:
"The world has not escaped from the darkness. The long shadows of conflict and crisis envelop us still . . . My presence here today is not a sign of crisis, but of confidence . . . we believe that all the world -- in Eastern Europe as well as Western, in Southern Africa as well as Northern, in old nations as well as new --the people must be free to choose their own future, without discrimination or dictation, without coercion or subversion . . . 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 some day in this decade to the moon not the representatives of a single nation, but the representatives of all 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 . . . 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 . . . 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. What the United Nations has done in the past in less important than the tasks for the future . . .
"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."
On September 23, he wrote: "The American Presidency is a formidable, exposed, and somewhat mysterious institution. It is formidable because it represents the point of ultimate decision in the American political system. It is exposed because decision cannot take place in a vacuum: the Presidency is the center of the play of pressure, interest, and idea in the Nation; and the Presidential office is the vortex into which all the elements of national decision are irresistibly drawn. And it is mysterious because the essence of ultimate decision remains impenetrable to the observer -- often, indeed, to the decider himself.
"Yet if the process of presidential decision is obscure, the necessity for it is all too plain. To govern, as wise men have said, is to choose. Lincoln observed that we cannot escape history. It is equally true that we cannot escape choice; and for an American President, choice is charged with a peculiar and daunting responsibility for the safety and welfare of the Nation. A President must choose among men, among measures, among methods. His choice helps determine the issues of his Presidency, their priority in the national life, and the mode and success of their execution. The heart of the Presidency is therefore informed, prudent and resolute choice -- and the secret of the presidential enterprise is to be found in an examination of the way presidential choices are made."
The following day he left to tour the West. "We are reaching the limits of our fundamental needs -- of water to drink, of fresh air to breathe, of open space to enjoy, of abundant sources of energy to make life easier . . . Have we ever thought why such a small proportion of our beaches should be available for public use, how it is that so many of our great cities have been developed without parks or playgrounds, why so many of our rivers are so polluted, why the air we breathe is so impure, or why the erosion of our land was permitted to run so large as it has in this state (Pennsylvania), and in Ohio, and all the way to the West Coast . . . I don't know why it should be that 6 or 7 percent only of the whole Atlantic Coast should be in the public sphere and the rest owned by private citizens and denied to many millions of our fellow citizens."
On September 25, he declared: "We must today prepare for those who are our heirs. The steps we take in conservation and reclamation will have very little effect upon all of us here immediately, and in this decade. What we are doing in the real sense is preparing for those who come after us . . ."
On the 26th, he added: "I urge this generation of Americans who are the fathers and mothers of 350 million Americans who will live in this country in the year 2000, and I want those Americans who live in 2000 to feel that those of us who had positions of responsibility in the Sixties did our part . . ."
And the same day he revealed the key to his thinking: "If this nation is to survive and succeed in the real world of today, we must acknowledge the realities of the world; and it is those realities that I mention now.
"We must first of all recognize that we cannot remake the world simply by our own command. When we cannot even bring all of our own people into full citizenship without acts of violence, we can understand how much harder it is to control events beyond our borders . . . Every nation has its own traditions, its own values, its own aspirations. Our assistance from time to time can help other nations preserve their independence and advance their growth, but we cannot remake them in our own image. We cannot enact their laws, nor can we operate their governments or dictate our policies.
"Second, we must recognize that every nation determines its policies in terms of its own interests. 'No nation,' George Washington wrote, 'is to be trusted further than it is bound by its interest; and no prudent statesman or politician will depart from it.' National interest is more powerful than ideology, and the recent developments within the Communist empire show this very clearly. Friendship, as Palmerston said, may rise or wane, but interests endure.
"The United States has rightly determined, in the years since 1945 under three different administrations, that our interest, our national security, the interest of the United States of America, is best served by preserving and protecting a world of diversity in which no one power or no one combination of powers can threaten the security of the United States. The reason that we moved so far into the world was our fear that at the end of the war, and particularly when China became Communist, that Japan and Germany would collapse, and these two countries which had so long served as a barrier to the Soviet advance, and the Russian advance before that, would open up a wave of conquest of all Europe and all of Asia, and then the balance of power turning against us, we would finally be isolated and ultimately destroyed. That is what we have been engaged in for 18 years, to prevent that happening, to prevent anyone monolithic power having sufficient force to destroy the United States.
"And third, we must recognize that foreign policy in the modern world does not lend itself to easy, simple black and white solution. If we were to have diplomatic relations only with those countries whose principles we approved of, we would have relations with very few countries in a very short time. If were to withdraw our assistance from all governments who are run differently from our own, we would relinquish half the world immediately to our adversaries. If we were to treat foreign policy as merely a medium for delivering self-righteous sermons to supposedly inferior people, we would give up all thought of world influence or world leadership.
"For the purpose of foreign policy is not to provide an outlet for our own sentiments of hope or indignation; it is to shape real events in a real world. We cannot adopt a policy which says that if something does not happen, or others do not do exactly what we wish, we will return to 'Fortress America.' That is the policy in this changing world of retreat, not of strength . . .
"The position of the United States, I believe, is happier and safer when history is going for us rather than when it is going against us. And we have history going for us today, but history is what men make it. The future is what men make it . . ."(5)
On the 27th, he mused, what green grass will they see . . ."
On September 28, he learned that there were 190 million Americans. On October 9, he told the press that he had consented to the sale by private dealers of surplus American wheat or wheat flour to the Soviet Union. He also remarked: "We are opposed to military coups, and it is the reason that we have broken off our relations with the Dominican Republic and Honduras . . . we are opposed to coups, because we think that they are defeating -- self-defeating, and defeating for the hemisphere . . ."
On October 12, he noted: "That is always true, the first voyages are the hard ones and they require the perseverance and character. And I think that is a good lesson for all of us today as we attempt new things. The first voyages, as all of us know, are the more difficult, whether it is going into space, going to the bottom of the ocean, building a better country here, building a more prosperous country. The first voyage through our history has always been the most difficult . . ."
On October 18, he told a group of visitors from New Haven: "New Haven is typical of many cities faced by complex, interwoven problems. Ours is an age of great mobility. Each year thousands of families move from rural areas to urban slums. They come seeking better lives, but often find only new, unexpected barriers. These people find themselves in strange alien surroundings. Many have the added problem of racial discrimination. Much of the housing available to them is substandard. Most of them come without skills, seeking jobs, at a time when modern technology is rapidly making skilled training essential to employment. Their children enter already overcrowded schools, and often believe their studies bear little relation to the realities of their lives. Many of them drop out of school, only to become part of the growing army of unemployed youth. Health and recreational facilities for these young people are inadequate, and they are surrounded by crime, illiteracy, illegitimacy, and human despair. Finding no work and little hope, too many of them turn to juvenile crime to obtain the material goods they think the society has denied them. Others turn to drink and narcotics addiction. And soon the cycle repeats itself, as this dispossessed generation bears children little better equipped than their parents to cope with urban life . . ."
That same day he reminded his listeners of that poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay:
Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses standOn October 24, he concerned himself with the problem of retarded children. On the 26th, at Amherst College, he honored poet Robert Frost:
Come see my shining palace. It is built upon the sand.
"With privilege goes responsibility. Robert Frost said:
The roads diverged in a wood, and I --"In America, our heroes have customarily run to men of large accomplishments. But today this college and country honors a man whose contribution was not to our size but to our spirit, not to our political beliefs but to our insight, not to our self-esteem, but to our self-comprehension. In honoring Robert Frost, we therefore can pay honor to the deepest sources of our national strength. That strength takes many forms, and the most obvious forms are not always the most significant. 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 narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses . . .
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
"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 . . . Robert Frost was often skeptical about projects for human improvement, yet I do not think he would disdain this (American and world) hope. As he wrote during the uncertain days of the Second War:
Take human nature altogether since time beganOn the 30th, he spoke at Philadelphia:
And it must be a little more in favor of man,
Say a fraction of one percent at the very least . . .
Our hold on the planet wouldn't have so increased . . .
". . . May I repeat the words with which I summarized my view of America three years ago: '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 was my credo then and that is my credo now . . .
"In the words which concluded an historic address to our party by the great American Claude Bowers, some 35 years ago, in the '28 campaign:
Now has come the time for action.The following day, President Kennedy signed a bill providing for the construction of mental retardation facilities and community mental health centers. November 5 was Thanksgiving Day, and it marked his 1,019th day in office. "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 . . . On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist . . ."
Clear away all thought of faction
Out from vacillating shame, every man no lie contain
Let him answer to his name.
Call the roll.
On the 1,022nd day he declared: "The Family of Man is more than three billion strong. It lives in more than 100 nations. Most of its members are not white. Most of them are not Christians. Most of them know nothing about free enterprise or due process of law or the Australian ballot. If our society is to promote the Family of Man, let us realize the magnitude of our task. This is a sobering assignment. For the Family of Man in the world of today is not faring very well . . .
"Even little wars are dangerous in this nuclear world . . . The Korean conflict alone, forgetting for a moment the thousands of Americans who lost their lives, cost four times as much as our total world-wide aid budget for the current year . . .
"I do not want it said of us what T. S. Eliot said of others some years ago: 'These were a decent people. Their only monuments: the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls . . .'
"The struggle is by no means over. It is essential that we not only maintain our effort, but that we persevere; that we not only endure, in Mr. Faulkner's words, but also prevail. It is essential, in short, that the word go forth from the United States to all who are concerned about the future of the Family of Man that we are not weary in well-doing. And we shall, I am confident, if we maintain the pace, we shall in due season reap the kind of world we deserve and deserve the kind of world we still have."
In the days that followed he welcomed the members of the Black Watch regiment, met for the last time with the members of the press, turned once more to the problems of the children and the aged, and told this story to the delegates to the AFL-CIO Convention: "Marshal Lyautey, the great French Marshal, went out to his gardener and asked him to plant a tree. The gardener said, "Why plant it? It won't flower for 100 years.' 'In that case,' the Marshal said, 'plant it this afternoon.'"
On the 1,032nd day, a Monday, he predicted that the month of April would bring "the longest and strongest peacetime economic expansion in our Nation's entire history." And he added: "The steady conquest of the surely yielding enemies of misery and hopelessness, hunger, and injustice is the central task for the Americas in our time . . . 'Nothing is true except a man or men adhere to it -- to live for it, to spend themselves on it, to die for it . . . '" Time was slipping through his hands . . .
On the 1,033rd day, a Tuesday, he remarked: "I realize once again in a very personal way what a tremendous flood of children are coming into our schools . . ."
On the 1,034th day, a Wednesday, he spoke of "a peace system worldwide in scope."
On the 1,035th day, a Thursday, he reminisced: "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 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 . . ." And he predicted, "When some meet here in 1990 they will look back on what we did and say that we made the right and wise decisions. 'Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions,' the Bible tells us, and 'where there is no vision, the people perish.'"
On the 1,036th day at Fort Worth, he spoke again of peace: ". . . to that great cause, Texas and the United States are committed."
"Committed" was his last word.
The 1,037th day never came.
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1. On September 14, 1963 at Bismarck, North Dakota, Bob Kennedy acknowledged before the Congress of American Indians that Indian children received insufficient education, that the Indians were poorly housed, often out of work, and that their sanitary conditions were the poorest of any racial group in the United States. He called their situation "tragically ironic" in view of the fact that they were the only group in the country who had the right to call themselves " the first American."
2. On February 14, President Kennedy had been asked at his press conference to comment on the attitude of the French government: " It would seem like, in a way, that President De Gaulle's intention to develop France's own nuclear capability and his recent pact with Chancellor Adenauer would meet in perhaps a rather perverse way, and certainly not as you envisaged it, our desire to begin withdrawing from Europe and having Western Europe assume more of its own defense."
3. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed on October 7, 1963.
4. August 24 marked the beginning of the repressions against the Buddhists in South Vietnam. At the beginning of September, President Kennedy dispatched a new information mission to Saigon. A General and a diplomat made an inspection tour of the countryside and reported back to the National Security Council. General Krulack declared that the South Vietnamese troops were fighting magnificently, that the Diem government was popular with the people, and that there was no reason for concern. The diplomat, J. Mendenhall, reported that the country was in a desperate situation, that the Diem regime was on the brink of collapse, and recommended that Nehru be removed from power. Whereupon President Kennedy asked them if they were sure they had both visited the same country.
Diem and Nhu were assassinated on November 1, 1963.
On November 14, 1963 President Kennedy announced that some of the 16,000 American troops in Vietnam would be repatriated before the end of the year.
5. This passage is taken from a speech given by the President at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. Some commentators attacked it as "communistic."
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