Kennedy 1963 speech on war and peace

May 9, 2015

"The speeches, which came on consecutive days, took political risks. They sought to shift the nation’s thinking on the “inevitability” of war with the Soviet Union and to make urgent the “moral crisis” of civil rights." [American University speech, kept secret from the Pentagon]: "The American University speech was a month in the making, growing out of Kennedy’s sense that if some progress on controlling arms was to be made, it had to happen in 1963, not in the election year of 1964, and from signals from the Kremlin that new talks might be productive. But it was kept secret from the Pentagon, because of fears that generals might object to any steps toward conciliation. In contrast, the civil rights speech was written in a few hours and was almost not given." [Peace is possible. War is created by man, thus they can be solved by man]: "Mr. Dallek said the American University speech reflected Kennedy’s “real passion” about his presidency, the goal of building “not merely peace in our time but peace for all time,” as Kennedy put it that morning. To achieve it, Kennedy said, it was necessary to “examine our attitude toward peace itself.” “Too many of us think it is impossible,” Kennedy said. “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 man-made — therefore, they can be solved by man.” " [Americans should not see conflict as inevitable. Stop cynicism.]: "He said that while it was “sad” to read Soviet propaganda insisting that the United States was planning many wars so it could dominate the world, “it is also a warning — a warning to the American people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats.” " [Peaceful revolution as addressed in his civil rights speech] "He was not addressing just the South, or even just Congress. “It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another,” he said. “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.” "


Source: Adam Clymer, "When Presidential Words Led to Swift Action", New York Times, June 8, 2013, accessed June 11, 2013, [verified 4/17/14]




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