John F. Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (29 May 1917 – 22 November 1963) was the 35th President of the United States, a brother of Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, and the first husband of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

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  • 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)

  • The voters selected us, in short, because they had confidence in our judgement and our ability to excercise that judgement from a position where we could determine what were their own best interest, as a part of the nation's interest.
    • Profiles in Courage (1956), p. 15

  • 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.
    • Profiles in Courage (1956)

  • The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word "crisis". One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity.
    • Speech in Indianapolis, Indiana (12 April 1959) (see also wikipedia:Chinese translation of crisis)

  • 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.
    • Acceptance Speech as the Democratic presidential nominee (15 July 1960)

  • 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."

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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.

  • 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… Second, were we truly men of judgment… Third, were we truly men of integrity… Finally were we truly men of dedication?
    • Speech to Massachusetts State Legislature (9 January 1961)

  • 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)


  • 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.
    • Speech to Special Joint Session of Congress (25 May 1961)

  • 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 nor 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.
    • Speech at the University of Washington, Seattle, 16 November 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)



          • 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.

          • 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.
            • Cuban Missile Crisis speech (22 October 1962)


          • 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), more information on the reference to Dante is here at Bartleby.com

          • 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)

          • 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."

          • The supreme reality of our time is our indivisibility as children of God and the common vulnerability of this planet.
            • Speech to a joint session of the Dail and the Seanad, Dublin, Ireland (28 June 1963)

          • 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)


          • 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

          • 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.
            • Speech at Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts (26 October 1963)

          • 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

          • 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


          • 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 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.

          Inaugural Address (1961)

          Inaugural address, Washington D.C. (20 January 1961) - (Video file)


          • 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.

          • The same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebearers 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.


          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          Address before the Press (1961)

          Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association (27 April 1961)
          Audio
          • Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          UN speech (1961)

          Address before the General Assembly of the United Nations (25 September 1961)


          • Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.

          • Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          Rice University speech (1962)

          Address at Rice University on the Nation's Space Effort, Houston, TX (12 September 1962)

          • The greater our knowledge increases the greater our ignorace unfolds

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          American University speech (1963)

          Address at American University, Washington D.C. (10 June 1963)


          • 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.

          • If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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?

          • 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.

          UN speech (1963)

          Address Before the 18th General Assembly of the United Nations (20 September 1963)

          • 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?

          Misattributed

          • 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)

          Quotes about Kennedy

          • 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)

          • Kennedy was the only member of his administration who didn't want to send in a massive ground force [to Vietnam]. […] Kennedy was also making very friendly overtures to the Soviet Union and calling for a real Detente in the Cold War, and was even reconsidering developing normal relationships with Cuba.

 
Quoternity
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