In honor of the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination this past weekend, I think it’s appropriate to remember the man who stood for so many of the ideals that made America great in the 20th century. Below are two of his most famous speeches – his inaugural address and what became known as his “Moon Speech.”
In his inaugural address, we heard nonpartisan rhetoric that is unfortunately absent from much today’s discourse. This rhetoric is evident from his first line – “We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom.” At a time when the country was terribly divided, perhaps even more so than today, JFK attempted to unify all ideologies, backgrounds, socioeconomic classes, and races in the name of freedom. He passionately advocated for liberty and worldwide collaboration to ensure its existence and survival.
JFK also argued for the poor when stating, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” These words have never rang more true than they do today. With growing income disparity between the the rich and poor in our modern economy, the American people need to become more cognizant of the wealth gap and work to bridge this vast divide to preserve liberty and economic freedom for all.
Although we do not have the pressures of the Cold War in our present era, much of what JFK advocated for is directly applicable to our present “War on Terror.” He stated – “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 for the first time formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.” We can use these foreign policy and defense principles in our current negotiations with not only Iran, but Al-Qaeda as well. Instead of pressuring other nations and anti-American groups like Al-Qaeda by acting as the overbearing police force of the world, a diplomatic approach of this nature is more likely to build weapons of peace, not war.
By far the most powerful rhetoric, however, was JFK’s call for all Americans to engage in public service. He called all of us to arms in the struggle against the common enemies of man – tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself. Too few politicians in our present era are blinded by partisan divide and incapable of working together to fight these common enemies. Far too often these enemies are removed from the public discourse in favor of partisan squabbles involving healthcare websites, administration scandals, and government shutdowns. Instead of working toward freedom and equality for all mankind, we work against each other for party and politics.
In remembrance of JFK’s assassination, and the everlasting legacy of the principles he embodied, I encourage everyone to watch and listen to his inaugural address and think about the application of its rhetoric to our present dilemmas in Washington, DC and throughout the country.
In conjunction with one of the greatest inaugural addresses of all time, Americans should also remember the ambition and passion of JFK. Below is a link to what became known as his “Moon Speech.” Following the principles he set forth in his inaugural address, JFK challenged all Americans to conquer the desert, the seas, and the stars. He encouraged us to do great things; things that we might have once thought unimaginable. He challenged us to expand our comfort zones and collectively work not only to push the human race forward, but to realize equality for all.
As illustrated in the link below, JFK clearly understood what made America different from any nation that ever graced planet Earth. He articulated this difference perfectly when stating, “This country, the United States, was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them.” JFK knew that progress could only be achieved, innovation could only be made, and growth could only be attained by setting goals that literally reached for the stars. He challenged all of us not to make goals because they are easy, but to make them because they are hard. This is the type of ambition, drive, and vision that Americans need recapture in order to regain our prominence as a world leader in human progress and prosperity.
I encourage everyone to watch the link below and remind yourselves of the ambition we used to have as Americans.