FAMOUS POWERFUL SPEECHES – PRESIDENT JF KENNEDY
“We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty. “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,”
On January 20, 1961, the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address that is still today regarded as one of the punchiest declarations ever made at inaugural ceremonies of United State’s presidents. JF Kennedy’s fascinating inaugural address is still rated as the best ever delivered by a United States president. In terms of contents, the address was rich and brilliant. And in terms of effects, the message was captivating, persuasive and soul-lifting. Consider this promise by JFK: “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.” His May 25, 1961 address to the Joint Sessions of the United States Congress was no less inspiring: “First, 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.”
JF Kennedy’s inaugural address was relatively short; but was not as brief as the one delivered by the first president of the United States, George Washington in 1793, whose inaugural speech measured only 135 words. President Kennedy, in an address to Congress challenged the nation to “commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon.” He asked Congress to find additional funds to support the nation’s space program. Kennedy continues to be voted the most popular post-World War II president in national polls. Additionally, he has consistently been voted in opinion polls as having delivered the most famous speech at presidential inaugurations in the United States.
DISTINCTIVENESS OF THE SPEECH: As recorded in documents held by the JF Kennedy Presidential Library & Museums: ‘’While his colleagues (former US Presidents) submitted ideas, the speech was distinctly the work of Kennedy himself. Aides recount that every sentence was worked, reworked, and reduced by him. ‘’It was a meticulously crafted piece of oratory that dramatically announced a generational change in the White House and called on the nation to combat “tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself. ‘’The inaugural ceremony is a defining moment in a President’s career, and no one knew this better than John F. Kennedy as he prepared for his own inauguration on January 20, 1961. He wanted his address to be short and clear—devoid of any partisan rhetoric and focused on foreign policy. He began constructing the speech in late November, working with friends and advisers.
Records reveal that: ‘’Kennedy wrote his thoughts in his nearly indecipherable longhand on a yellow legal pad. The climax of the speech and its most memorable phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,” was honed down from a thought about sacrifice that Kennedy had long held in his mind and had expressed in various ways in campaign speeches.’’ Below is the text of the speech:
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 forbears 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.
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. 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.
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 much we pledge–and more.
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. To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge–to convert our good words into good deeds–in a new alliance for progress–to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty.
But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.
To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support–to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective–to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak–and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run. (Information excerpted from Stacey Bredhoff, American Originals Seattle: The University of Washington Press, 2001, p. 108–109.)