PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY’S INAUGURAL ADDRESS — FULL OF PEACEFUL OPTIONS THAT COULD END TODAY’S STRIFE
- 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. – JF Kennedy
- Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.
- Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah–to “undo the heavy burdens … and to let the oppressed go free.” – JF Kennedy
Speechwriting is a craft. Only thinkers write. It could be most interesting going through the records of the United States and the United Nations to read the pronouncements of great leaders. Some, like Obafemi Awolowo, are beautiful strategic planners and writers. Others in the mould of Nnamdi Azikiwe are great orators who successfully sway people to their sides by sweet and reasonable deliveries. Yet, others like Abubakar Tafawa Balewa have sonorous voices to which you would love to listen. Now, let’s go beyond Nigeria’s borders.
PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHES White House records are replete with ratings of Presidential Inaugural speeches. Speeches are crafted most times by inspiration. ‘’All United States Presidents up until Warren G. Harding wrote their own speeches. Harding hired the first Presidential speechwriter. Since, almost every president has used speechwriters. Some have been reliant, and some have been more autonomous. Stephen Charbonneau, a political activist disclosed that President George W Bush didn’t write his own speeches, and what resulted was that his writers would hand him speeches full of words and phrases that he would never .use President Franklin D. Roosevelt was famous for working on his speeches up until the last minute… the quote calling it a “day that will live in infamy” was penciled in a few minutes before he made the speech. Kennedy and Sorenson functioned like co-authors.
President Barack Obama apparently functioned the same way, and on a couple of special occasions, he wrote his own speeches entirely. Clinton is said to be ”more traditional in his use of speechwriters, but he often deviates from the script and speaks extemporaneously.’’ The speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy at his inaugural address in 1961 lasted only 14 minutes; but was hugely punchy. It was written by was crafted by his speechwriter Ted Sorensen, who was directed by Kennedy to study President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address as well as other inaugural speeches. In the opinion of Stephen Charbonneau, the speech is best remembered for a single line: “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Kennedy began collecting thoughts and ideas for his inauguration speech in late November 1960.
U.S. News, in a compilation titled: White House Speechwriters Share Craft Secrets reveals that: President Bill Clinton ‘’enjoyed telling his speechwriters when they gathered in the Oval: “I used to give three speeches a day.” The not-so-subtle message: He didn’t need speechwriters. High-flown Woodrow Wilson, the last president to write his own speeches, lived and breathed in the White House one hundred years ago. Thus presidential speechwriters have been a fact of Washington political life for roughly a century.’’ President Barack Obama is rated as: ‘’a better speechwriter than any of his speechwriters. He probably got elected in 2008 on the strength of his soaring oratory and cadences, despite a short and slender resume as a lawmaker. Let us now return to that great speech delivered by JF Kennedy. The speech contains admonitions that are commended for study by both President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It could work, only if both leaders would reason like Kennedy who delivered the powerful address.
EXCERPTS FROM PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENEDY’S INAUGURAL ADDRESS — FULL OF PEACEFUL OPTIONS THAT COULD END TODAY’S STRIFE
Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction. We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.
But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course–both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war. 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. 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. Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce. Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah–to “undo the heavy burdens … and to let the oppressed go free.”
And 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 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.
In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe. Now the trumpet summons us again–not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are–but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort? 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 endeavour will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.’’