I was overwhelmed often by then US President John F. Kennedy for his charismatic leadership and his eternal love for peace. As the 35th President of the United States, he served from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. Though he was from a politically prominent Irish-American Kennedy family, he was so down to earth and considered an icon of American liberalism. His bravery and heroism well reflected during World War II by rescuing a fellow sailor in the South Pacific.
He was elected as the US President in 1960, in one of the closest elections in history after he served in his home state of Massachusetts as both a member of the House of Representatives and Senate.
His inaugural address on Friday, January 20, 1961 to the Americans and to the world was a fascinating and heart-touching one. The events, just before the inaugural address are rolling into mind.
Heavy snow fell the night before the inauguration, but thoughts about canceling the plans were overruled.
The election of 1960 had been close, and the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts was eager to gather support for his agenda. He attended Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown that morning before joining President Eisenhower to travel to the Capitol.
The Congress had extended the East Front, and the inaugural platform spanned the new addition. The Chief Justice Earl Warren administered the oath of office.
President John F. Kennedy addressed the audience where the Vice President Johnson, the Speaker, the Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy and others were gathered.
His statement in his eloquent voice that “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 forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago” was so heart touching forever.
He was continuing, “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, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
“To those peoples in the huts and villages across 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 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.”
“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 so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country.”
“Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. 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.”
The US President who came out with his inaugural address not only for his fellow Americans but for the entire world and faced the major crisis during his presidency, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Space Race, early events of the Vietnam War and the American Civil Rights Movement and tried his best to resolve those crisis, was finally assassinated on November 22, 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald untimely before he put a lasting end to those crisis.
Kennedy’s assassination has left in America and around the world, a traumatic impact for centuries to remember for the world leader who thought for peace and harmony globally.
By: Rajkumar Kanagasingam