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President Kennedy's Speech On Peace (contrast this with what we fail to hear today)

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On June 10th, 1963, John Fitzgerald Kennedy gave a speech at the American University that included the following passage:
"Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need them is essential to the keeping of peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles - which can only destroy and never create - is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace. I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary, rational end of rational men. I realize the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war, and frequently the words of the pursuers fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.
Some say that it is useless to speak of peace or world law or world disarmament, and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitudes, as individuals and as a Nation, for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward, by examining his own attitude towards the possibilities of peace...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.
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?
May be an image of 6 people and text that says 'THE UNITED AM PRO DEO ET ERICAN UNIVER ATRIA THE'
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7Steve Jenkins, David Breeden and 5 others
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To do justice to JFK's speech, and to fully and accurate report on it, we should also note some of the other things that JFK said in that speech, such as the following:

It is discouraging to think that their leaders [Soviet leaders] may actually believe what their propagandists write. It is discouraging to read a recent authoritative Soviet text on Military Strategy and find, on page after page, wholly baseless and incredible claims--such as the allegation that "American imperialist circles are preparing to unleash different types of wars . . . that there is a very real threat of a preventive war being unleashed by American imperialists against the Soviet Union . . . [and that] the political aims of the American imperialists are to enslave economically and politically the European and other capitalist countries . . . [and] to achieve world domination . . . by means of aggressive wars". . . .

As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. . . .

Our commitment to defend Western Europe and West Berlin, for example, stands undiminished because of the identity of our vital interests. The United States will make no deal with the Soviet Union at the expense of other nations and other peoples, not merely because they are our partners, but also because their interests and ours converge.

It is our hope-- and the purpose of allied policies--to convince the Soviet Union that she, too, should let each nation choose its own future, so long as that choice does not interfere with the choices of others. The Communist drive to impose their political and economic system on others is the primary cause of world tension today.

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Omitting the anti-communist/anti-Soviet parts of the speech does an injustice to JFK. As much as some JFKA researchers want to believe that JFK was a George McGovern-like dove, this is simply not the case. 

JFK was not a hawk in the sense that he did not have blind faith in the use of force as a cure for all problems, but he was certainly no dove either. He was entirely willing to threaten the use of force and to use force when he believed the situation required it. He made it clear to the Soviets that he was willing to go to war over Berlin. He increased the number of military advisors in South Vietnam from 700 to nearly 16,000 in less than three years. On the day he was assassinated, JFK touted his military buildup to the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce:

          In the past 3 years we have increased the defense budget of the United States by over 20 percent; increased the program of acquisition for Polaris submarines from 24 to 41; increased our Minuteman missile purchase program by more than 75 percent; doubled the number of strategic bombers and missiles on alert; doubled the number of nuclear weapons available in the strategic alert forces; increased the tactical nuclear forces deployed in Western Europe by over 60 percent; added five combat ready divisions to the Army of the United States, and five tactical fighter wings to the Air Force of the United States; increased our strategic airlift capability by 75 percent; and increased our special counter-insurgency forces which are engaged now in South Viet-Nam by 600 percent. I hope those who want a stronger America and place it on some signs will also place those figures next to it. (John F. Kennedy - Speech to the Forth Worth Chamber of Commerce - American Rhetoric)

Nor was JFK a liberal when it came to taxes and spending. He held federal spending to very modest levels of growth, was determined to balance the budget, and proposed one of the biggest tax cuts for the wealthy in American history. He also proposed a 9% cut (i.e., a cut of 5 percentage points) in the corporate tax rate. As the JFK Library points out, his income tax cut proposal called for cutting taxes from a range of 20-91% to 14-65% giving the rich a massive tax cut of 26 percentage points, a reduction of nearly 30% (John F. Kennedy on the Economy and Taxes | JFK Library). 

Edited by Michael Griffith
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