Thursday, January 20, 2011

JFK Speaks to Us Today

Today, on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech, I reproduce a quotation not from that speech (which you can read or watch here), but from his commencement speech at Yale University on June 11, 1962.  In this era of hostility, mistrust, and fear - not just between nations but among our own putatively united citizenry - I can't imagine a greater legacy for President Kennedy than that we might take his words to heart and not allow our diversity of opinion to erode our unity of spirit.
As every past generation has had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of truisms and stereotypes, so in our own time we must move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality. For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth:  persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. ... 
If a contest in angry argument were forced upon it, no administration could shrink from response, and history does not suggest that American Presidents are totally without resources in an engagement forced upon them because of hostility in one sector of society. But in the wider national interest, we need not partisan wrangling but common concentration on common problems.

Google logo for the 50th anniversary of JFK's inauguration

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