Speeches By President Kennedy - History

Speeches By President Kennedy - History


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10 uplifting speeches from history that will inspire you in times of crisis

While history is no stranger to crises, there are always leaders who come forward to help usher in more hopeful times by crafting and delivering impactful speeches.

Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Maya Angelou have all delivered speeches that inspired millions — and some even changed the course of history.

Take a look back at some of the most famous speeches from history that still move us today.


Speeches By President Kennedy - History

Speeches and other Media Uses by John F. Kennedy,
35th President of the United States,
1/20/61-11/22/63

  • Speeches
    Pre-presidential (up to 20 January 1961)
    Presidential Term (20 January 1961 to 22 November 1963) , Fall 1960
    First Debate, September 26
    Second Debate, October 7
    Third Debate, October 13
    Fourth Debate, October 21
    Analysis of the Debates

7/15/51 - (disabled) Discussing the Need to Establish an Armistice Line in Korea (as Member of Congress), 1:15 in audio source: Presidential Audio-Video Archive - John F. Kennedy from The American Presidency Project at University of California, Santa Barbara

for 1953 to 1959 - Below are two examples of numerous Kennedy senatorial speeches from these years. For itemized yearly list, confer source: Speeches of John F. Kennedy - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum

8/17/56 - (disabled) Address to the 1956 Democratic National Convention former source: Presidential Audio-Video Archive - John F. Kennedy from The American Presidency Project

Speeches - presidential term (20 January 1961 to 22 November 1963): Top

4/12/61 - JFK on the Soviet threat, 0:28 video preceded by 10-15 second commercial source: The History Channel Video Gallery

6/3/61 - John F. Kennedy speaks before summit meeting with Khrushchev, in Geneva during summit meeting, 1:08 video preceded by 10-15 second commercial source: The History Channel Video Gallery

1/20/62 - Address at the Inaugural Anniversary Dinner (parody of the 1961 Inaugural Address), National Guard Armory, Washington, D.C. text plus audio clip source: Speeches of John F. Kennedy - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

4/11/62 - The President's News Conference of April 11, 1962 (indictment of steel companies and price increase of steel), audio with text link source: Presidential Audio-Video Archive - John F. Kennedy

October 16 to 29, 1962 - The Cuban Missile Crisis - four RealAudio tape recordings, White House Oval Office, on deliberations during the Crisis

11/20/62 - Statement Announcing the End of the Cuban Naval Quarantine, at American Experience The Presidents John F. Kennedy PBS (see below under "Letters and other communications" for fuller context)

9/9/63 - Report on Desegregation in the Schools of Alabama (addressing Governor George Wallace) text only (look for video at Civil Rights source sites) source: American Experience The Presidents John F. Kennedy PBS

10/26/63 - Remarks at Amherst College (importance of the arts), Amherst, Mass., text only source: Speeches of John F. Kennedy - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
- Remarks at Robert Frost Library, Amherst College (importance of the arts), Amherst, Mass audio mp3 (14:37 min.) and text source: Miller Center of Public Affairs - John F. Kennedy Speeches (use this site for audio)

Press Conferences of President John F. Kennedy: Top

Press Conferences of President Kennedy - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library has print transcripts of the 64 Kennedy press conferences dating from January 25, 1961 to November 14, 1963. Only one has audio, although all 64 were televised live. Two conferences with audio or video files are separately listed below. See above in Speeches for several audio and text files of press conferences from Presidential Audio-Video Archive - John F. Kennedy at The American Presidency Project.
All press conference transcripts are available from Presidential News Conferences by The American Presidency Project.

Presidential Debates - Kennedy v. Nixon, Fall 1960 presidential campaign Top

Analysis of the debates on television is accessed at The Great Debate & Beyond: The History of Televised Presidential Debates, and The Great Debate - 1960, with Bill Kurtis' analysis of the style of each debater in the seminal first debate of September 26 (directly accessed at rtsp://68.20.194.82/realvideo/mbc/debates/kurtis.rm). Also see JFK LINK - contents_joint_jfk_rmn from JFK LINK - Speeches on the debates and the surrounding campaign with numerous speeches.

American Experience The Presidents John F. Kennedy PBS - Cuban Missile Crisis - This file includes letters on the Crisis from principals Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro. It concludes with a November 20, 1962 "Statement Announcing the End of the Cuban Naval Quarantine" at John F. Kennedy PBS.

Sources (including primary documents):
Top

The Kennedy Library has thoroughly changed its audio and video file access since launch of its new website on 23 March 2006. This is its current access: Home > Historical Resources > Archives > Reference Desk > Speeches > JFK >Speeches of John F. Kennedy. This list covers one 1946 oration and then his senatorial "remarks" for 1953-1960. Only one of these has audio (in 1958). Following that are speeches and debates in the 1960 presidential campaign and presidential era speeches (from 20 January 1961 to 22 November 1963). Nearly all are accompanied with audio or audio-video. Notable speeches have parenthesized indications such as "City upon a hill" for the January 9, 1961 speech in Boston (Address of President-Elect John F. Kennedy Delivered to a Joint Convention of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum).
One can use a search protocol through citing dates and subjects (if known) from Search - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. But results are discouraging, even when one knows the subject and date(s) of a speech.
Press Conferences of President Kennedy - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library has print transcripts of the 64 Kennedy press conferences dating from January 25, 1961 to November 14, 1963. Only one has audio, although all 64 were televised live.
Formerly available from the Library: Selected Speeches - John Fitzgerald Kennedy had 39 Kennedy speeches from 1960 through 1963. Also the Library's Sound Excerpts From Speeches and Presidential Recordings had sound clips of the many notable Kennedy speech excerpts in .wav files. Also included were excerpts from Kennedy telephone logs.

Elsewhere:
Miller Center of Public Affairs - John F. Kennedy Speeches has audio transcripts of 18 major speeches in chronological order with running time and brief descriptions of each speech. Parent site is Miller Center of Public Affairs - Presidential Speeches.
The Presidential Audio-Video Archive - John F. Kennedy by The American Presidency Project has many audio and video excerpts from the Kennedy presidency, including the 1960 Democratic Convention acceptance speech. Be aware of slow loading of transcripts.
EarthStation1.com - The Sights & Sounds of History - The Nixon - Kennedy Debates Video Page - Streaming RealVideo of the four Nixon - Kennedy presidential debates has the four debates in full video.
The JFK LINK - Speeches site has extensive coverage of the 1960 presidential campaign speeches of both Kennedy and Nixon, with 592 campaign speeches from Senator Kennedy alone. It also covers all Public Papers of President John F. Kennedy for 1961, 1962 and 1963. They consist largely of text transcripts of daily statements issued by the President or in the President's name, but also cover some important public addresses.
The John F. Kennedy Quote Page has numerous excerpts of notable Kennedy statements, without links. Many highlight the regular Kennedy use of antithesis. But be warned: it comes intact with voice files, as do its links out.
C-SPAN's American Presidents Life Portraits- Kennedy has a variety of .ram files of and about Kennedy.
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Lyndon Johnson's "We Shall Overcome" Speech

In the mid-1960’s America was convulsed in race riots and freedom marches. On March 15, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Southerner from a slave state, Texas, asked Congress and all Americans to unite in the cause of equal rights for every American. Johnson pointedly used the phrase “We Shall Overcome” which had been used by civil rights leaders and asked the nation not to think in terms of black and white, north and south, but as Americans.

I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of Democracy. I urge every member of both parties, Americans of all religions and of all colors, from every section of this country, to join me in that cause.

At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord . So it was a century ago at Appomattox . So it was last week in Selma , Alabama . There, long suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many of them were brutally assaulted. One good man – a man of God – was killed.

There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Selma . There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. But there is cause for hope and for faith in our democracy in what is happening here tonight. For the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great government – the government of the greatest nation on earth.

Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country – to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man. In our time, we have come to live with the moments of great crises. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues, issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression.

But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth or abundance, or our welfare or our security, but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved nation. The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. For, with a country as with a person, "what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.

And we are met here tonight as Americans – not as Democrats or Republicans. We're met here as Americans to solve that problem. This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose.

The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: "All men are created equal." "Government by consent of the governed." "Give me liberty or give me death." And those are not just clever words, and those are not just empty theories. In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty risking their lives. Those words are promised to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man.

The last time a President sent a civil rights bill to the Congress it contained a provision to protect voting rights in Federal elections. That civil rights bill was passed after eight long months of debate. And when that bill came to my desk from the Congress for signature, the heart of the voting provision had been eliminated.

This time, on this issue, there must be no delay, or no hesitation, or no compromise with our purpose. We cannot, we must not, refuse to protect the right of every American to vote in every election that he may desire to participate in.

We must not wait another eight months before we get a bill. We have already waited 100 years and more and the time for waiting is gone.

It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause, too.

Because it's not just Negroes, but really it's all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.

And we shall overcome.


Contents

Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford organized and hosted a pre-inaugural ball at the D.C. Armory on the eve of Inauguration day, January 19, 1961, considered as one of the biggest parties ever held in the history of Washington, D.C. [3] [4] Sinatra recruited many Hollywood stars who performed and attended, and went as far as convincing Broadway theatres to suspend their shows for the night to accommodate some of their actors attending the gala. [4] With tickets ranging from $100 per person to $10,000 per group, Sinatra hoped to raise $1.7 million ($14.7 million in today's dollars) for the Democratic Party to eliminate its debt brought on by a hard-fought campaign. [3] [4] Many Hollywood stars gave brief speeches or performed acts, rehearsed by Kay Thompson and directed by Roger Edens, and stayed at the Statler-Hilton Hotel where preparations and rehearsals were photographed by Phil Stern. [4] Performances and speeches included Fredric March, Sidney Poitier, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Bill Dana, Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante, Harry Belafonte, and Sinatra himself.

Sammy Davis, Jr., a long-time friend of Sinatra, supporter of the Democratic Party, and member of the Rat Pack, was asked by John F. Kennedy not to attend the gala at the behest of his father Joseph, [3] fearing that his interracial marriage to Swedish actress May Britt was too controversial for the time and occasion, much to Sammy's and Sinatra's dismay. [3] [4] Davis had already postponed his wedding to Britt until after the election, also at the request of the Kennedy campaign via Sinatra. [5] Davis eventually switched his support to the Republican Party and Richard Nixon in the early 1970s. Harry Belafonte expressed sadness at the controversy, stating "It was the ambassador, [but] we didn't know that until after. Sammy not being there was a loss." [3]

At the end of the ball, Kennedy spoke to thank Sinatra on the festivities and his support of the Democratic Party throughout his life and the 1960 campaign, adding "The happy relationship between the arts and politics which has characterized our long history I think reached culmination tonight." [4] Jacqueline retired to the White House before the ball ended at 1:30 am (ET), and John went to a second pre-inaugural ball hosted by his father Joseph Kennedy, and would finally return to the White House at around 3:30 am. [4]

A strong nor'easter fell the day before the inauguration, with temperatures at 20 °F (−7 °C) and snowfall at 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) per hour [6] and a total of 8 inches (20 cm) during the night, [7] causing transportation and logistical problems in Washington and serious concern for the inauguration. [6] [7] [8] [9]

On inauguration day, January 20, 1961, the skies began to clear but the snow created chaos in Washington, almost canceling the inaugural parade. [6] The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was put in charge of clearing the streets during the evening and morning before the inauguration, and were assisted by more than 1,000 District of Columbia employees and 1,700 Boy Scouts. [6] This task force employed hundreds of dump trucks, front-end loaders, sanders, plows, rotaries, and flamethrowers to clear the route. [6] Over 1,400 cars which had been stranded due to the conditions and lack of fuel had to be removed from the parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue. [6]

The snowstorm dropped visibility at Washington National Airport to less than half a mile, [6] preventing former President Herbert Hoover from flying into Washington and attending the inauguration. [10]

Before the proceeding to the Capitol in company with outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Kennedy went to a morning Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown. [3] Cardinal Richard Cushing gave the invocation at the inaugural which lasted for 12 minutes, [11] with additional prayers recited by Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Church and Reverend Dr. John Barclay of the Central Christian Church of Austin, Texas, and a blessing offered by Rabbi Nelson Glueck. The invocation and prayers lasted a total of 28 minutes. [11] Marian Anderson sang "The Star-Spangled Banner", and a composition by musical Leonard Bernstein titled "Fanfare for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy" was played.

The oath of office for Vice President was administered by the Speaker of the House of Representatives Sam Rayburn to Lyndon Johnson. [12] This marked the first time a Speaker administered the oath, which had been given in previous inaugurations by either the President pro tempore of the Senate, the outgoing Vice President, or a United States Senator. [13]

Robert Frost, then 86 years old, [14] [15] recited his poem "The Gift Outright". [16] [17] Kennedy requested Frost to read a poem at the inauguration, suggesting "The Gift Outright", [17] [18] [19] considered an act of gratitude towards Frost for his help during the campaign. [19] Kennedy would later state that he admired the "courage, the towering skill and daring" of Frost, and adding that "I've never taken the view the world of politics and the world of poetry are so far apart. I think politicians and poets share at least one thing, and that is their greatness depends upon the courage with which they face the challenges of life." [17] American poet William Meredith would say that the request "focused attention on Kennedy as a man of culture, as a man interested in culture." [19]

The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young ambition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.

—Closing seven lines from Robert Frost's poem
"For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration",
the expanded version of "Dedication". [20]

Frost composed a new poem titled Dedication specifically for the ceremony as a preface to the poem Kennedy suggested, [15] [19] to the surprise of Kennedy's friends. [21] On the morning of the inauguration, Frost asked Stewart Udall, Kennedy's future Secretary of the Interior, to have his handwritten draft type scripted for easier reading, to which Udall obliged. [21]

Once at the presidential podium, however, the glare of the sun and snow prevented him from reading his papers. [17] [22] When Frost started reading, he stumbled on the first three lines, squinting at his papers in view of the crowd and cameras. [17] Vice-President Johnson tried to assist by using his top hat as a shade, however Frost waved the offer aside, took the hat and jokingly said "I'll help you with that", sparking laughter and applause from the crowd and President Kennedy. Understanding the immediacy of the situation, Frost stated to the microphones that "this [the poem] was to have been a preface to a poem which I do not have to read", [18] and began to recite "The Gift Outright" from memory. [15] [17] [22] This marks the first time a poem was read at a Presidential inauguration, a feature repeated by future Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden at their respective ceremonies. [14] [23] [24] [25]

Frost gave the type scripted version of the undelivered "Dedication" poem to Udall after the ceremony, who eventually donated the document to the Library of Congress where it is stored today. [21] The original manuscript version, personally dedicated by Frost, was provided to the President and currently held by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. [20] [26] Kennedy's wife Jacqueline framed this manuscript version, writing on the back of the frame: For Jack. First thing I had framed to be put in your office. First thing to be hung there. [20] [26] Frost officially presented the poem, retitled to For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration and expanded from 42 to 77 lines, to Kennedy in March 1962. [17] The unread poem (published in 1962 as part of Frost's In the Clearing poetry collection) was finally recited at the U.S. Capitol by Chaplain Daniel P. Coughlin during the 50th anniversary celebrations of Kennedy's inauguration. [15]

Oath of office Edit

The oath of office for the President was administered by Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren to Kennedy using a closed family Bible at 12:51 (ET) although he officially became president at the stroke of noon. [12] [27] [28] [29] [30] Kennedy did not wear an overcoat when taking the oath of office and delivering the inaugural address, despite the cold conditions of 22 °F (−6 °C) with windchill at 7 °F (−14 °C) at noon. [6] [7] [31]

Immediately after reciting the oath of office, President Kennedy turned to address the crowd gathered at the Capitol. His 1366-word [32] inaugural address, the first delivered to a televised audience in color, [14] is considered one of the best presidential inaugural speeches in American history. [33] [34] [35]

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. [36]

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. [36]

Drafting Edit

The speech was crafted by Kennedy and his speech writer Ted Sorensen. Kennedy had Sorensen study President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as well as other inaugural speeches. [37] Kennedy began collecting thoughts and ideas for his inauguration speech in late November 1960. He took suggestions from various friends, aides and counselors, including suggestions from clergymen for biblical quotations. Kennedy then made several drafts using his own thoughts and some of those suggestions. [38] Kennedy included in his speech several suggestions made by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith and by the former Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson II. Kennedy's line "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate." is nearly identical to Galbraith's suggestion "We shall never negotiate out of fear. But we shall never fear to negotiate." Stevenson's suggestion "if the free way of life doesn't help the many poor of this world it will never save the few rich." was the basis for Kennedy's line "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." [39]

Main ideas of the speech Edit

As a president coming into power at the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy's duty of maintaining peaceful international relations with representing the United States as a force to be reckoned was daunting, at the very least. It is this overarching goal of his presidential term that dominates his inaugural address. Kennedy highlights the newly discovered dangers of nuclear power coupled with the accelerating arms race, and essentially makes the main point that this focus on pure firepower should be replaced with a focus on maintenance of international relations and helping the impoverished in the world. [40]

Rhetorical elements Edit

The main focus of the speech can crudely be boiled down to one theme—the relationship between duty and power. [41] This is emphasized by Kennedy's strong use of juxtaposition in the first part of the speech. For example, he states in the second passage, ". Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life," a clear calling-out of not only America, but also other nations of power for skewed Cold War priorities. He again employs the strategy in the fifth passage when he says, "United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do," again appealing to the idea of refocusing of international values. [42] Again, after exhorting "both sides" to action, he calls on all of "us" "to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle . against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself," [43] though the phrase "long twilight struggle" came to be associated with the cold war struggle against communism. [44]

One of the main components of classical rhetoric kairos—which means to say or do whatever is fitting in a given situation, and is the style with which the orator clothes the proof, as well as to prepon (the appropriate)—which means what is said must conform to both audience and occasion, are also extremely prevalent in this address. [45] Recognizing the fear and anxiety prevalent in the American people since the start of the Cold War, Kennedy geared his speech to have an optimistic and even idealistic tone as a means of providing comfort. He does this by quickly moving the time of the speech into the future, and invokes repetition of the phrase "Let both sides . " to allude to how he plans to deal with strained relations while also appealing to the end goal of international unity. He also phrases negative ideas in a manner so as to present them as opportunities—a challenge, appealing to innately American ideals. A great line to emphasize this is in the fourth from last passage, where he states, "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," a simple twist of words that challenges the American public rather than frightening them.

It was also in his inaugural address that John F. Kennedy spoke his famous words, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." This use of antimetabole can be seen even as a thesis statement of his speech—a call to action for the public to do what is right for the greater good. (This appears to be an elegant rephrasing of Franklin D. Roosevelt's acceptance speech at the 1936 Democratic National Convention: "To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.") [46]

Along with official presidential guests and honorees, including former presidents, vice-presidents, cabinet members, and other Washington officials, the Kennedys invited famous men and women of the arts, including Carl Sandburg, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Brendan Behan, Mark Rothko, and fashion icon and future Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. [3]

Congressman Tip O'Neill sat next to wealthy Boston businessman George Kara: [3]

O'Neill recalled that Kara had nudged him and said, "Years from now, historians will wonder what was on the young man's mind as he strode to take his oath of office. I bet he's asking himself how George Kara got such a good seat." That night, O'Neill and his wife danced over to the president's box at the ball in the Mayflower Hotel to congratulate him, and sure enough, Kennedy asked, "Was that George Kara sitting beside you?" O'Neill told Kennedy what Kara had said, and J.F.K replied, "Tip, you'll never believe it. I had my left hand on the Bible and my right hand in the air, and I was about to take the oath of office, and I said to myself, 'How the hell did Kara get that seat?'"

Presidents and first ladies Edit

Former President Harry S Truman joined Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy on the platform, as did future Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford, making this, retroactively, the largest conclave of the "presidential fraternity" prior to the opening of the Reagan Library in the 1990s.

A vast parade along Pennsylvania Avenue followed the inauguration ceremony, bearing the new President from Capitol Plaza to the White House. Upon his arrival, Kennedy mounted a reviewing stand shared with honored guests such as former President Harry Truman and former First Ladies Edith Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt. Throngs of onlookers and millions of television viewers also watched the procession it took three hours to pass by. Sixteen thousand members of the US armed forces marched with displays of modern weaponry like the Minuteman missile and the supersonic B-70 bomber. A further sixteen thousand marchers were civilians ranging from federal and state officials to high school bands and Boy Scouts, accompanied by forty floats. [47]

Kennedy's inauguration marked many firsts for the United States. Kennedy was the first Catholic inaugurated as commander-in-chief. [48] At the inauguration, Kennedy, then 43, was the youngest elected president and was replacing the oldest president in American history at that time, Eisenhower. [49] [50] [51] The age difference and visual impact of the turnover from Eisenhower's presence to Kennedy's was noticeable at the inauguration. [31] [52] In addition, Kennedy was the first person born in the 20th century to have been inaugurated as President. [53]

The claim that Kennedy did not wear a hat to his inauguration, and so single-handedly killed the men's hat industry, [54] [55] [56] is false. [56] [57] Kennedy wore a top hat to the inauguration and to the balls in the evening, removing it only to be sworn in and give his address. He in fact restored the tradition, after Eisenhower broke with it by wearing a homburg instead of a top hat to both of his inaugurations. [56] Johnson, at his inauguration in 1965, was the first President to go completely hatless. [56] [57]


Televised Address to the Nation on Civil Rights

Description: CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) motion picture excerpt of President John F. Kennedy's full radio and television report to the American people on civil rights. See "Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963: Item 237." In his speech the President responds to the threats of violence and obstruction on the University of Alabama campus following desegregation attempts, explaining that the United States was founded on the principle that all men are created equal and thus, all American students are entitled to attend public educational institutions, regardless of race. He also discusses how discrimination affects education, public safety, and international relations, noting that the country cannot preach freedom internationally while ignoring it domestically. The President asks Congress to enact legislation protecting all Americans' voting rights, legal standing, educational opportunities, and access to public facilities, but recognizes that legislation alone cannot solve the country's problems concerning race relations. Copyright restrictions apply.

Copyright Status: © Columbia Broadcasting System. Non-exclusive licensing rights held by the JFK Library Foundation.

Physical Description: 1 film reel (black-and-white sound 16 mm 1081 feet 14 minutes)


Sen. Ted Kennedy was known by many Americans for his stirring oratory, whether in eulogies for fallen family members, incendiary attacks on policies he opposed or rousing campaign speeches for himself and other Democrats.

Here are excerpts from some of his most notable speeches.

On the death of Robert F. Kennedy, New York City, June 8, 1968

"My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

"Those of us who loved him, and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world.

"As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: 'Some men see things as they are and say, “Why?” I dream things that never were and say, “Why not?”'"

Democratic National Convention, New York City, Aug. 12, 1980

"I have listened to young workers out of work, to students without the tuition for college and to families without the chance to own a home. I have seen the closed factories and the stalled assembly lines of Anderson, Indiana and South Gate, Calif., and I have seen too many, far too many, idle men and women desperate to work. I have seen too many, far too many, working families desperate to protect the value of their wages from the ravages of inflation.

"Yet I have also sensed a yearning for new hope among the people in every state where I have been. And I have felt it in their handshakes, I saw it in their faces, and I shall never forget the mothers who carried children to our rallies. I shall always remember the elderly who have lived in an America of high purpose and who believe that it can all happen again.

"Tonight, in their name, I have come here to speak for them. And for their sake, I ask you to stand with them. On their behalf, I ask you to restate and reaffirm the timeless truth of our party.

"I congratulate President Carter on his victory here.

"I am confident that the Democratic Party will reunite on the basis of Democratic principles and that together we will march toward a Democratic victory in 1980.

"And someday, long after this convention, long after the signs come down and the crowds stop cheering and the bands stop playing, may it be said of our campaign that we kept the faith. May it be said of our party in 1980 that we found our faith again.

"And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved and that have special meaning for me now:

'I am a part of all that I have met. .
Tho much is taken, much abides. .
That which we are, we are ?
One equal temper of heroic hearts
. strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.'

"For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."

On President Ronald Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Senate, July 1, 1987

''Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.”


On the death of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, New York City, May 23, 1994

“She was a blessing to us and to the nation ? and a lesson to the world on how to do things right, how to be a mother, how to appreciate history, how to be courageous. No one else looked like her, spoke like her, wrote like her, or was so original in the way she did things. No one we knew ever had a better sense of self. . No one ever gave more meaning to the title of first lady."

On the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., July 23, 1999

"We dared to think, in that other Irish phrase, that this John Kennedy would live to comb gray hair, with his beloved Carolyn by his side. But like his father, he had every gift but length of years.

"We who have loved him from the day he was born, and watched the remarkable man he became, now bid him farewell."

Opposing Senate passage of the Authorization for Use of Force in Iraq, the floor of the U.S. Senate, Oct. 10, 2002

"The question is not whether we will disarm Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction but how. And it is wrong for Congress to declare war against Iraq now, before we have exhausted the alternatives. It is wrong for the president to demand a declaration of war from Congress when he says he has not decided whether to go to war. It is wrong to avert our attention now from the greater and far more immediate threat of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda terrorism."


Endorsing Sen. Barack Obama, American University in Washington, D.C., Jan. 28, 2008

"Now, with Barack Obama, there is a new national leader who has given America a different kind of campaign — a campaign not just about himself but about all of us. A campaign about the country we will become, if we can rise above the old politics that parses us into separate groups and puts us at odds with one another.

"I remember another such time, in the 1960s, when I came to the Senate at the age of 30. We had a new president who inspired the nation, especially the young, to seek a new frontier. Those inspired young people marched, sat in at lunch counters, protested the war in Vietnam and served honorably in that war even when they opposed it.

"They realized that when they asked what they could do for their country, they could change the world.

"It was the young who led the first Earth Day and issued a clarion call to protect the environment, the young who enlisted in the cause of civil rights and equality for women, the young who joined the Peace Corps and showed the world the hopeful face of America.

"At the fifth anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps, I asked one of those young Americans why they had volunteered.

"And I will never forget the answer: ‘It was the first time someone asked me to do something for my country.’

"This is another such time. .

"I know that [Obama will be] ready to be president on Day One. And when he raises his hand on Inauguration Day, at that very moment, we will lift the spirits of our nation and begin to restore America’s standing in the world.

"There was another time, when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a New Frontier.

"He faced public criticism from the preceding Democratic president, who was widely respected in the party. Harry Truman said we needed 'someone with greater experience' ? and added: 'May I urge you to be patient.' And John Kennedy replied: ‘The world is changing. The old ways will not do. … It is time for a new generation of leadership.' So it is with Barack Obama. He has lit a spark of hope amid 'the fierce urgency of now.'"

At the Democratic National Convention, Denver, Colo., Aug. 25, 2008

“Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race and gender and group against group and straight against gay.

“And Barack Obama will be a commander in chief who understands that young Americans in uniform must never be committed to a mistake, but always for a mission worthy of their bravery.
“We are told that Barack Obama believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor, but when John Kennedy called of going to the moon, he didn't say, ‘It's too far to get there. We shouldn't even try.’

“Our people answered his call and rose to the challenge, and today an American flag still marks the surface of the moon.

“Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I've seen it. I've lived it. And we can do it again.

“There is a new wave of change all around us, and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination ? not merely victory for our party but renewal for our nation.

“And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans, so with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.”


Who Wrote JFK’s Inaugural?

I n my childhood imagination, John F. Kennedy slotted somewhere below DiMaggio and above De Niro in a loose ranking of latter-day American deities. When I was just a toddler, the late president left a lasting impression on me, literally, after I pulled a terracotta reproduction of Robert Berks’ iconic sculpture—weighing considerably less, thankfully, than the 3,000-pound original—down from a sideboard and onto my head. On my bedroom wall hung two plaques, one a list of “coincidences”—many trivial, some factually incorrect—between the political careers and assassinations of Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. The other, also arguably incorrect, was a portrait of Kennedy embossed on black metal, staring out above his famous entreaty in all caps:

“ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY
CAN DO FOR YOU …
ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO
FOR YOUR COUNTRY.”
J.F.K.

It’s no secret that presidents often speak words they themselves did not write. When George Washington delivered the very first inaugural address, on Apr. 30, 1789, he was reading from a reworked draft composed by his friend and frequent ghostwriter James Madison. In 1861, with the country on the brink of civil war, Lincoln pitched his address to a restive South and planned to end on the crudely formed question, “Shall it be peace or sword?” That is, until his soon-to-be Secretary of State William Seward suggested a less combative, more poetic conjuring of “mystic chords” and “the better angel guardian angel of the nation,” which Lincoln then uncrossed and altered to “the better angels of our nature.” Small matter, perhaps. We don’t require that our politicians be great writers, after all, only effective communicators, and they in turn sometimes benefit from a misattribution in perpetuity of someone else’s eloquence.

In Kennedy’s case, the gift of rhetoric was owed largely to his longtime counsel and legislative aide, Ted Sorensen, who later became his principal speechwriter after the two developed a simpatico understanding of oratory. In his 1965 biography Kennedy, Sorensen wrote:

Kennedy believed his inaugural address should “set a tone for the era about to begin,” an era in which he imagined foreign policy and global issues—not least the specter of nuclear annihilation—would be his chief concern. But while Sorensen may have been the only person who could reliably give voice to Kennedy’s ideas, the coming speech was too historic to entrust to merely one man. On Dec. 23, 1960, less than a month before Kennedy would stand on the East Portico of the Capitol to take the oath of office, Sorensen sent a block telegram to 10 men, soliciting “specific themes” and “language to articulate these themes whether it takes one page or ten pages.”

Although Sorensen was without question the chief architect of Kennedy’s inaugural, the final draft contained contributions or borrowings from, among others, the Old Testament, the New Testament, Lincoln, Kennedy rival and two-time Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson, Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and, we believe, Kennedy himself.

But an unequivocal puzzling out of exactly who wrote what is, with some exceptions, impossible. Late in his life, Sorensen, who died in 2010, admitted to destroying his own hand-written first draft of the speech at the request of Jacqueline Kennedy, who was deeply protective of her husband’s legacy. When pressed further, Sorensen was famously coy. If asked whether he wrote the speech’s most enduring line, for example, he would answer simply, “Ask not.” During an interview with Richard Tofel, author of Sounding the Trumpet: The Making of John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, Sorensen seemed to suggest that preservation of the myth was more essential than any single truth about the man:

If Jacqueline Kennedy and Ted Sorensen were willing to tear up what may have been the only categorical proof of Sorensen’s primary authorship, President Kennedy—in an incident that can only be described as out-and-out deception—was willing to lie. On Jan. 16 and 17, 1961, at the Kennedy vacation compound in Palm Beach, Fla., Sorensen and JFK polished a near-final draft of the inaugural address and even typed it up on carbon paper. Later on the 17 th , the two flew back to Washington aboard Kennedy’s private plane, the Caroline, with Time correspondent Hugh Sidey, whose reporting on the president veered between the credulous and the hagiographic.

At some point during the flight, Kennedy began scribbling on a yellow legal pad in front of Sidey, as if working out just then his thoughts about the speech. What Kennedy in fact wrote was some of the precise language that had already been committed to typescript. During an interview with historian Thurston Clarke, author of Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech that Changed America, Sidey recalled thinking, “My God! It’s three days before the inauguration, and he hasn’t progressed beyond a first draft?”

Not only had Kennedy progressed well beyond that, but he and Sorensen had nailed down what we know to be the penultimate version. Even worse, Kennedy later copied out by hand six or seven more pages—directly, one assumes, from the typewritten copy—and dated it “Jan 17, 1961.” After JFK’s assassination, the pages were displayed in what would become his presidential library and identified as an early draft.

There are a total of 51 sentences in the only text of the inaugural that now matters to the world, the speech as read on Jan. 20, 1961, though it can’t be said, without at least some conjecture, that Kennedy was the principal author of any one of them. I asked Tofel, who is now president of ProPublica, what it means that Kennedy may have been a mere messenger of what many Americans consider to be one of the most pivotal speeches of the 20 th century, second only to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream”:

Should Sorensen’s original draft or other lost fragments ever materialize, whatever they might say is surely no match for the shrine that history has erected and the symbolism that hung on the walls of my childhood bedroom. And in that sense, those words belong to me.


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