Fifty years ago today in Dallas, President John F.
Kennedy was assassinated before he could deliver a speech whose message
echoes across the decades, and today stands as a prophetic admonition
against Tea Party politics.
In the words of the speech he never gave that day, Kennedy rebuked
those who "confuse rhetoric with reality," who demonize America's civil
servants, and who "see the debt as the single greatest threat to our
security." The speech is a full-throated celebration of rationality and
learning as the linchpin of American leadership, and a surprisingly
modern rebuke of the Ted Cruz wing of Republican politics.
Kennedy's last speech. It was never delivered. Trade Mart Speech (Kennedy's Last Speech) The president was scheduled to deliver this speech the day he was assassinated, November 22, 1963.
I am honored to have this invitation to address the annual meeting of
the Dallas Citizens Council, joined by the members of the Dallas
Assembly -- and pleased to have this opportunity to salute the Graduate
Research Center of the Southwest. It is fitting that these two symbols
of Dallas progress are united in the sponsorship of this meeting. For
they represent the best qualities, I am told, of leadership and learning
in this city -- and leadership and learning are indispensable to each
other. The advancement of learning depends on community leadership for
financial political support, and the products of that learning, in turn,
are essential to the leadership's hopes for continued progress and
prosperity. It is not a coincidence that those communities possessing
the best in research and graduate facilities -- from MIT to Cal Tech --
tend to attract new and growing industries. I congratulate those of you
here in Dallas who have recognized these basic facts through the
creation of the unique and forward-looking Graduate Research Center.
This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at
the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs.
Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a
company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap
this country's security.
In a world of complex and continuing problems,
in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America's leadership
must be guided by the lights of learning and reason -- or else those who
confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will
gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple
solutions to every world problem.
There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing
opposition without alternative, finding fault but never favor,
perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without
responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.
But today other voices are heard in the land -- voices preaching
doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties,
doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without
weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a
sign of weakness. At a time when the national debt is steadily being
reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the
single greatest threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily
reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand
citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more
than the actual hordes of opposing armies.
We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago,
will "talk sense to the American people." But we can hope that fewer
people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is
headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of
slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.
I want to discuss with your today the status of our security because
this question clearly calls for the most responsible qualities of
leader- ship and the most enlightened products of scholarship. for this
Nation's strength and security are not easily or cheaply obtained, nor
are they quickly and simply explained. there are many kinds of strength
and no one kind will suffice. Overwhelming nuclear strength cannot stop a
guerrilla war. Formal pacts of alliance cannot stop internal
subversion. Displays of material wealth cannot stop the disillusionment
of diplomats subjected to discrimination.
Above all, words alone are not enough. The United States is a
peaceful nation. And where our strength and determination are clear, our
words need merely to convey conviction, not belligerence. If we are
strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will
be of no help.
I realize that this Nation often tends to identify turning-points in
world affairs with the major addresses which preceded them. But it was
not the Monroe Doctrine that kept all Europe away from this hemisphere
-- it was the strength of the British fleet and the width of the
Atlantic Ocean. It was not General Marshall's speech at Harvard which
kept communism out of Western Europe -- it was the strength and
stability made possible by our military and economic assistance.
In this administration also it has been necessary at times to issue
specific warnings -- warnings that we could not stand by and watch the
Communists conquer Laos by force, or intervene in the Congo, or swallow
West Berlin, or maintain offensive missiles on Cuba. But while our goals
were at least temporarily obtained in these and other instances, our
successful defense of freedom was not due to the words we used, but to
the strength we stood ready to use on behalf of the principles we stand
ready to defend.
This strength is composed of many different elements, ranging from
the most massive deterrents to the most subtle influences. And all types
of strength are needed -- no one kind could do the job alone. Let us
take a moment, therefore, to review this Nation's progress in each major
area of strength.
First, as Secretary McNamara made clear in his address last Monday,
the strategic nuclear power of the United States has been so greatly
modernized and expanded in the last 1,000 days, by the rapid production
and deployment of the most modern missile systems, that any and all
potential aggressors are clearly confronted now with the impossibility
of strategic victory -- and the certainty of total destruction -- if by
reckless attack they should ever force upon us the necessity of a
In less than 3 years, we have increased by 50 percent the number of
Polaris submarines scheduled to be in force by the next fiscal year,
increased by more than 70 percent our total Polaris purchase program,
increased by more than 75 percent our Minutemen purchase program,
increased by 50 percent the portion of our strategic bombers on
15-minute alert forces. Our security is further enhanced by the steps we
have taken regarding these weapons to improve the speed and certainty
of their response, their readiness at all times to respond, their
ability to survive an attack, and their ability to be carefully
controlled and directed through secure command operations.
But the lessons of the last decade have taught us that freedom cannot
be defended by strategic nuclear power alone. We have, therefore, in
the last 3 years accelerated the development and deployment of tactical
nuclear weapons, and increased by 60 percent the tactical nuclear forces
deployed in Western Europe.
Nor can Europe or any other continent rely on nuclear forces alone,
whether they are strategic or tactical. We have radically improved the
readiness of our conventional forces -- increased by 45 percent of the
number of combat ready Army divisions, increased by 100 percent the
procurement of modern Army weapons and equipment, increased by 100
percent our procurement of our ship construction, conversion, and
modernization program, increased by 100 percent our procurement of
tactical aircraft, increased by 30 percent the number of tactical air
squadrons, and increased the strength of the Marines. As last month's
"Operation Big Lift" -- which originated here in Texas -- showed so
clearly, this Nation is prepared as never before to move substantial
numbers of men in surprisingly little time to advanced positions any-
where in the world. We have increased by 175 percent the procurement of
airlift aircraft, and we have already achieved a 75 percent increase in
our existing strategic airlift capability. Finally, moving beyond the
traditional roles of our military forces, we have achieved an increase
of nearly 600 percent in our special forces -- those forces that are
prepared to work with our allies and friends against the guerrillas,
saboteurs, insurgents and assassins who threaten freedom in a less
direct but equally dangerous manner.
But American military might should not and need not stand alone
against the ambitions of international communism. Our security and
strength, in the last analysis, directly depend on the security and
strength of others, and that is why our military and economic assistance
plays such a key role in enabling those who live on the periphery of
the Communist world to maintain their independence of choice. Our
assistance to these nations can be painful, risky, and costly, as is
true in Southeast Asia today. But we dare not weary of the task. For our
assistance makes possible the stationing of 3.5 million allied troops
along the Communist frontier at one-tenth the cost of maintaining a
comparable number of American soldiers. A successful Communist
breakthrough in these area, necessitating direct United States
intervention, would cost us several times as much as our entire foreign
aid program, and might cost us heavily in American lives as well.
About 70 percent of our military assistance goes to nine key
countries located on or near the borders of the Communist-bloc -- nine
countries confronted directly or indirectly with the threat of
Communistic aggression -- Viet-Nam, Free China, Korea, India, Pakistan,
Thailand, Greece, Turkey, and Iran. No one of these countries possesses
on its own the resources to maintain the forces which our own Chiefs of
Staff think needed in the common interest. Reducing our efforts to
train, equip, and assist their armies can only encourage Communist
penetration and require in time the increased overseas deployment of
American combat forces. And reducing the economic help needed to bolster
these nations that undertake to help defend freedom can have the same
disastrous result. In short, the $50 billion we spend each year on our
own defense could well be ineffective without the $4 billion required
for military and economic assistance.
Our foreign aid program is not growing in size, it is, on the
contrary, smaller now than in previous years. It has had its weaknesses,
but we have undertaken to correct them. And the proper way of treating
weaknesses is to replace them with strength, not to increase those
weaknesses by emasculating essential programs. Dollar for dollar, in or
out of government, there is no better form of investment in our national
security than our much-abused foreign aid program. We cannot afford to
lose it. We can afford to maintain it. we can surely afford, for
example, to do as much for our 19 needy neighbors of Latin America as
the Communist bloc is sending to the island of Cuba alone.
I have spoken of strength largely in terms of the deterrence and
resistance of aggression and attack. But in today's world, freedom can
be lost without a shot being fired, by ballots as well as bullets. The
success of our leadership is dependent upon respect for our mission in
the world as well as our missiles -- on a clearer recognition of the
virtues of freedom as well as the evils of tyranny.
That is why our Information Agency has doubled the shortwave
broadcasting powers of the Voice of America and increased the number of
broadcasting hours by 30 percent, increased Spanish language
broadcasting to Cuba and Latin America from 1 to 9 hours a day,
increased seven-fold to more than 3.5 million copies the number of
American books being translated and published for Latin American
readers, and taken a host of other steps to carry our message of truth
and freedom to all the far corners of the earth.
And that is also why we have regained the initiative in the
exploration of outer space, making an annual effort greater than the
combined total of all space activities undertaken during the fifties,
launching more than 130 vehicles into earth orbit, putting into actual
operation valuable weather and communications satellites, and making it
clear to all that the United States of America has no intention of
finishing second in space.
This effort is expensive -- but it pays its own way, for freedom and
for America. For there is no longer any fear in the free world that a
Communist lead in space will become a permanent assertion of supremacy
and the basis for military superiority. There is no longer any doubt
about the strength and skill of American science, American industry,
American education, and the American free enterprise system. In short,
our nation space effort represents a great gain in, and a great resource
of, our national strength -- and both Texas and Texans are contributing
greatly to this strength.
Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger
abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it
preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by
those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully
educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems
and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live. And
only an America which is growing and prospering economically can sustain
the worldwide defenses of freedom, while demonstrating to all concerned
the opportunities of our system and society.
It is clear, therefore, that we are strengthening our security as
well as our economy by our recent record increases in national income
and output -- by surging ahead of most of Western Europe in the rate of
business expansion and the margin of corporate profits, by maintaining a
more stable level of prices than almost any of our overseas
competitors, and by cutting personal and corporate income taxes by some
$11 billion, as I have proposed, to assure this Nation of the longest
and strongest expansion in our peacetime economic history.
This Nation's total output -which 3 years ago was at the $500 billion
mark -- will soon pass $600 billion, for a record rise of over $100
billion in 3 years. For the first time in history we have 70 million men
and women at work. For the first time in history average factory
earnings have exceeded $100 a week. For the first time in history
corporation profits after taxes -- which have risen 43 percent in less
than 3 years -- have an annual level of $27.4 billion.
My friends and fellow citizens: I cite these facts and figures to
make it clear that America today is stronger than ever before. Our
adversaries have not abandoned their ambitions, our dangers have not
diminished, our vigilance cannot be relaxed. But now we have the
military, the scientific, and the economic strength to do whatever must
be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom.
The strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions --
it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to
promote provocations -- it will always be used to promote the peaceful
settlement of disputes.
We, in this country, in this generation, are -- by destiny rather
than by choice -- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask,
therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that
we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may
achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on
earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the
righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was
written long ago: "except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh
but in vain."