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COLUMN: A Malat Musing: Time for Respectful Remembrance

Updated: 05/06/2014 1:38 PM
Created: 11/18/2013 3:55 PM KSTP.com
By: Phil Malat

"Our duty as a party is not to our party alone, but to the nation and, indeed, to all mankind.  Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom." 

-John F. Kennedy, Speech prepared for Dallas Texas on 11-22-1963, Did not deliver.

One can only hope that the 50th anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history will not result in the same old rehashing of the unfounded, wild-eyed speculations surrounding the death of President John F. Kennedy.  There is so much more worth noting and remembering about the man and his remarkable accomplishments in his scant, 1,036 days in the oval office. For the 50th anniversary, how about focusing on the following?

John F. Kennedy remains the only Roman Catholic ever elected President of The United States.  He won his election at a time when the Ku Klux Klan and other notoriously bigoted organizations had far greater influence on public opinion.

His presidency was very brief; he served only 2 years, 10 months and 3 days. Only six presidents served less time in office than President Kennedy.

The era of his term was extremely turbulent and very volatile. The cold war had lead to mistrust and uncertainty creating very real concerns over the threat of nuclear annihilation. Bigoted hatreds were reaching a fever pitch. Poverty, hunger and homelessness had attained unprecedented levels of concern.  Corporate and personal greed threatened to damage both the American and worldwide economies.  Excessive levels of taxation were hampering economic growth. Serving as president in 1961 proved to be the ultimate challenge.

President Kennedy was a progressive. He believed that government could and should play a key role in solving the country’s problems, and that the president had a responsibility to lead in that endeavor. His style was informal and down-to-earth.

He insisted upon knowing what everyone around him was thinking, especially if it was contrary to what he believed. He reminded them time and again that that was why he surrounded himself with the brightest and the best.  While prone to fits of temper brought on by enormous frustrations, he assured everyone around him that no retaliation would be enacted for disagreeing with him.

On the economic front, President Kennedy reduced the top marginal tax rate from 91 percent to 70 percent and reduced the corporate tax rate from 52 percent to 48 percent.  At the same time, he refused to allow the steel companies to jeopardize the economy through their refusal to honor their agreement to forgo all price hikes as a condition for union concessions in their labor agreements.  He minced no words and wasn’t bashful in demonstrating his contempt for this greed saying, “at a time when restraint and sacrifice are being asked of every citizen, the American people will find it hard, as I do, to accept a situation in which a tiny handful of steel executives whose pursuit of private power and profit exceeds their sense of public responsibility can show such utter contempt for the interests of 185 million Americans.”  

With regards the cold war and foreign policy; he accepted full responsibility for the failure at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba.  However, he also learned from that experience.  During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he pursued every question and every option he failed to pursue during the Bay of Pigs.  He was committed to finding a diplomatic solution, not a military solution, to avert the potential of a nuclear war between the two most powerful military forces on earth.  Most historians agree that this was one of the single greatest achievements of a president.

The Kennedy commitment to the space program and landing an American on the moon before the end of the decade resulted in untold technological advances and accomplishments worldwide.  It also reaffirmed that nothing was impossible in America as she once again validated her worldwide standing and image as the greatest country on earth.

JFK was an FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) progressive when it came to the poor and underprivileged.  He championed civil rights, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage, as well as raising health care standards for all Americans especially the elderly and our children.

His wit and humor, powerful words of conviction and his charismatic personality provided him with the unique ability to lead through gaining consensus.   A few quotes and links to some of his speeches are provided below.

With this treasured legacy available to enrich the American conscience, it is clearly high time that Nov. 22  be an impetus for celebration rather than another day of acrimony surrounding one of America’s greatest tragedies.   Let us not relive the horror, but praise the blessing.  We can only pray that the media possess the maturity to do so. --------------------------------------------------------

Footnote:  Dating back to the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and up to the time Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt in 1981, every president elected at the start of a decade died while serving in the oval office.  Four died of natural causes: William Henry Harrison, Warren G. Harding, Zachary Taylor and Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Four were assassinated: Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy.

Quotes:

"Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth."    UN Speech - 1961

"If you make peaceful revolution impossible you make violent revolution inevitable.

"If by a 'Liberal' they mean someone who looks ahead not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties - someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our… policies, if that is what they mean by a 'Liberal' then I'm proud to say; I am a 'liberal'."   

"I look forward to a great future for America, a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. . . . And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well."     October 26, 1963

"Now the trumpet summons us again--not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--not as a call to battle, though embattled we are--but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle year in and year out 'rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation'--a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself."

This nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened." June-11-1963

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

"If we demonstrate no vitality here in the United States - no inspired leadership - no imagination in meeting our problems…If our own people are complacent and self-satisfied, content with things as they are then our prestige and our influence and our contribution will surly decline."

"We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."

"For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie--deliberate, contrived and dishonest--but the myth--persistent, persuasive--of our forebears. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."       Yale- June 11, 1962

"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 to assure the survival and the success of liberty."     Inaugural address, January 20, 1961.

"The freedom of the city is not negotiable. We cannot negotiate with those who say, 'What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable.'"    On Berlin - 1961

"Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right--not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved."    July 4, 1962

"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."

Wit and Humor:

"There are three things in life which are real: God, human folly and laughter.
Since the first two are beyond our comprehension, we must do what we can with the third."

[Mr. President, how did you become a war hero?]
"It was absolutely involuntary. They sank my boat."

"I have just received the following telegram from my generous daddy.
It says, 'Dear Jack: Don't buy a single vote more than necessary. I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide.'"         Gridiron Dinner, Washington, DC, 1958

"I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House--with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."   April 29, 1962

"When we got into office, the first thing that surprised me most was to find that things were just as bad as we'd been saying they were."     Washington, 1961

"Do you know the responsibility I carry?
I'm the only person between Nixon and the White House."

"Mr. Nixon, in the last seven days, has called me an economic ignoramus, a Pied Piper, and all the rest.  I've just confined myself to calling him a Republican, but he says that is getting low."

Press Conference Humor – Collage

“There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternatives, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility.”

Speech prepared for delivery in Dallas Texas on 11-22-1963 – Never Uttered

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.”

Videos:

JFK’s Vision of America - My Business Was Mankind

Kennedy Sells Vision – The president at his best- (In doing so answers every modern day objection to Health Care)

American University Commencement Address – June 10, 1963 – Considered by many as his finest speech 

Going To The Moon – Rice University - September 12, 1962

Berlin Speech - "Ich bin ein Berliner" – June 26, 1963

Vietnam Interview with Walter Cronkite – September 2, 1963

Vietnam Press Conference – November 14, 1963 – 8 days before his death

"I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contributions to the human spirit," John F. Kennedy

Phil Malat is a columnist for KSTP.com


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