Do Not Pray For Easy Lives
JFK's American University Commencement Speech (Redux)
Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men . . . Truth is a tyrant —
the only tyrant to whom we can give our allegiance. The service of truth is
a matter of heroism. - JFK
The fullness of life is in the hazards of life . . . To the heroic, desperate odds fling a challenge. — Aeschylus
June 10, marks the anniversary of a very important — perhaps the most significant — speech that President John F. Kennedy delivered during the course of his presidency. It’s not the most famous of his speeches. His inaugural — “Ask not what you country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” — is his most well-known. There are others, too, of course. But this one is unique, for it represents the culmination of the hard-won wisdom that began with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, following in the wake of the so-called “Bay of Pigs” fiasco of 1961, where the United States and the USSR (Soviet Union/Russia) came perilously close to war — full-on nuclear war that would very probably have led to the end of human civilization on this planet as we know it. These events are as relevant and significant for us today (perhaps more so) than they were then. Think about it: no one you know (no one period) born after 1962 would have been born were it not for Kennedy. He was lucky, for sure (so were we all); but he was also wise — deeply moral and courageous. And he paid the price — in toto.
In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our
own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus
The Cuban Missile Crisis of October (14th – 28th) 1962 was the pivotal historical event of the 20th Century; and was arguably the closest that humans beings have come to destroying the species as we know it — or at least human civilization and most natural life on earth — in the course of human existence. The United States, under the leadership of Kennedy, and the Soviet Union, under the leadership of Nikita Kruschev, came as close to the edge of the abyss, from which there is no return, as we have ever come.
To be sure, were it not for each of Kennedy’s and Kruschev’s respective — if dissimilar — capabilities to exercise prudence, wisdom, empathy, and an extraordinary ability to resist the extreme pressures inveighed upon them by their generals to use the doomsday weapons at their immediate disposal (not to mention an incredible amount of luck and chance), none of us would be sitting here reading (or in my case: writing) this. And most of us would probably not even exist — never to have been born at all. That grave point of historical fact is about as certain as one can get in the study of the past that I am aware of.
Without further digression, the essential point here is that the Cuban Missile Crisis had a transformative, edifying effect on JFK as a leader and as a human being. He had been both shaken and enlightened by that excruciatingly traumatic experience. He came away from it with courage and resolve to lead the world away from conventional thinking and conduct, in both foreign policy and war. Kennedy recognized that such thinking and practices were fatally or otherwise terminally flawed and had to change. Indeed, he believed that the most fundamental assumptions and expectations about the world order and the role of humankind on earth must be transformed. Thus, Kennedy became increasingly committed to the project of international peace and was determined to not only reduce but ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons altogether.
Later, on September 20, 1963, in the midst of the Cold War, against all odds and the vitriol of the so-called “radical Right,” Kennedy extended the hand of peace to our supposed “enemy,” the Soviet Union in a speech delivered to UN General Assembly. Moreover, he held out the promise and possibility that all the nations and peoples of the world, regardless of their differences, can coexist together on planet earth with respect, empathy, compassion, and mutual understanding. This enterprise was one that he well understood could not be unilaterally enforced upon the world by the U.S.A. (“not a Pax Americana,” he said) but rather required the genuine cooperation and diligent participation of other nations (particularly our “enemies”). Elsewhere, Kennedy once said that he was “an idealist without illusions.” Perhaps his finest expression of this critically self-reflective vision was articulated in that commencement address he gave a few months later at American University on June 10, 1963, just another few months before his untimely assassination in November.
The American University Speech and the test-ban treaty that it announced to the world opened the door to the longer-range project of ending the Cold War, which Kennedy understood in unambiguous terms as necessary for the survival of humankind in the nuclear age. That was the “truth” he was confronted with and courageously sought to affirm for all the world. The test-ban treaty was, in other words, Kennedy’s first concrete step after the Cuban Missile Crisis toward a redemptive process of general or complete disarmament and a future world order that was geared for peace — not war. He knew war (he served valiantly — heroically — in the South Pacific during WWII) and the consequences of war.
PT – 109 South Pacific 1942
Kennedy’s speech suggests that the indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons — in addition to the wanton pollution of the earth’s atmosphere (JFK was a proto-ecologist)— will not only destroy civilization as we know it, but also life (“worth living”) on this planet. Kennedy suggests, moreover, that the thinking and conduct of the Cold War (or, for that matter, any modern war between “super powers”), including the assumptions and expectations that attend them, can stop and — in light of the consequences of nuclear war and unmitigated destruction of the ecosphere — must stop if nations and human civilization, not to mention the species, are to continue to exist. JFK’s speech frames a political, indeed existential necessity in terms of a moral imperative.
The point here is that Kennedy’s words and ideas, as well as the historical context in which they were delivered, are as relevant and essential for human survival today as they were then — if not more so given the ever-increasing proliferation of nuclear weapons and the ever-present threat of thermonuclear war, the instability of the global balance of power, the pandemic threat of global “terrorism” and related wars in South Asia and the Middle East, not to mention the myriad ecological crises associated with global climate change. We do well, then, to carefully (re)consider JFK’s summons to a higher purpose of human possibility with a view to “our most basic common link”: life on earth.
Harvard graduation 1940, Cambridge Mass.
His is a challenge to rethink our most basic assumptions and expectations with regard to the place of human beings on earth and how we think about our “enemies” as they are to take risks hitherto unknown. As the events of the intervening decades teach us plainly, we ignore Kennedy’s call to critical self-reflection, empathy, mutual understanding, and the project of world peace at our collective peril.
This is the text of his speech:
President Anderson, members of the faculty, board of trustees, distinguished guests, my old colleague, Senator Bob Byrd, who has earned his degree through many years of attending night law school, while I am earning mine in the next 30 minutes, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
It is with great pride that I participate in this ceremony of the American University, sponsored by the Methodist Church, founded by Bishop John Fletcher Hurst, and first opened by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. This is a young and growing university, but it has already fulfilled Bishop Hurst's enlightened hope for the study of history and public affairs in a city devoted to the making of history and to the conduct of the public's business. By sponsoring this institution of higher learning for all who wish to learn, whatever their color or their creed, the Methodists of this area and the Nation deserve the Nation's thanks, and I commend all those who are today graduating.
Professor Woodrow Wilson once said that every man sent out from a university should be a man of his nation as well as a man of his time, and I am confident that the men and women who carry the honor of graduating from this institution will continue to give from their lives, from their talents, a high measure of public service and public support. "There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university," wrote John Masefield in his tribute to English universities -- and his words are equally true today. He did not refer to towers or to campuses. He admired the splendid beauty of a university, because it was, he said, "a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see."
I have, therefore, chosen this time and place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth too rarely perceived. And that is the most important topic on earth: peace. What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a 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, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and 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 in all time.
I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Totalwar makes no sense in an age where great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age where a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.
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, towards the Soviet Union, towards the course of the cold war and towards freedom and peace here at home.
First examine our attitude towards peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again. I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of universal peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal.
Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions -- on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace; no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process — a way of solving problems.
With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor, it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors. So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly towards it.
And second, let us reexamine our attitude towards the Soviet Union. It is discouraging to think that their 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 war, 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 -- and I quote -- "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 war."
Truly, as it was written long ago: "The wicked flee when no man pursueth."
Yet it is sad to read these Soviet statements, to realize the extent of the gulf between us. But it is also a warning, a warning to the American people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats.
No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture, in acts of courage.
Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war. Almost unique among the major world powers, we have never been at war with each other. And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union in the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and families were burned or sacked. A third of the nation's territory, including two thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland -- a loss equivalent to the destruction of this country east of Chicago.
Today, should total war ever break out again — no matter how — our two countries will be the primary target. It is an ironic but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation. All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours. And even in the cold war, which brings burdens and dangers to so many countries, including this Nation's closest allies, our two countries bear the heaviest burdens. For we are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combat ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle, with suspicion on one side breeding suspicion on the other, and new weapons begetting counter-weapons. In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours. And even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.
So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal.
Third, let us reexamine our attitude towards the cold war, remembering we're not engaged in a debate, seeking to pile up debating points. We are not here distributing blame or pointing the finger of judgment. We must deal with the world as it is, and not as it might have been had the history of the last 18 years been different. We must, therefore, persevere in the search for peace in the hope that constructive changes within the Communist bloc might bring within reach solutions which now seem beyond us. We must conduct our affairs in such a way that it becomes in the Communists' interest to agree on a genuine peace. And above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy -- or of a collective death-wish for the world.
To secure these ends, America's weapons are nonprovocative, carefully controlled, designed to deter, and capable of selective use. Our military forces are committed to peace and disciplined in self-restraint. Our diplomats are instructed to avoid unnecessary irritants and purely rhetorical hostility. For we can seek a relaxation of tensions without relaxing our guard. And, for our part, we do not need to use threats to prove we are resolute. We do not need to jam foreign broadcasts out of fear our faith will be eroded. We are unwilling to impose our system on any unwilling people, but we are willing and able to engage in peaceful competition with any people on earth.
Meanwhile, we seek to strengthen the United Nations, to help solve its financial problems, to make it a more effective instrument for peace, to develop it into a genuine world security system — a system capable of resolving disputes on the basis of law, of insuring the security of the large and the small, and of creating conditions under which arms can finally be abolished. At the same time we seek to keep peace inside the non-Communist world, where many nations, all of them our friends, are divided over issues which weaken Western unity, which invite Communist intervention, or which threaten to erupt into war. Our efforts in West New Guinea, in the Congo, in the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent, have been persistent and patient despite criticism from both sides. We have also tried to set an example for others, by seeking to adjust small but significant differences with our own closest neighbors in Mexico and Canada.
Speaking of other nations, I wish to make one point clear. We are bound to many nations by alliances. Those alliances exist because our concern and theirs substantially overlap. 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. Our interests converge, however, not only in defending the frontiers of freedom, but in pursuing the paths of peace. It is our hope, and the purpose of allied policy, 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. For there can be no doubt that if all nations could refrain from interfering in the self-determination of others, the peace would be much more assured.
This will require a new effort to achieve world law, a new context for world discussions. It will require increased understanding between the Soviets and ourselves. And increased understanding will require increased contact and communication. One step in this direction is the proposed arrangement for a direct line between Moscow and Washington, to avoid on each side the dangerous delays, misunderstandings, and misreadings of others' actions which might occur at a time of crisis.
We have also been talking in Geneva about our first-step measures of arm[s] controls designed to limit the intensity of the arms race and reduce the risk of accidental war. Our primary long range interest in Geneva, however, isgeneral and complete disarmament, designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms. The pursuit of disarmament has been an effort of this Government since the 1920's. It has been urgently sought by the past three administrations. And however dim the prospects are today, we intend to continue this effort -- to continue it in order that all countries, including our own, can better grasp what the problems and possibilities of disarmament are.
The only major area of these negotiations where the end is in sight, yet where a fresh start is badly needed, is in a treaty to outlaw nuclear tests. The conclusion of such a treaty, so near and yet so far, would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. It would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms. It would increase our security; it would decrease the prospects of war. Surely this goal is sufficiently important to require our steady pursuit, yielding neither to the temptation to give up the whole effort nor the temptation to give up our insistence on vital and responsible safeguards.
I'm taking this opportunity, therefore, to announce two important decisions in this regard. First, Chairman Khrushchev, Prime Minister Macmillan, and I have agreed that high-level discussions will shortly begin in Moscow looking towards early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty. Our hope must be tempered — Our hopes must be tempered with the caution of history; but with our hopes go the hopes of all mankind. Second, to make clear our good faith and solemn convictions on this matter, I now declare that the United States does not propose to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere so long as other states do not do so. We will not -- We will not be the first to resume. Such a declaration is no substitute for a formal binding treaty, but I hope it will help us achieve one. Nor would such a treaty be a substitute for disarmament, but I hope it will help us achieve it.
Finally, my fellow Americans, let us examine our attitude towards peace and freedom here at home. The quality and spirit of our own society must justify and support our efforts abroad. We must show it in the dedication of our own lives -- as many of you who are graduating today will have an opportunity to do, by serving without pay in the Peace Corps abroad or in the proposed National Service Corps here at home. But wherever we are, we must all, in our daily lives, live up to the age-old faith that peace and freedom walk together. In too many of our cities today, the peace is not secure because freedom is incomplete. It is the responsibility of the executive branch at all levels of government -- local, State, and National -- to provide and protect that freedom for all of our citizens by all means within our authority. It is the responsibility of the legislative branch at all levels, wherever the authority is not now adequate, to make it adequate. And it is the responsibility of all citizens in all sections of this country to respect the rights of others and respect the law of the land.
All this — All this is not unrelated to world peace. "When a man's way[s] please the Lord," the Scriptures tell us, "He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him." 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?
While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests. And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both. No treaty, however much it may be to the advantage of all, however tightly it may be worded, can provide absolute security against the risks of deception and evasion. But it can, if it is sufficiently effective in its enforcement, and it is sufficiently in the interests of its signers, offer far more security and far fewer risks than an unabated, uncontrolled, unpredictable arms race.
The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough — more than enough — of war and hate and oppression.
We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we must labor on — not towards a strategy of annihilation but towards a strategy of peace.
At the helm of his favorite boat: Victura (“about to conquer”)
Postscript: Kennedy’s rejection of “a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons war” was an open repudiation of the “Military – Industrial Complex” that the previous president (General Eisenhower) had gravely warned the American public of in his “Farewell Address” three days before JFK’s inauguration. This was the “greatest threat to [American] democracy” according to Eisenhower (a Republican and warrior whose patriotic credentials were and remain indisputable); his warning was a prophecy. In so far as the Pentagon and its hugely profitable (and powerful) “Military-Industrial Complex” was totally dependent on that “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons war,” which served as the foundation for the Cold War system, Kennedy’s proposal struck many as worse than heresy — JFK marked himself as a “traitor.” He knew full well that the non-violent theme of his Commencement Address combined with a summons to critical self-examination, the rule of (international) law, environmental protection/conservation, looking inward, complete nuclear disarmament, and the beginning of peace would not merely alienate the “Military-Industrial Complex” and the “brass hats” (i.e., “military advisors” et al.) and corporate big business chiefs at its helm, but that his words and objectives (re: a way out of the Cold War and on to a path toward new human possibilities) would make him a target. Kennedy instantly became persona non grata to the economic and military elite, as well as the “radical right,” which already vilified and hated him. As has been observed: “JFK felt that his own demise was increasingly likely if he continued to buck his military advisors. He then proceeded to do exactly that.”
Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men . . . Truth is a tyrant —
the only tyrant to whom we can give our allegiance. The service of truth is
a matter of heroism.
The inevitable question arises: Why was JFK murdered? David Talbot offers insight:
Over the final months of the JFK presidency, a clear consensus took shape within the America’s deep state: Kennedy was a national security threat. For the good of the country, he must be removed. And [Allen] Dulles [former head of CIA whom Kennedy had fired in the wake of the “Bay of Pigs” debacle] was the only man with the stature, the connections, and decisive will to make something of this enormity happen . . . All his establishment colleagues had to do was look the other way — as they always did when Dulles took executive action . . . And if the assassination of President Kennedy was indeed an “establishment crime,” as University of Pittsburgh sociology professor David Gibson has suggested, there is even more reason to see the official investigation [i.e., “The Warren Commission”] as an establishment cover-up . . . The attorney general’s suspicions about the death of his brother immediately fell not just on the Mafia, but on the CIA — the agency that, as Bobby knew, had been using the mob to do some of its dirtiest work. Robert Kennedy was not the only one in Washington who immediately sensed a conspiracy behind the killing of his brother . . . Suspicions of conspiracy were particularly strong in France, where President de Gaulle himself had been the target of CIA machinations and survived a barrage of gunfire on his own limousine. After returning from Kennedy’s November 24 funeral in Washington, de Gaulle gave a remarkably candid assessment of the assassination to his information minister, Alain Peyrefitte. “What happened to Kennedy is what nearly happened to me,” confided the French president. “His story is the same as mine . . . It looks like a cowboy story, but it’s only an OAS [Secret Army Organization] story. The security forces were in cahoots with the extremists.” . . . Bobby had frenetically chased every lead he could think of, quickly concluding that JFK was the victim of a plot that had spun out of the CIA’s anti-Castro operation. But after this initial burst of clarity, Bobby soon sank into a fog of despair, unable to develop a clear plan of action . . . because there was not clear way to respond.
Richard Mahoney reflects that:
Jack was that combination of good and bad, but always with the heroic pose. His was not the Catholic view of the hero — one engaged in sacrificial penance, struggling in a moral kinesis. His was, rather, the Greek view of the hero, celebrating the possibilities of self as an aesthetic pursuit. JFK’s pose was egocentric, but he found balance in the ironic. If he could take it over the edge . . . he could also mock his pretense for the heroic. “This is the night I should go to the theatre,” he had said to Bobby at their moment of triumph in the [Cuban] missile crisis (referring to Lincoln’s assassination at the Ford Theater). Bobby had replied, of course, “If you go, I want to go with you.”
To be heroic in the Greek view was to die willingly. Jack had always been romanced by death. He read about it, talked about it, had visions of it, and cooly went into it. “His high noon kept all the freshness of morning,” as Jackie had written a few days after his assassination. Death preserved his youth.
A man of his word, as always, Jack had his “rendezvous with death” (his favorite poem) . . . and so it goes . . . past is prologue.
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear ...
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous. - Allan Seeger (1917)
Huelo Hale Paumalu 2021
 Among them are: JFK’s address to the U.N. General Assembly, September 20, 1961; the “ich bin ein Berliner” speech delivered in Berlin (Germany) on June 26, 2963; and the speech on Civil Rights (i.e., “a report to the American people on Civil Rights”), the Presidential Address delivered live on television on June 11, 1963. In this speech, JFK called Americans to recognize civil rights as a moral cause to which all people need to contribute and was "as clear as the American Constitution." He conveyed how the proposed legislation would lead the nation to end discrimination against African Americans — this speech (given before MLK Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech) — marks the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. SEE: https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/historic-speeches/televised-address-to-the-nation-on-civil-rights
 SEE: The excellent (and Oscar winning) Errol Morris documentary “The Fog of War” (2003), which provides a penetratingly candid and otherwise unprecedented analysis and assessment of, among other key events of the Cold War era, The Cuban Missile Crisis, on the critically self-reflective perspective of a highly credible authority: former Secretary of Defense (in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations) Robert McNamara.
 President Eisenhower stated, in relevant part: “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. [¶] In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. [¶] We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” SEE also:
 “On October 11, 1963, six weeks before he was assassinated, President Kennedy issued his secret order for a U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263. It was an order that would never be obeyed because of his murder . . . Kennedy had decided to pull out one thousand members of the U.S. military [“advisors”] by the end of 1963, and all of them by the end of 1965 . . . JFK’s October decision to withdraw from Vietnam was the next logical step in the increasingly hopeful process that he and Krushchev had become engaged in [re: nuclear disarmament].” “JFK and The Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters,” James W. Douglass (2008) p. 93 - 95.
 Ibid. p. 94.
 These “Wanted” posters were posted all over Dallas, Texas in the days leading up to his assassination.
 “The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government” (2015) pp. 561, 565-567, 606.
 “Sons & Brothers: The Days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy” (1999) p. 375. “Asked in his final press conference how he regarded the presidency, JFK replied, ‘I have given before to this group the definition of happiness of Greeks [eudaimonia], and I will define it again: it is in the full use of your powers along the lines of excellence. I find, therefore, the presidency affords some happiness.’ But Jack wanted more than that: not just mastery of the presidency during the day but the Dionysian interlude at night; and Bobby, like a sleepless watchman on the rampart, made this possible too.” (Ibid.) Ibid. p. 376.