John F. Kennedy Addresses The Veterans Of Foreign Wars – 1960 – Memorial Day
Senator John F. Kennedy – Address at VFW Convention, Cobo Hall, Detroit – Aug. 26, 1960 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
John F. Kennedy – giving a speech not only fitting for Memorial day but as a reminder of a world leader who would have turned 102 on May 30th.
As a veteran of World War 2 himself, he was keenly aware of the atmosphere that enveloped our world in 1960. As a man running for President in 1960, Kennedy knew we were on the precipice of momentous times. In this address, given on August 26, 1960, there is an aura of prophecy that even he may not have been aware of, but which came ominously true, some 57 years after giving this address:
Senator John F. Kennedy: “I received this summer a letter from a woman who has spent her life in Africa. She said that for the first time in that continent the people friendly to freedom were growing more doubtful and the Communists growing more confident.
Possibly the days preceding the War of 1812 are a precedent, when the French and the British contemptuously halted our ships and seized our sailors, much as the Russians seized the crew of the American RB47 downed over the East German border. But I cannot think of any other period in our history when our peace conferences were broken off with such contempt, when our President was not free to travel abroad, when enemy rockets rattled off the coast of the United States 90 miles away, and when the leader of our leading enemy dared to voice an interference in our Presidential elections.
These are unpleasant facts, unpleasant to recite, unpleasant to face. But face them we must; for, as Winston Churchill told the British House of Commons, in a period of similar peril for Great Britain:
We shall not escape our dangers by recoiling from them.
To face those facts is not disloyal, as some have implied. It is the highest type of loyalty. To state these facts does not divide the country, and let us hope Mr. Khrushchev knows it. As Secretary of State Herter told him some weeks ago, after the conventions:
Mr. Khrushchev, do not be deceived.
We are a united country. We are not divided in our views on communism versus freedom, on firmness versus appeasement, on peace versus war. These are not at issue in this campaign. The issue in this campaign is which candidate and which party can best summon all of America’s people and resources to rebuild and regain our strength as a free nation.
This is the only purpose of this debate.
As veterans, we don’t ask this Nation to constantly look back on our service, on our deeds of sacrifice. But we do expect that a nation will try to make of itself such a standing in the world that the sacrifices of those who died in the last wars will be worthy of our present effort.
We are still the strongest power in the world today. But Communist power has been, and is now, growing faster than our own and at a greater rate of growth, and by “Communist power,” I mean military power, economic power, scientific power and educational and political power. They are moving faster than we are.”
As a reminder of this day, and to those who have unselfishly served and had fallen, and as a reminder we have always needed strength and leadership as well as compassion and wisdom. We lived in interesting times then, we live in interesting times now.
Here is that address, as it was given by Senator John F. Kennedy – August 26, 1960