The Speech You Never Heard

Post 1,020


On the morning of November 22, 1963 everything changed. President John F. Kennedy was in Dallas, TX to deliver a speech at the Trade Mart that afternoon and, as is quite obvious, that speech was never delivered.

Back then we were ever vigilant against our sworn enemies, communism and the Soviet Union. In contrast, today only half of our Congress opposes Russia and many openly support murderous Vladimir Putin. Our wonderful Civil Rights and Voting Rights bills were still in the dream stage in 1963 and now they’re being incrementally dismantled. Back then social media was just the AM radio playing top 40s hits and 5 minutes of news per hour.

In some ways, the world of 1963 was quite like today, as we struggled to balance competing needs and overly aggressive people could be found behind many podiums spouting self-serving nonsense.

Kennedy’s intended comments on that dreadful day are still available and he has some valuable words for us yet today. You can find the complete speech here. Meanwhile, here is a sampling.

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 alternatives, 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 [today] . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

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. [all emphasis mine]

Consider Kennedy’s intended words, as you contemplate the ongoing mania of some who call themselves Americans but who, it is plain, want to destroy us, to “tear it all down.” Think of these democracy destroyers’ abhorrent resistance to support an ally in its hour of need, as it struggles against a resurgent Russia modeled after the Soviet Union and fights the fight for freedom for all of us. Consider our struggle to maintain equanimity amidst those who are, “expressing opposition without alternatives, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility,” as well as the “voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality.”

It seems to me that Kennedy’s intended call to strength on that November day in Dallas was to be a call we must answer even today. We must be strong against the perfidy of those who plainly no longer believe in the America you believe in. For reasons that defy reason, they want our nation to emulate the cruel autocracies that have always led to war and suffering, the crushing of the human spirit and the loss of freedom for everyone.

I cannot help but wonder about the intellectual and moral principles of our time. So many seem to have embraced anti-intellectualism, denial of reality and have championed lying as though it is a virtue. This very vocal type is not a new species, as they have always been with us, but they are especially loud today.

This is not now nor was it ever a Boy Scout merit badge existence for all, but this is today a denial of such things with far greater passion and popularity than we have seen in a very long time, perhaps since the Civil War. That was not a war of northern aggression, nor was it a victim’s lost cause. It was a tremendous battle to determine if we would follow and even become our better angels, as Lincoln called them. It was an exclamation of our bold claim that we hold as self-evident that all men are created equal, as well as all the rest of our original intellectual and moral principles. It was a test of whether we mean what we say. We ultimately ratified those higher principles with blood.

Yet here we are 159 years later, still beset by liars, cheaters and selfish men and women who would burn books, lest we learn truth, who willingly defy their sacred oath and who take joy in ripping at the fabric of our society and of our nation. Millions listen to that corruption and they incrementally ratchet down our intellectual and moral principles.

We have a great deal of work to do.

 Today is a good day to be the light


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2 Responses to The Speech You Never Heard
  1. Kirk Landers Reply

    Kennedy’s voice from the grave is eerily on target for today’s various crises, starting with the MAGA assault on democracy. Thanks for this column, Jack. I was not familiar with the speech he was to give that day. Now it will haunt me….

  2. David Lindgren Reply

    You got me thinking about how the Confederate energy has reappeared, and recalling the “migration” of Black families to the North to escape racism. Now DeSantis and the Texas governor have literally sent “migrants” to the North. “You take care of them.”

    Actually, I would think that minority communities in say New York or Chicago could be receptive. Black Mayor Johnson in Chicago is getting a lot of criticism for taking in migrants and finding housing for them. It’s all a challenge of coming together and supporting each other.