“World Peace”: JFK Speech at American University, VP Johnson in Berlin. MP623.


“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 spires and towers, to campus greens
and ivied walls. He admired the splendid beauty of the university, he said, because it was
“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 this
place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely
perceived–yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace. What kind of peace do I mean? 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. I speak of peace because of the new face of
war. Total war makes no sense in an age when 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 when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the
explosive force delivered by all of 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 to use them is
essential to keeping the 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 that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as
the pursuit of war–and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have
no more urgent task. Some say that it is useless to speak of world
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 attitude–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 toward the possibilities of peace, toward
the Soviet Union, toward the course of the cold war and toward freedom and peace here
at home. First: Let us examine our attitude toward
peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it 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 peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and
to move irresistibly toward it. Second: Let us reexamine our attitude toward
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 wars … 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 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 wars.” 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 and 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 suffered in the
course of the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions
of homes and farms were burned or sacked. A third of the nation’s territory, including
nearly two thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland–a loss equivalent
to the devastation of this country east of Chicago. Today, should total war ever break out again–no
matter how–our two countries would become the primary targets. 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 combating
ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle
in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget 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 to 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 future. And we are all mortal. Third: Let us reexamine our attitude toward
the cold war, remembering that we are 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. 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 that 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 in 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 in 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 policies–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 the other’s actions which might occur at a time of crisis. We have also been talking in Geneva about
other first-step measures of arms control, designed to limit the intensity of the arms
race and to reduce the risks of accidental war. Our primary long-range interest in Geneva,
however, is general 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 ado ministrations. And however dim the prospects
may be 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 one 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 am taking this opportunity, therefore, to
announce two important decisions in this regard. First: Chairman Khrushchev, Prime Minister
Macmillan, and I have agreed that highlevel discussions will shortly begin in Moscow looking
toward early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty. 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 the 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 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 toward 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 a unique 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 their authority. It is the responsibility
of the legislative branch at all levels, wherever that 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 all others and to respect the law of the land. All this is not unrelated to world peace.
“When a man’s ways 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 if 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
labor on–not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace.

3 thoughts on ““World Peace”: JFK Speech at American University, VP Johnson in Berlin. MP623.

  • kennedy was in a cold war domestically as well. after the Cuban missile crises the ultras in the pentagon and cia had been pulled over into" jfk traitor" camp of the john birchers and minutemen a klan type of paramilitary org. the guy who bankrolled the hate jfk birches based in dallas texas was hl hunt. yet hunt was one of lbj's backers.
    Oswald was a pure psych warfare job to remove kennedy and link up castro. lbj got in the backseat on rode back to dc in the front seat.

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