We need another JFK

Pres. John F. Kennedy
Pres. John F. Kennedy

I’m watching a rerun of CNN’s series “The Sixties,” specifically season one, episode 2, “The World on the Brink.” It’s about the Cuban missile crisis. I watched again as Russian ships carrying nuclear missiles sailed boldly and openly toward Cuba while Pres. John F. Kennedy warned them not to and the whole world braced for the possible beginning of a nuclear World War III.

The terror I felt at that time, imagining the very real possibility of nukes raining down on my home in Oklahoma City, far exceeded anything a few crazy Muslim extremists have done since then, or plan to do. They are terrible, demented human beings, but they don’t pose a threat nearly as frightening as nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

The show included some thought-provoking lines from Pres. John F. Kennedy’s “peace” speech at American University on June 10, 1963 — after the missile crisis had been defused.

Kennedy sought to draw similarities between the United States and the Soviet Union several times and called for a “reexamination” of American attitudes towards Russia. He warned that adopting a course towards nuclear confrontation would be “evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy — or of a collective death-wish for the world.”

In it Kennedy tells us about transforming our deepest aspirations — in this case for peace — into practical realities.

“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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“… 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.”


“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 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.”

Why, if we could face and step back from the very brink of worldwide nuclear war, can we not make sense of the chaos in the world today? Part of the problem, I’m afraid, is our lack of true statesmen. I can’t think of anyone who could do what Kennedy did during those terrible days. And despite his confidence that the US would never start a war, I keep thinking of Vietnam and most definitely of Iraq. Actions do indeed have consequences. We need leaders who can head off and stop wars, not plunge blindly into them.

And Kennedy’s statement, “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,” should apply to all of us here at home, to all Americans. I didn’t say it. Trump and Clinton didn’t say it. Obama didn’t say it. Somebody needs to say it, and say it in a way that all Americans can believe and embrace. Life’s too short to waste it hating the cops, the blacks, the rich, the Muslims, the LGBTs, the immigrants, etc. If we don’t shape up and grow up — fast — there won’t be a viable world (or country) left for whomever survives.

We need a leader like Kennedy.

(I confess I voted for Nixon and plead youthful ignorance.)



21 thoughts on “We need another JFK

  1. I can understand your voting for Mr Nixon. we had the TV debates between the two and I thought that Nixon came across better; I believe that they were the first ever debates between presidential candidates, and it was those that sparked my keen interest in US politics which continues unabated til today

    1. The debates were a wonderful innovation, a great was for us to see our candidates side by side, discussing the issues. I look forward to seeing Clinton and Trump discussing the issues instead of each other’s personalities.

  2. I watched that very same episode of “The Sixties” last night. I think many of us folk, who lived through that momentous decade, have been following the series. I was especially focused on the segment about the women’s liberation movement, and the part played by the “pill”. I wrote about that issue last week, and have posted it just this morning. And yes, I agree that we need someone like Kennedy to turn up. BTW, I’m Canadian, and I think history will show that Obama was a great president. Sometimes we can’t see the truth except through the lens of history!

    1. I’ve not watched the entire series. I just happened to catch last night’s episode. And it got me thinking about how big a difference a wise, determined leader can make, both abroad and at home. Of course at that time, America was not as divided as it is now. All our enemies need do now is sit back and watch us destroy ourselves. Or hit us in the back while we face off against each other.

  3. I have heard Barack Obama express much the same thoughts as JFK, but Obama has actually reduced our involvement in war. I think you may have slighted him here. He withdrew from Iraq and reduced involvement in Afghanistan to a mostly-advisory role. JFK, on the other hand, did send 16,000 troops to Vietnam. They were called “advisors” but they were, in fact, combat troops. There is, of course, controversy over what he might have done thereafter.

    History proves that the temptation to use military force is almost irresistible. (I’m glad you mentioned Iraq as well as Vietnam.) I think it is so because it is the one option available to a president which shows decisiveness and gets quick action. Everything else creates controversy and rebuttal. The danger is made even greater by the refusal of every Congress for six decades to uphold its obligation to declare war before engaging.

    Your post is timely, however. We should all reflect in this context, I submit, whether we want to elect an amateur or a professional, experienced politician as commander in chief. Especially since the amateur has zero experience in both government and military service. Zero.

    1. I didn’t deliberately slight Pres. Obama. He has managed, for the most part, to keep a lid on things. But he didn’t withdraw all the troops he promised to withdraw from the Middle East and has sent more into some areas. I trust he knows what he’s doing — he’s a very smart man and it’s a very complex situation. But I’m not at all happy about our continued involvement in the Middle East (and don’t get me started on my opinion of Bush and his war). As for Trump being able to do such delicate tightrope walking … fat chance. He doesn’t do anything delicately. He doesn’t “speak softly and carry a big stick.” He just carries a big stick. Or two. One in each hand. I don’t know about Clinton. At least she’s had some experience in international politics. But I don’t know whether she’s respected by foreign leaders (particularly the very conservative male religious leaders in the Middle East). And so far neither candidate appears to be capable of uniting a serioiusly fractured America.

  4. Yes, Donald Trump has zero experience in government and military service. Hillary Clinton has plenty of service in both categorizes. The major difference between these two candidates in these categorizes is Hillary Clinton turned Benghazi into a political quagmire so that the real truth is hard to know and her official government communications to any one has ben characterized as grossly mishandled…according to the FBI.
    She is not Presidential. Not even close.

    1. With respect, John, what turned Benghazi into a “political quagmire” was GOP politics, not the tragedy itself. The ambassador was offered military protection that he declined and took it on himself to visit the outpost despite the uncertainty of the situation. Everyone declines to blame the victim, but I am willing to say it to the extent of hindsight. Was it handled badly? Yes, but this was very unusual. In all the 307 different diplomatic outposts, the usual USMC guards have long been adequate for protection, the Iranian embassy being an exception. If we are looking for a president who is perfect in foresight, we will fail, and perhaps disastrously in the process.

    2. Clinton didn’t turn Benghazi into a political quagmire. The Republican witchhunt that kept investigating her kept the issue alive long past its expiration date. She happened to be the Secretary of State at the time but there were many miscalculations by many different people on many different levels, including the four diplomats themselves who, given the choice, opted to serve in that unstable environment.

  5. Mr. Jim Wheeler and PiedType…the logic about Benghazi you commented on has merit and sounds logical. The real sad part about this is the official emails surrounding this tragedy is for ever lost in cyber space…deleted by The Secretary Of Defense and by those who should be held accountable. One interesting note…the Chairwoman of The DNC is being replaced or reprimanded due to ANOTHER email debacle by the Democratic Party. Obviously they did not consult Hillary Clinton or the FBI before doing so. I still say Hillary Clinton is not POTUS qualified. Not even close. But then again this is my opinion.

    1. If the relevant emails were deleted, then you have nothing to support your contention that Benghazi was a fiasco created by Hillary Clinton. All we know is how the chain of command works in the state department, and the Sec. of State is only one of many individuals involved.

      The email thing surrounding Debbie Wasserman Schultz is interesting. She’s been none too subtle in her efforts to sink Sanders and promote Clinton as the heir apparent. The emails just confirm what was already common knowledge. I do think, given the controversy, that Wasserman Schultz should step down now. Instead, she’s announced she will resign after the convention.

      A funny thing about emails … they can easily be faked, changed, predated, postdated, created, or erased. Requiring anyone to “turn over” emails is just for show, or else done by computer-illiterate people who seem to think once emails are created, they are immutable. That simply isn’t so. You might find a copy of my emails on a recipient’s computer, but they, too, can change or delete anything they want. (Yes, a computer’s date and time stamps can be changed.) Always, always keep hard copies of important documents.

      1. No one will ever know if relevant emails about Benghazi were deleted because they can’t retrieve them. Hilliary Clinton is not stupid, she just is not Presidential.. If Hillary Clinton had been using a US Government approved email server when she was Secretary Of State, then the US Government has multiple security procedures in place that make it very hard to delete any message with out a paper trail to back up the deleted message. The Government needs protection too!
        Every one is concerned that Russia may be responsible for the recent email debacle concerning the DNC. The real question should be WHY did the Democratic Party feel it necessary to throw Berni Sanders under the bus in the first place.Berni was right all along.The Democratic Primaries were stacked against him. America was lied to, plain and simple. This we know because an apology was given for wrong doing. Would Berni Sanders have won if the Democratic Party had not cheated? No one will ever know.

      2. Deleted documents can remain retrievable for a very long time unless special steps are taken. Simply hitting “delete” won’t do it. And I doubt she got all of her recipients to scrub their hard drives.

        As for Bernie, yes, the deck was stacked against him from the beginning. How dare he challenge The Entitled One for the nomination. It’s her turn, after all. Besides, she’s a woman and she deserves it for that reason alone. Just ask her.

        And just for the record, I think for the good of the party and its convention, Wasserman Schultz should have resigned over the weekend. Waiting till after the convention is pure self-centeredness on her part (not that I’m surprised).

  6. I’ve always thought that the missing e-mails have been a desperate attempt to discredit Mrs. Clinton and is pretty much a storm in a tea cup, they’re gone; the worlds still turning! What’s the problem?

    1. I’m no longer sure which missing emails we’re talking about, but the perception is that she lied about her handling of her email. Lying and extremely bad judgment are not things you want to see in a presidential candidate.

      I do agree that the Benghazi hearings were a witchhunt intended to discredit her.

  7. That was a time for great excitement – not just JFK and space race (which he helped drive forward and to inspired the general public to understand it and why it was important)
    I managed to avoid the convention drama last week and intend to do so as much as possible this week. Hillary was in better shape before she stepped out and took the Sec State job instead. So many missteps, I have stepped away. Lying to grieving mothers as the coffins were unloaded – I saw that on that day. And this “oh, silly me” about emails and server security. Always ridiculing and demeaning – sign of either a weak mind or no other real counterarguments. And that “All women are expected to vote for me” arrogance followed by that stupid Spanish language “I am like your grandmother – vote for me for president”… far too much, Ms Important Entitled Above the Law Person.
    I do have to say I like the Bernie handmade protest signs over the mass produced ones.
    Sigh. JFK.

    1. Ah, the glorious space race. From scratch to the moon in 9 years. With computers less powerful than today’s smartphones. Incredible. Then, now, and always.

      Yep, you nailed Hillary’s shortcomings. I think it’s that entitled woman thing that gets under my skin the most, and has since she first pulled it 8 or 9 years ago.

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