Sunday, June 8, 2014

President Kennedy's Call for Peace


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

June 8, 2014


            My heartfelt thanks to David Ratcliffe for providing a video and text of the commencement address President John F. Kennedy gave on peace at American University, June 10, 1963.  It is said that President Kennedy would have withdrawn from Vietnam and substantially shut down military production had he survived and been re-elected.  My political idealism died with his assassination.  What a breath of fresh air it is to hear how conscious he asks his fellow Americans to be of our own role in pursuing the ultimate objective of full nuclear disarmament and pledge of non-interference in other nations’ internal conflicts, calling for mutual respect between Russians and the people of the US, including admiration for Russians’ recovery from war devastation.  He called for an end to threats.  He called for re-investment in addressing poverty and in education.  How different that is from US increases in troop deployments in Eastern Europe, from President Obama’s chiding European governments for decreasing rather than increasing military expenditure, from his threat of “further sanctions” should Russia not comply with US demands for Russian withdrawal of troops and arms support.  How different the political posture of my country might be today, if a succession of like-minded leaders in the US:  JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, had not been shot down.

            On the bright side, the self-consciousness of our role as a country in making peace rather than perpetuating international warfare is a living presence in the US, as represented by the commemoration Dave Ratcliffe announces below.  It is a part of our national character that bullets cannot kill and that a president’s actions cannot fully determine.  I invite readers to hear again the speech linked in the message below.  Thanks again, Dave.  Love and peace, hal:


From: Dave Ratcliffe []
Sent: Sunday, June 08, 2014 2:11 PM
Subject: John Judge audio appearance at upcoming June 10 American University Address commemoration

Dear All,

 On June 10, John Judge will make an appearance by audio at American University in Washington, DC .  On that day, at noon, supporters of the Coalition on Political Assassinations and the Museum of Hidden History will gather to commemorate the 51st anniversary of a groundbreaking speech made by President John F. Kennedy, and also to honor the life and work of John Judge. The event will feature an audio recording of John reading a portion of President Kennedy's speech.

The American University speech, titled A Strategy of Peace, was a commencement address delivered by President John F. Kennedy at the American University in Washington, D.C., on June 10, 1963. In the speech, Kennedy announced his agreement to negotiations "toward early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty" (which resulted in the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty) and also announced, for the purpose of showing "good faith and solemn convictions," his decision to unilaterally suspend all US atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons as long as all other nations would do the same. The speech was unusual in its peaceful outreach to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and is remembered as one of Kennedy’s finest and most important speeches. (excerpt from Wikipedia)

 The first appendix of Marty Schotz's  History Will Not Absolve Us is the text of the address.  That text has been extended to reflect the words actually spoken by President Kennedy along with a film viewer and audio player at the top of the file.  (A server redirect is at <>.)

An indication of the yearning for peace people in the U.S. had following the terrifying days of the Cuban missile crisis was that the first occurrence of applause in President Kennedy’s speech was his announcement that “high-level discussions will shortly begin in Moscow looking towards early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty.” Kennedy began the next sentence, “Our hope must be tempered” and had to pause for 8 seconds to let the audience applause subside before continuing. Applause caused the President to pause a second time (again for 8 seconds) after stating in the following paragraph that the U.S. “does not propose to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere so long as other states do not do so.” (First at 22:04 and second at 22:37 min:sec in the audio and video recordings provided with the transcript of JFK’s address.)

There is a plaque at American University (see image above) which commemorates President Kennedy's speech.  It is at the southern end of Reeves Field, which you can see on the left edge of this map of the campus: <>. Please join Randy Benson and others in front of the plaque at noon on June 10 for this annual event.



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