The Speech that JFK Never Gave

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsPresident John F. Kennedy arrived at Dallas Love Field airport at approximately 11:25 on the morning of November 22, 1963. The presidential motorcade route left Love Field at 11:50 a.m. and passed through downtown Dallas to reach the Dallas Trade Mart at about 12:15 p.m., a distance of about 10 miles. Kennedy was scheduled to deliver a speech at 1:00 p.m. at a luncheon during the annual meeting of the Dallas Citizen Council. As the motorcade entered Dealey Plaza, Nellie Connally, the First Lady of Texas, turned to Kennedy to utter one of the most tragically ironic lines in history: “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.”  Soon after those words were spoken (about 12:30), shots rang out and Kennedy slumped forward in the car seat, mortally wounded by a sniper’s precision shot. The motorcade, at that point, was about five minutes away from the Dallas Trade Mart. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Kennedy, Bookshelf presents excerpts of the speech that JFK never gave. The complete speech, focusing on five topics (introduction and the nation’s four major areas of strength), consisted of 2,529 words (about 30 minutes long).

I am honored to have this invitation to address the annual meeting of the Dallas Citizens Council, joined by the members of the Dallas Assembly — and pleased to have this opportunity to salute the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest…

This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country’s security. 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…

I want to discuss with you today the status of our strength and our security because this question clearly calls for the most responsible qualities of leadership and the most enlightened products of scholarship. For this Nation’s strength and security are not easily or cheaply obtained, nor are they quickly and simply explained. There are many kinds of strength and no one kind will suffice. Overwhelming nuclear strength cannot stop a guerrilla war. Formal pacts of alliance cannot stop internal subversion. Displays of material wealth cannot stop the disillusionment of diplomats subjected to discrimination…

Above all, words alone are not enough. The United States is a peaceful nation. And where our strength and determination are clear, our words need merely to convey conviction, not belligerence. If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help…

We in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

Read related posts: Why “I Have a Dream” Speech Endures
“I Have a Dream” 50 Years Later
The Gettysburg Address

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