Category Archives: JFK

The Peace Speech

The commencement address presented at American University by President John F. Kennedy on June 10, 1963 (written by Ted Sorenson)

kennedy speech
JFK: 1963 American University Commencement Speech

Watch it here.

Full text:

President Anderson, members of the faculty, board of trustees, distinguished guests, my old colleague, Senator Bob Byrd, who has earned his degree through many years of attending night law school, while I am earning mine in the next 30 minutes, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

It is with great pride that I participate in this ceremony of the American University, sponsored by the Methodist Church, founded by Bishop John Fletcher Hurst, and first opened by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. This is a young and growing university, but it has already fulfilled Bishop Hurst’s enlightened hope for the study of history and public affairs in a city devoted to the making of history and to the conduct of the public’s business. By sponsoring this institution of higher learning for all who wish to learn, whatever their color or their creed, the Methodists of this area and the Nation deserve the Nation’s thanks, and I commend all those who are today graduating.

Professor Woodrow Wilson once said that every man sent out from a university should be a man of his nation as well as a man of his time, and I am confident that the men and women who carry the honor of graduating from this institution will continue to give from their lives, from their talents, a high measure of public service and public support. “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 towers or to campuses. He admired the splendid beauty of a university, because it was, he said, “a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see.”

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Digitizing Camelot

Reprinted courtesy of: American Libraries Magazine and

By: Tim Inklebarger

The anger, frustration, and worry that the situation could turn out very badly were evident in the president’s voice.

k1It was September 1962 and pro-segregation forces were readying for a violent clash with US troops over a court order entitling James Meredith, an African-American student, to enroll at the all-white University of Mississippi. Days before riots erupted that left two dead and hundreds wounded, President John F. Kennedy spoke on a recorded phone call with Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett, at times almost pleading with him to maintain law and order.

“You just don’t understand the situation down here,” Barnett snaps at Kennedy.

Kennedy cuts him off, his voice terse and unwavering. “Well, the only thing is I got my responsibility,” he says, referring to the court order.

Barnett implores Kennedy to postpone enrolling Meredith and to tell the public that “under the [potentially violent] circumstances at this time, it just wouldn’t be fair to [Meredith] or others, uh, to try to register him.”

“Well, then at what time would it be fair?” Kennedy retorts.

The “Integrating Ole Miss” audio recordings and hundreds of others are available online through the vast digital archive at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. The library has been building the “Access to a Legacy” digital archive since 2006 and made it public in January 2011, marking the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s inauguration. Through its website the library provides access to 150 terabytes of information, including approximately 593,500 paper documents, 22,642 photographs, 1,436 sound recordings, and 121 moving images, according to James Roth, library deputy director. It is the most extensive digitization effort in the presidential library system, and the archive is growing every year.

The website gives visitors an insider’s view of the Kennedy White House, allowing them to listen to tape-recorded phone calls and closed-door meetings, read handwritten notes by the president in the margins of official documents, and view never-before-seen pictures of Kennedy and his staff. Visitors can pore over unabridged folders of information and tour interactive exhibits that highlight documents, television newscasts, presidential speeches, and other information associated with the JFK administration.

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JFK’s “Peace” Speech

“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.” – JFK, June 10, 1963, American University Commencement  Address

2013 is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK.  

On June 10, 1963, he gave the commencement address at American University, which is widely regarded as one of the most important speeches by a president ever.

The Cuban Missile Crisis had only happened in October 1962, a scant eight months before. In this speech, JFK laid out a vision and a plan for peace with Russia at the height of the Cold War by announcing the development of the the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and his decision to suspend all atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.  

JFK’s American University Commencement Address

Part 1:

Part 2:

Because of his experience in WWII in the South Pacific, JFK knew first-hand that war is tragic and horrific.

As November approaches and we consider current events, take time and listen to an alternative amid the constant drumbeat for war.

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