President Kennedy on the State of Our Nation
Preface: I was not alive when Kennedy was President, I just know that this speech is still a great one and I thought the tone of it fit the debt crisis that strikes at our nation currently. I have altered the speech to fit that message but most of the core is the exact same. Also some parts were removed as he was speaking at Rice and the individuals addressed are not relevant here.
Ladies and gentlemen, and Distinguished Guests:
We meet at a time in history for knowledge, in a culture noted for progress, in a nation noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.
Despite the striking fact that most of the population that the world has ever known are alive and working today, despite the fact that this Nation’s own manpower is doubling every 12 years in a rate of growth more than three times that of our population as a whole, despite that, the vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished still far outstrip our collective comprehension.
No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man’s recorded history in a time span of but a half-century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power. Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power and the internet, and now if America’s new endeavours succeed, we will have literally reached the the end of our country shortly.
This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of trade promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.
So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward–and so will our political landscape.
William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.
If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of debt reduction will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for SOLVENCY.
Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to flounder in the backwash of the coming age of currency and real-time banking. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look beyond us, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see the world filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.
Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these monetary problems, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading economically driven nation once again.
There is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For policies, like and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I say that we should not continue repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.
We choose to balance the budget. We choose to do this in this Congressional term and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
It is for these reasons that I regard the decision this year to raise the debt ceiling as a floundering effort in from our bicamerial legislature. It is the most important decision that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.
In the last weeks we have seen facilities now being created for the greatest and most complex division in the history of our country. We have felt the ground shake and the air shattered by the fallout of default.
Within these last 2.5 years we have crippled the nation with an unsustainable debt, and impoverished and enslaved the peoples of it unjustly. Some of them were under the impressions that we on Capitol Hill in the United States of America were far more sophisticated and supplied far more knowledge to the people of the world than we actually have.
New sytems need to be put in place to act as satellites that can help to steer a safer course. Satellites have given us unprecedented warnings of hurricanes and storms of the economic climate.
We have had our failures, but so have others, even if they do not admit them. And they may be less public.
To be sure, we are behind, and will be behind for some time. But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade, we shall make up and move ahead.
The growth of our science and education will be enriched by new knowledge of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school.
However, I think we’re going to do it, and I think that we must pay what needs to be paid. I don’t think we ought to waste any money, but I think we ought to do the job. And this must be done in the next election cycle. It will be done during the terms of office of some of the people who sit here on this platform. But it will be done. And it will be done before the end of this decade.
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”
Well, this problem is here, and we’re going to climb it, and the next problem after it, and new hopes for knowledge and peace will be there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
The releasing of the People from the hold that this “free” government has taken on them, to free them from their entitlement burden and to secure a new future.
President John F. Kennedy