In some ways, Jack Kennedy was the anti-matter Donald Trump.
He unified the country with optimistic words and soaring idealism, and was treated by the media and much of the public as if appearances and substance were the same thing. Like Trump, he was rich and the son of a ruthless business man; unlike with our current President, few seemed to care. JFK was young and vigorous (or as he would say, “vigahrous”), and nobody accused him of hyperbole and lies. The press loved him; his press conferences were all laughs and smiles. Yet Kennedy was every bit the narcisisist that Donald Trump is, and at least as much of a misogynist. He engaged in open nepotism, having his brother as his Attorney General and chief advisor, but nobody suggested he was hving incestuous relations with Bobby. Both had glamorous wives, but while Melania has been effectively banned from the covers of women’s magazines, Jackie was on a cover every month, if not every week. Kennedy committed impeachable offenses, like having a secret sexual liaison with an Israeli spy (and Mafia moll), but it was Trump who was impeached. Meanwhile, President Trump’s accomplishments in his first term far exceed those of Kennedy, who also managed to prompt East Germany to erect the Berlin Wall, and to nearly trigger World War III.
His inaugural address, however, marked his Presidency as the gateway to a new era, when anything was possible. Kennedy was not a great orator—all the Kennedys had and have a tendency to shout—but he was a a passionate one, and he had charisma, that indefinable magic that makes strangers love and trust a politician. Though he had barely received 50% of the votes in the 1960 election, nearly seventy-five percent of Americans expressed approval of President Kennedy after this speech.
Mostly crafted by Kennedy aide Ted Sorenson, it is undeniably a masterpiece.
Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, Reverend Clergy, fellow citizens:
We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end as well as a beginning–signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge–and more.
To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do–for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.
To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom–and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.
To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge–to convert our good words into good deeds–in a new alliance for progress–to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house. Continue reading