"Lend me your ears", take 2 - Great speeches in political history (currently discussing: Kennedy)

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Ender Sai, Mar 1, 2006.

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  1. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 8
    OK. It occurs to me, given the Picasso-like face of the last thread, that an amnesia-style reboot is in order.

    The offenders have been summarily executed, or perhaps just silently cursed; I wasn't there, so I can't be sure.

    Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, don't post a new speech until

    a) You've cleared it with Mr44 or myself (or both),
    b) We've finished discussing it in here, and
    c) You've cleared it with Mr44 or myself (or both).

    If you do, I'll replace your text with that picture Mr44 loves of Ronnie Reagan's comic book. Boo! [face_monkey]


    E_S
  2. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 8
    If there is one thing about speeches, it's that when they're done right they become more than the expression of an ideal or a policy; they become marks in history, and a part of the popular conscience. Americans - you, when you get speeches right, are in a class of your own. Untouchable, inspiring, brillant - the greatest policy speeches of the 20th Century, if listed into say a top 20, would be mostly US speeches.

    A speech. Why do leaders make them? Is it a vainglorious use of a public forum, or an attempt to coalesce ideas into a concise form? Many people do them differently - if you compare an Australian and an American foreign policy speech, one is workman like and rarely inspiring; the other is prone to stating, sometimes excessively, morals and values. There are some amazing speakers in the world today (Tony Blair, anyone), and some speakers who have good and bad days (George W Bush).

    Yet the speech remains an indelible mark on our modern political conscience. What I'd like to do is take a speech from political history and discuss it. We can talk about the central theme, and whether it aged well. We can talk about the goals in the context of the time. We can talk about the use of catch-phrases which anchor the speech in our memory.

    For our opener, I've chosen one of my favourite speeches of the last half-century - John Fitzgerald Kennedy's inaugural address.


    [image=http://www.bartleby.com/124/kennedy.gif]

    John F. Kennedy
    Inaugural Address
    Friday, January 20, 1961

    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 forebears 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, in order 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 peoples in the huts and villages across 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,
  3. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 8
    From previous thread:




    E_S
  4. Darth Mischievous Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 1999
    star 6
    As I stated in the previous thread version, it is one of the greatest speeches ever by a US President.

    I would be careful though to associate greatness with the Kennedy doctrine (Bay of Pigs and Vietnam, anyone?) and compare it to Bush. Both had their faults. (BTW, to correct the record: the "Mission Accomplished" banner was in reference to the aircraft carrier which completed its tour, which is an often occasion upon completion of military tours.)

    I think this line is particularly relevant in the modern world:

  5. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 8
    Well, I think all of it is apt, including:


    I honestly don't see that calibre of inspiring leadership in the US now, and not since the 2nd Clinton term. I would say I've thought George W Bush to be an effective leader, but never a great leader - and if you look at leaders who've siezed their moment in history in the last 50-60years (Truman, Churchill, Roosevelt, John Howard, Tony Blair to name but a few), they've had something about them that the last two US presidents in particular haven't had.

    Kennedy, in this speech, not only captured so perfectly the values and beliefs of the US - and that's one thing you notice about US foreign policy speeches, is that they're value-laden (and sometimes at a disconnect with the reality of the policy) - but he defined the direction he wanted America to go. It's interesting that people note Kennedy's involvement in the Vietnam war as something of a detraction from his greatness; but it's worth noting his reason for sending US troops there is the same reason he expresses here; "a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself."

    One thing that I really appreciate about this speech too, is the rich language which describes the battlefield mentality of the Cold War world with simple, inspiring imagery of taking beachheads and pushing back jungles - a subtle, perhaps, salute to US military triumph in the second world war.

    I wonder if Kennedy himself wrote this speech, or it was Theodore Sorensen? Dr Michael Fullilove, who's collected some great Australian speeches in a recent book "Men and Women of Australia", recalls seeing Sorensen being asked this question, and his answer was classically, "Ask not!".

    I have a question for you all; if you looked at this speech and said, "This speech represents the ideal, or the dream, of American foreign policy; America defending liberty and values first, and interests second", would you say it represents policy points that never existed, or are just sadly missing from the modern arena?

    I would say the latter; I think the greatness of America, best realised in the period between FDR entering WWII and Kennedy's inauguration/first year, has merely faded by a lack of self-confidence (Vietnam) and a shifting world accustomed to taking with one hand and slapping the hand that feeds it with the other.

    E_S
  6. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I honestly don't see that calibre of inspiring leadership in the US now.

    As DM aptly pointed out, the inspirational calibre of Kennedy's leadership did not in reality completely measure up to the calibre of his speech's rhetoric. The Bay of Pigs is one good example of course, but also maybe the Cuban missile crisis. My personal feeling is that the real "leadership" came not so much from Kennedy but from a bizarre combination of the political exigencies of the cold war and a built in institutional reluctance to commit suicide. Everyone on both sides of the conflict knew what the ultimate boundaries were going to be, and how not to cross them.

    I also wonder whether Kennedy's speech was immediately understood to be a classic moment of political rhetoric, or whether Kennedy's speech was elevated to immortal status along with the man and his presidency at the moment of his assassination. The Gettysburg Address is another example of this kind of speech. To what extent does the later assassination cement the greatness of Lincoln as an orator, if at all?
  7. Obi-Wan McCartney Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 5
    As stated before, I think this speech is really gear. However, it was delivered at a time of American naivity, (well, how about just more naive than now?), and such a speech couldn't be credibly given today aside from certain specific circumstances.

    (I don't think Tony Blair has anything more than Slick had. Blair was seen as a British Slick, and Slick even campaigned for him.)
  8. darthtuttle Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2004
    star 4
    It's a myth that "Ich bin ein Berliner" means "I am a jelly filled doughnut." What was that speech about?
  9. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    This is Kennedy's speech to the people of Berlin when the Berlin wall went up. The Berlin wall is bookended, more or less, by Kennedy's speech and Reagan's "Tear down this wall" speech.

    I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin. And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress, and to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.

    Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was "civis Romanus sum." Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner."

    I appreciate my interpreter translating my German!

    There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.

    Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin. While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.

    What is true of this city is true of Germany--real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.

    Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.

    All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner."


    And then Reagan's speech (a bit of it...it's long)

    Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it
  10. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Kennedy's Inaugural Address was so powerful because it did represent what the US could do, as it applied to each and every person.

    To use a modern reference it was the 1961 version of "just do it," and I think that's what made it so inspiring.

    Want to join the military and serve the ideals that it represents? Kennedy says go do it. Case in point-Kennedy restarted and expanded the US unconventional warfare program, what we now know as the Special Operations Command.

    Don't think you'd be a fit for the military, but want to help people anyway? Kennedy also established the Peace Corps as an independent federal agency to spread the ideals of democracy to the third world.

    That's quite an interesting dichotomy in an administration to embrace Unconventional Warfare, but also establish the Peace Corps, even as they both serve the same goals.

    It says "hey work with us and and enjoy the benefits, but cross us and pay the price." That sentiment is an American ideal in its own right.

  11. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 8
    Jabba, is that a new speech I see? o_O

    E_S
  12. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    There's only so much we can discuss about one speech at a time. This thread has potential to be a great one if the limits are lifted - there's nothing wrong with a Picasso face, after all, it worked for modern art :p



    Churchill I post a link to an article with relevance to this thread although not Kennedy

    Allow other speeches to be posted and let the thread grow and expand and further the discussion!!!
  13. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    It's not just the speeches which are worth discussing, they are often a reflection of the time in which they took place and not only relfect the way things were then but the way things were wanted to be.

    Did anyone watch the TV series American Dreams? If you weren't around then it may have given you some idea of what was going on then. Not just the war and poltics but religion, general expectations and the way people related to one another.
  14. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 8
    Bear with me guys, I have something in mind for this thread and will get back to you shortly.

    E_S
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