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美国20世纪最伟大的100篇演讲John F. Kennedy - American University Commen

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AmericanRhetoric.com


John F. Kennedy:
American University Commencement Address

 

delivered
10
June
1963

AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED:
Text
version below
transcribed
directly
from
audio

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.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.
Page
1



AmericanRhetoric.com


"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."

I have, therefore, chosen this time and place to
discuss a topic on which ignorance too often
abounds and the truth
too rarely perceived.
And that is the most important
topic on earth:
peace. What
kind of peace do I mean and what
kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax
Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not
the peace of the grave or
the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace,
the kind of peace that makes life
on earth worth
living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and
build a better life for their children
not
merely peace for Americans but peace for all
men
and women, not
merely peace in our time but peace in all
time.

I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age where
great powers can
maintain
large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to
surrender without resort to
those forces. It
makes no sense in an age where a single nuclear
weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all
the allied air forces in
the Second World War.


It
makes no sense in an age when
the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would
be carried by wind and water and soil and seed
to the far corners of the globe and to
generations yet
unborn.

Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of
making sure we never need them is essential
to
the keeping of peace.
But
surely the
acquisition of such idle stockpiles which
can only destroy and never create is
not
the
only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace. I speak of peace, therefore, as
the necessary, rational end of rational
men. I realize the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as
the pursuit of war, and frequently the words of the pursuers fall on deaf ears. But we have no
more urgent task.

Some say that
it is useless to speak of peace or
world law or world disarmament, and that it
will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope
they do. I believe we can
help them do
it. But I
also believe that we must reexamine our own
attitudes, as individuals and as a Nation, for our attitude is as essential as theirs.

And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful
citizen who despairs of war and wishes to
bring peace, should begin by looking inward, by
examining his own attitude towards the
possibilities of peace, towards the Soviet
Union, towards the course of the cold war and
towards freedom and peace here at
home.

First examine our attitude towards peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible.
Too
many think it
is unreal. But
that
is a dangerous, defeatist
belief. It
leads to
the conclusion that
war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed,
that we are gripped by forces we cannot
control.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.
Page
2



AmericanRhetoric.com


We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade. therefore,
they can be solved by
man. And man
can be as big as he wants. No problem of human
destiny is beyond human
beings. Man's reason and spirit
have often
solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe
they can do
it again. I am not
referring to
the absolute,
infinite concept of universal peace and
good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream.
I do
not deny the value of hopes and
dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and
immediate goal.

Let
us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden
revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human
institutions on
a series of
concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is
no single, simple key to this peace. no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two
powers. Genuine peace must be the product of
many nations, the sum of many acts. It must
be dynamic, not
static, changing to meet the challenge of each
new
generation. For peace is a
process a
way of solving problems.

With such a peace,
there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within
families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each
man
love
his neighbor, it requires only that
they live together in mutual
tolerance, submitting their
disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between
nations, as between
individuals, do
not
last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may
seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between
nations and neighbors. So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need
not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and
less remote, we can
help all people to see it, to
draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly
towards it.

And second, let us reexamine our attitude towards the Soviet Union. It
is discouraging to think
that
their leaders may actually believe what their propagandists write.
It
is discouraging to
read a recent, authoritative Soviet text on military strategy and find, on page after page,
wholly baseless and incredible claims, such as the allegation
that American imperialist circles
are preparing to unleash different
types of war, that
there is a very real threat of a preventive
war being unleashed by American imperialists against
the Soviet
Union, and that
the political
aims and
I quote "
of the American
imperialists are to enslave economically and politically
the European and other capitalist countries and to achieve world domination by means of
aggressive war."


Truly, as it was written
long ago: "The wicked flee when
no
man pursueth."


Yet
it
is sad to read these Soviet statements, to
realize the extent of the gulf between
us. But
it is also a warning, a warning to
the American people not
to fall into the same trap as the
Soviets, not to
see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not
to see conflict as
inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an
exchange of threats.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.
Page
3



AmericanRhetoric.com


No government or social
system is so
evil
that its people must be considered as lacking in
virtue. As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal
freedom and dignity. But we can
still
hail
the Russian people for their many achievements in
science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture, in acts of courage.


Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger
than our mutual abhorrence of war. Almost
unique among the major world powers, we have
never been at war with each other. And no
nation
in the history of battle ever suffered more
than
the Soviet
Union in the Second
World War.
At
least
20 million
lost their lives. Countless
millions of homes and families were burned or sacked.
A third of the nation's territory,
including two thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland a
loss equivalent
to
the destruction of this country east of Chicago.

Today, should total war ever break out again no
matter how our
two countries will be the
primary target. It
is an ironic but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in
the most danger of devastation. All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed
in the first
24 hours. And even
in the cold war,
which brings burdens and dangers to
so many
countries, including this Nation's closest allies, our two countries bear the heaviest burdens.
For we are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to
combat ignorance, poverty, and disease.
We are both caught
up in a vicious and dangerous
cycle, with suspicion on one side breeding suspicion on the other, and new weapons begetting
counterweapons.
In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet
Union and its
allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race.
Agreements to
this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours. And even
the
most
hostile nations can be relied upon
to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only
those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.

So let
us not be blind to our differences, but
let
us also direct attention
to our common
interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end
now our differences, at
least we can help make
the world safe for diversity. For in the final
analysis, our most basic common
link is that we
all
inhabit this small planet. We all breathe
the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal.

Third,
let us reexamine our attitude towards the cold war, remembering we're not engaged in
a debate, seeking to pile up debating points. We are not
here distributing blame or pointing
the finger of judgment. We must deal with the
world as it
is, and not as it
might
have been
had
the history of the last
18 years been different. We must, therefore, persevere in the
search for peace in the hope that constructive changes within
the Communist bloc might bring
within reach solutions which now
seem beyond us. We must conduct our affairs in such a way
that
it becomes in the Communists' interest to agree on a genuine peace. And above all, while
defending our own vital
interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring
an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that
kind of
course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy or
of a
collective deathwish
for the world.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.
Page
4



AmericanRhetoric.com


To secure these ends,
America's weapons are nonprovocative, carefully controlled, designed
to deter, and capable of selective use. Our military forces are committed to peace and
disciplined in selfrestraint.
Our diplomats are instructed to avoid unnecessary irritants and
purely rhetorical hostility. For we can seek a relaxation of tensions without relaxing our guard.
And,
for our part, we do not need to
use threats to prove we are resolute. We do
not
need to
jam foreign broadcasts out of fear our faith will
be eroded. We are unwilling to
impose our
system on any unwilling people, but we are willing and able to engage in peaceful
competition
with any people on earth.

Meanwhile, we seek to
strengthen the United Nations, to help solve its financial problems, to
make it a more effective instrument for peace,
to develop it into a genuine world security
system a
system capable of resolving disputes on
the basis of law, of insuring the security
of the large and the small, and of creating conditions under which arms can
finally be
abolished.
At the same time we seek to
keep peace inside the nonCommunist
world, where
many nations, all of them our friends, are divided over issues which weaken
Western
unity,
which
invite Communist
intervention, or which
threaten to
erupt into war. Our efforts in West
New Guinea,
in the Congo, in
the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent, have been
persistent and patient despite criticism from both sides. We have also
tried to set an
example
for others, by seeking to adjust small but significant differences with our own closest
neighbors in Mexico and Canada.


Speaking of other nations, I wish
to make one point clear.
We are bound to
many nations by
alliances. Those alliances exist because our concern and theirs substantially overlap. Our
commitment
to defend
Western
Europe and West Berlin, for example,
stands undiminished
because of the identity of our vital interests. The United States will make no deal with
the
Soviet
Union at the expense of other nations and other peoples, not merely because they are
our partners, but also because their interests and ours converge.
Our interests converge,
however, not only in defending the frontiers of freedom, but in pursuing the paths of peace.


It
is our hope, and the purpose of allied policy, to convince the Soviet
Union that she,
too,
should let each
nation choose its own
future, so
long as that choice does not
interfere with the
choices of others. The Communist drive to
impose their political and economic system on
others is the primary cause of world tension
today. For there can be no doubt
that
if all
nations could refrain from interfering in the selfdetermination
of others, the peace would be
much
more assured.


This will require a new effort to achieve world law, a new context
for world discussions. It will
require increased understanding between
the Soviets and ourselves. And increased
understanding will require increased contact and communication.

One step in this direction
is the proposed arrangement
for a direct line between Moscow and
Washington, to avoid on each side the dangerous delays, misunderstandings, and misreadings
of others' actions which
might occur at a time of crisis.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.
Page
5



AmericanRhetoric.com


We have also been
talking in Geneva about our firststep
measures of arm[s] controls
designed to
limit
the intensity of the arms race and reduce the risk of accidental war. Our
primary long range interest in Geneva,
however, is general and complete disarmament,
designed to
take place by stages, permitting parallel political
developments to build the new
institutions of peace which would take the place
of arms. The pursuit of disarmament has
been an
effort of this Government since the 1920's. It
has been
urgently sought by the past
three administrations. And however dim the prospects are today, we intend to continue this
effort
to
continue it in order that all countries, including our own, can better grasp what the
problems and possibilities of disarmament are.

The only major area of these negotiations where the end is in sight, yet where a fresh start is
badly needed, is in a treaty to outlaw nuclear tests. The conclusion of such a treaty, so
near
and yet
so far, would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. It
would place the nuclear powers in a position
to
deal
more effectively with one of the greatest
hazards which man
faces in
1963, the further spread of nuclear arms. It would increase our
security. it would decrease the prospects of war. Surely this goal is sufficiently important
to
require our steady pursuit, yielding neither to the temptation
to give up the whole effort
nor
the temptation
to give up our insistence on vital and responsible safeguards.

I'm taking this opportunity, therefore, to announce two
important decisions in this regard.
First, Chairman Khrushchev, Prime Minister Macmillan, and I have agreed that highlevel
discussions will shortly begin in Moscow
looking towards early agreement on a comprehensive
test ban
treaty. Our hope must be tempered Our
hopes must be tempered with the caution
of history. but with our hopes go
the hopes of all mankind. Second,
to
make clear our good
faith and solemn convictions on this matter, I
now declare that
the United States does not
propose to
conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere so
long as other states do
not do so. We
will
not We
will
not be the first
to resume. Such a declaration is no substitute for a formal
binding treaty, but I
hope it will help us achieve one. Nor would such a treaty be a substitute
for disarmament, but I hope it will
help us achieve it.

Finally, my fellow Americans, let us examine our attitude towards peace and freedom here at
home. The quality and spirit of our own
society
must justify and support our efforts abroad.
We must show it in the dedication of our own
lives as
many of you who are graduating
today will
have an opportunity to do, by serving without pay in the Peace Corps abroad or in
the proposed National Service Corps here at
home. But wherever we are, we must all, in our
daily lives, live up to the ageold
faith
that peace and freedom walk together. In
too many of
our cities today, the peace is not secure because freedom is incomplete. It
is the responsibility
of the executive branch at all
levels of government
local,
State, and National to
provide
and protect
that freedom for all of our citizens by all
means within our authority. It
is the
responsibility of the legislative branch at all
levels, wherever the authority is not
now
adequate, to
make it adequate.
And it is the responsibility of all citizens in all sections of this
country to
respect the rights of others and respect
the law of the land.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.
Page
6



AmericanRhetoric.com


All this All
this is not
unrelated to world peace. "When a man's way[s] please the Lord," the
Scriptures tell
us, "he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with
him."
And is not peace, in
the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights: the right
to live out our lives without
fear
of devastation. the right
to breathe air as nature provided it. the right of future generations to
a healthy existence?

While we proceed to
safeguard our national
interests, let
us also safeguard human
interests.
And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both. No
treaty, however
much
it may be to
the advantage of all, however tightly it may be worded, can provide
absolute security against
the risks of deception
and evasion. But
it
can, if it is sufficiently
effective in
its enforcement, and it
is sufficiently in the interests of its signers, offer far more
security and far fewer risks than an unabated,
uncontrolled,
unpredictable arms race.

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.

We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall
be alert
to
try to
stop it. But we shall also do
our part
to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not
helpless before that
task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we must
labor onnot
towards a strategy of annihilation but towards a strategy of peace.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.
Page
7


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