As a Peacemaker John F. Kennedy Understood the Potential of the Human Spirit
Commentary: We all share the same earth. We all share the same drinking water. We all breath the same air. We all rely on the same oxygen to exist. We all need the food that is produced from the soil. We all need the sound of birds and the touch of sunlight. We all need to feel and to love. There is so little that separates us when it comes to what we need to thrive as a species. Politics and religion make us sick of this world. Economics and warfare make us scared to dream of real freedom. The pressures of being right and powerful becomes an obsession that eliminates all other values. This is the awful condition that we find ourselves in. Despite our momentary episodes of happiness and enlightenment, the majority of our time is wasted in sustained anxiety.
John F. Kennedy was no saint. But the man was a prophet. He knew that our shared hopes and experiences are more than what keeps us apart. In his most important speech-the one that likely got him killed a little more than five months later-Kennedy charted the only course that has a future. Speaking at an American University commencement- and cleverly addressing the Soviet Union head on- the president stated with heroic conviction:
"Today, should total war ever break out again—no matter how—our two countries would become the primary targets. 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.... [W]e are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counterweapons."
It is now necessary to amend JFK's speech to include the entire globe as that which is in danger of devastation. The world itself is now a target. If there is a conventional nuclear war, or the use of a major electronic weapon in the atmosphere over a massive population zone, it will not just be the United States and Soviet Union which suffers the aftermath. Every land dependent nation will be at risk. Every coastal city will be threatened. Every island will be under siege. And every remote wilderness will come under attack. There will be no place to hide. There will be no escape route. The world itself will be a trap; one that consists of toxic gases, omnipresent radiation, pouring acid rain, incessant panic, rampant disease, sweeping delusion, and far worse. It will be hell.
So let us heed Kennedy's vision. Let us use his words as our signpost. Let us proceed with confidence that we have the power to resist this temptation to self- destruct. This ability to commit suicide exists inside every human heart. It does not take much to activate the existential crisis gene. But the human heart is also capable of producing tremendous powers of compassion, insight, fortitude, bravery, and excellence. We have slaughtered ourselves in genocides. But we have also built gigantic metropolises of artistic genius and scientific advancement. We have harbored the most pathetic sins of cowardice and omission. But we have also garnered the strength to go beyond our solar system and explore other galaxies. Despite our potential for destructive stupidity, there is nothing that the human race cannot achieve if it puts its mind to the task. Kennedy knew this better than any other leader of his generation.