Quote of the moment: Robert F. Kennedy, on what matters in economies


Cribbing completely from Harry Clarke (with a few corrections in the text):

Robert F. Kennedy speech at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, March 18, 1968

Robert F. Kennedy speech at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, March 18, 1968 - Photo by George Silk, Time-Life Pictures/Getty Images

RFK said this in 1968.  In a speech I heard today it was quoted and it stirred me.

Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community value in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over eight hundred billion dollars a year, but that GNP — if we judge the United States of America by that — that GNP counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and it counts nuclear warheads, and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Kennedy delivered these words in an address at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, on March 18, 1968.

Here’s a video production from the Glaser Progress Foundation which includes an audio recording of the speech:

More resources:

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5 Responses to Quote of the moment: Robert F. Kennedy, on what matters in economies

  1. [...] post originally appeared at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.  It is used here with express permission. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); [...]

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  2. [...] Most of this post appeared originally here in 2009.  We need the reminder. [...]

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  3. [...] post is borrowed with express permission from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]

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  4. [...] … Declaration of Independence (10), Democracy (16), Democracy in action (6), denialism (22), Desegregation (6), Disasters (41), Disease (16), Dissent (47), Dropouts (4), Dust Bowl (7), Dwight Eisenhower (8), Eagle Scout (15) …Continue Reading… [...]

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  5. jesusjamey says:

    The insurmountable obstacles so eloquently set out by Mr Robert Kennedy simply point to the fact that the world grows toward increased intelligence and broader liberty by eclipsing its status quo, and history must just as surely move beyond your little experiment with federal union. That experiment has been a general and a popular success with particular failures but the current and increasing crises of confidance in your country and expanding around the world, are products of clinging overly long to the past 2 Centuries and of refusing to permit the future to formulate a new world order.

    It is well to be melancholy and recall your triumphs but too much devotion to them becomes depression. It was quite a natural progression to separate from Britain but you must now separate from yourselves and join the rest of the world.

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