Holiday greetings from President Kennedy: Don’t worry about the Russians bombing the North Pole and Santa Claus

December 19, 2014

In 1961 a little girl named Michelle wrote to President John F. Kennedy, expressing her fears that in a nuclear exchange, the Russians might bomb the North Pole, and Santa Claus might be lost.

President Kennedy’s response was human, and fatherly.

We should work to spread that spirit this season, and all seasons.

Tip of the old scrub brush, with pine-scented bubbles for the season, to the John F. Kennedy Library.


Gun nuts twisting the words of President Kennedy

May 4, 2014

Here’s the full text of President Kennedy’s statement on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthday in 1961, urging Americans to join Kennedy in making things better, including enlisting in the military, from the Kennedy Library:

January 29, 1961

This year, the celebrations of Roosevelt Day has special significance for Democrats everywhere; for we celebrate not only the triumphs of the past but the opportunities of the future.

Twenty-eight years ago Franklin Roosevelt assumed the leadership of a stricken and demoralized nation. Poverty, distress and economic stagnation blanketed the land. But it was not long before the great creative energies of the New Deal had lifted American from its despair and set us on the path to new heights of prosperity, power and greatness.

Today America is the richest nation in the history of the world. Our power and influence extend around the globe. Yet the challenges and dangers which confront us are even more awesome and difficult than those that face Roosevelt. And we too will need to summon all the energies of our people and the capacities of our leaders if America is to remain a great and free nations — if we are to master the opportunities of the New Frontier.

The dimensions of out problems overwhelm the imagination. At home millions are unemployed and the growth of our economy has come to a virtual halt. Abroad, we are faced with powerful and unrelenting pressure which threaten freedom in every corner of the globe, and with military power so formidable that it menaces the physical survival of our own nation.

To meet these problems will require the efforts not only of our leaders or of the Democratic Party–but the combined efforts of all of our people.; No one has a right to feel that, having entrusted the tasks of government to new leaders in Washington, he can continue to pursue his private comforts unconcerned with American’s challenges and dangers. For, if freedom is to survive and prosper, it will require the sacrifice, the effort and the thoughtful attention of every citizen.

In my own native state of Massachusetts, the battle for American freedom was begun by the thousands of farmers and tradesmen who made up the Minute Men — citizens who were ready to defend their liberty at a moment’s notice. Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom. The cause of liberty, the cause of American, cannot succeed with any lesser effort.

It is this effort and concern which makes up the New Frontier. And it is this effort and concern which will determine the success or failure not only with Administration, but of our nation itself. [emphasis added]

Source: White House Central Subject Files, Box 111, “FDR”.

Other Information Sources:

“Know your Lawmakers,” Guns Magazine, April 1960.
“Letter to President John F. Kennedy from the NRA,” [NRAcentral.com].
“New Minute Men Urged by Kennedy,” The New York Times, 30 January, 1961, pg. 13.
“Kennedy Says U.S. Needs Minute Men,” Los Angeles Times, 30 January, 1961, pg. 4.
“Minutemen’s Soft-Sell Leader: Robert B. DePugh,” The New York Times, 12 November 1961, pg. 76.

It seems to me that Kennedy was not asking yahoos to take up arms against the government, but was instead asking Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”  Specifically in the last paragraph, he noted his call was to join in the New Frontier efforts his administration was pushing.

If you’re not much a student of history, you may have forgotten about Kennedy’s New Frontier.  As presidents before him, with the Square Deal, the New Deal, and the Fair Deal, Kennedy sought a shorthand term to apply to much of his program of changes.  In his speech accepting the nomination of the Democratic Party to run for president, he called this a New Frontier.

For I stand tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch three thousand miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build a new world here in the West. They were not the captives of their own doubts, the prisoners of their own price tags. Their motto was not “every man for himself” –but “all for the common cause.” They were determined to make that new world strong and free, to overcome its hazards and its hardships, to conquer the enemies that threatened from without and within.

Today some would say that those struggles are all over–that all the horizons have been explored–that all the battles have been won– that there is no longer an American frontier.

But I trust that no one in this vast assemblage will agree with those sentiments. For the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won–and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier–the frontier of the 1960’s–a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils– a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.
[emphasis added]

Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom promised our nation a new political and economic framework. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal promised security and succor to those in need. But the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises–it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook–it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.

But I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric–and those who prefer that course should not cast their votes for me, regardless of party.

But I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier. My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age–to all who respond to the Scriptural call: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.”

For courage–not complacency–is our need today–leadership–not salesmanship. And the only valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously. A tired nation, said David Lloyd George, is a Tory nation–and the United States today cannot afford to be either tired or Tory.

Kennedy famously challenged Americans to stand up for service to the nation in his inaugural speech, and when he founded the Peace Corps, asking Americans to give up two or three years to work, peacefully, in other lands to promote progress there. Kennedy called Americans to share his vision, and to work for change, for a better America.

What were specifics of the New Frontier agenda?   Kennedy pushed a broad range of programs, many turned into laws in his brief term; Kennedy aimed to change America in economics, taxation, labor, education, welfare, civil rights, housing, unemployment, health, equal rights for women, environment, agriculture, crime and defense.   In each of these areas Kennedy sought to build on the legacies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman — in ways that conservatives today become apoplectic just thinking about.

Kennedy pushed for a higher minimum wage with built-in step increases over time not keyed to inflation.  He called for more taxcuts for the poor, coupled with targeted tax incentives to get businesses to spend their cash to create jobs.  Kennedy favored changes in law to give unions greater say in corporate expansion, tougher protection for workers from firing, and he extended collective bargaining to federal workers.  Kennedy called for expansion of federally-funded loans and scholarships for college students, and he started a program to use federal money to put technology into classrooms at the elementary and secondary levels.  Kennedy expanded unemployment and welfare benefits, and got a 20% increase in Social Security benefits.

Kennedy’s New Frontier called for sweeping changes in the way government protects the rights and welfare of all citizens.

Did Kennedy actually call for armed militias to fight government “over-reach” or expansion?

What do you think?  When a proponent of getting guns to protect himself against the U.S. government, by killing agents of the U.S. government (we must imagine), cites a part of Kennedy’s statement from 1961 as supporting arming individual citizens, is he being honest?

Poster from Americanfirearms.org; the quoate from Kennedy is accurate, but did Kennedy mean what this group wants us to think it means?

Poster from Americanfirearms.org; the quoate from Kennedy is accurate, but did Kennedy mean what this group wants us to think it means?

Kennedy appears to have been fond of the image of the Minutemen at Lexington and Concord, trained militia from citizen volunteers, who started the path to American independence from Britain.  He invoked that image earlier, as senator from Massachusetts, in a speech honoring the Polish hero Casimir Pulaski, at a Pulaski Day Dinner in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 17, 1959:

We pay tribute to Casimir Pulaski tonight by honoring a great American of Polish descent, Clem Zablocki.  For he has demonstrated, in Washington and Wisconsin, the same courage and conscience, the same zeal for liberty, the same tireless patience and determination to help all who call for help.  He is a great Congressman – not only from Wisconsin – but of the United States . . .

But we also think of Casimir Pulaski tonight because his beloved Poland has once again fallen victim to a foreign power.  The independence for which he fought against the Russians at Czestochowa has been once again suppressed – and once again by the Russians.  Were he alive tonight, the hero of Savannah and Charleston would weep for his homeland – and we, inwardly or outwardly according to our custom, weep with him.

But weeping is not enough.  We know it is not enough.  And yet, while we give vent to our feelings of resentment and outrage, we are also caught up in a feeling of frustration.  What can we do about the situation in the satellites?  How can we help those liberty-loving peoples regain their liberty, without subjecting them to even more cruel repression – or subjecting the world to an even more disastrous war?  How can we let them know their fate is not forgotten – that we have not abandoned them to be – like the Irish of 1647 considered themselves when Owen Roe O’Neill was poisoned – “sheep without a shepherd when the snow shuts out the sky?”

This is the dilemma we face, as both last month and next year the President and Premier Khrushchev are pictured together in the press on both sides of the Iron Curtain.  And this is the dilemma with which this Administration has been confronted, in trying to make good on its tarnished promises of a new “liberation” policy.  For this is no longer an age when minutemen with muskets can make a revolution.  Hungary, we know, is not Cuba – and neither is Poland.  Mr. Khrushchev is not to be overthrown like Mr. Batista.  Brave bands of young men and women may be able to stop a few tanks – but street barricades and home-made hand grenades cannot long stand against a modern army and an atomic air force. [emphasis added]

The facts of the matter are that – no matter how bitter some feelings may be, or how confident some are of a victorious war for liberation – freedom behind the Iron Curtain and world peace are actually inextricably linked.  For if war should ever break out, the control and occupation of Eastern Europe would certainly be even more rigid and repressive than it is today.  That is why, in the days of upheaval in 1956, when Poland could have turned to violent rebellion as Hungary did, Cardinal Wyszynski kept advising his people that the condition of Polish freedom was peace.  Many scoffed – many thought him faint-hearted.  But by following his advice, Poland has now attained at least a measure of national independence and at least a relaxation of Communist rule.  Forced collectivization of the farmers has ceased and most of the collectives were dissolved – religious freedom has been restored in considerable degree – and freedom of speech is returning.

No one says that land of ancient freedom is once more free again.  But if Poland had not accepted this half-way house to freedom, it could have been, as Prime Minister Gomulka warned, wiped off the map of Europe.  If the present emphasis on a thaw in the Cold War should end and tensions rise again, the present good relations between Poland and the United States would undoubtedly cease, the growing contacts between the Polish people and the West would be cut off, and the present degree of freedom of speech and religion in Poland would prove to be short-lived.  On the other hand, if a real thaw develops and Soviet-American relations improve, the prospects for the continuation and perhaps the expansion of this limited degree of Polish freedom are good.  So, in a real sense, the condition for Polish freedom is peace.

President Kennedy addressing a Wisconsin group during the 1960 presidential campaign.  (Do you have more details?)

President Kennedy addressing a Wisconsin group during the 1960 presidential campaign. (Do you have more details?) Photo by Robert W. Kelley//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

One does not get the sense that President Kennedy was urging citizens to establish their own arsenals, contrary to the actions of the Minutemen at Lexington and Concord, nor to take up arms against the U.S. government.

Who would suggest that’s what Kennedy meant?  Oh, yeah:  AmericanFirearms.org.

More:

Page one of a speech text then-Sen. John Kennedy delivered regarding why America arms, on March 9, 1960, in Mauston, Wisconsin. JFK Library image

Page one of a speech text then-Sen. John Kennedy delivered regarding why America arms, on March 9, 1960, in Mauston, Wisconsin. JFK Library image


Fly your flag at half-staff today, honoring President John F. Kennedy

November 22, 2013

U.S. flags at the Washington Monument fly at half-staff, with the dome of the U.S. Capitol in the background.  Image captured from U.S. Flags.com

U.S. flags at the Washington Monument fly at half-staff, with the dome of the U.S. Capitol in the background. Image captured from U.S. Flags.com

November 22, 2013:  A proclamation from President Barack Obama:

Obama Proclamation on Day of Remembrance for President Kennedy

21 November 2013

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
November 21, 2013

DAY OF REMEMBRANCE FOR PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

A half century ago, America mourned the loss of an extraordinary public servant. With broad vision and soaring but sober idealism, President John F. Kennedy had called a generation to service and summoned a Nation to greatness. Today, we honor his memory and celebrate his enduring imprint on American history.

In his 3 years as President of the United States, John F. Kennedy weathered some of the most perilous tests of the Cold War and led America to the cusp of a bright new age. His leadership through the Cuban Missile Crisis remains the standard for American diplomacy at its finest. In a divided Berlin, he delivered a stirring defense of freedom that would echo through the ages, yet he also knew that we must advance human rights here at home. During his final year in office, he proposed a civil rights bill that called for an end to segregation in America. And recognizing women’s basic right to earn a living equal to their efforts, he signed the Equal Pay Act into law.

While President Kennedy’s life was tragically cut short, his vision lives on in the generations he inspired — volunteers who serve as ambassadors for peace in distant corners of the globe, scientists and engineers who reach for new heights in the face of impossible odds, innovators who set their sights on the new frontiers of our time. Today and in the decades to come, let us carry his legacy forward. Let us face today’s tests by beckoning the spirit he embodied — that fearless, resilient, uniquely American character that has always driven our Nation to defy the odds, write our own destiny, and make the world anew.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 22, 2013, as a Day of Remembrance for President John F. Kennedy. I call upon all Americans to honor his life and legacy with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities. I also call upon Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of the other territories subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on the Day of Remembrance for President John F. Kennedy. I further encourage all Americans to display the flag at half-staff from their homes and businesses on that day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

More:

White House photo:  Presidents and First Ladies, Barack and Michelle Obama, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, post a wreath and salute President John F. Kennedy at Kennedy's gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery, November 20, 2013

White House photo: Presidents and First Ladies, Barack and Michelle Obama, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, post a wreath and salute President John F. Kennedy at Kennedy’s gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery, November 20, 2013


September 12 — Anniversary of the 1962 day JFK challenged all of America to go to the Moon, “because it is hard”

September 12, 2013

President John F. Kennedy speaking to an audience in the football stadium at Rice University in Houston, September 12, 1962.  Kennedy made the public case for why the U.S. should try a Moon shot.  NASA photo.

President John F. Kennedy speaking to an audience in the football stadium at Rice University in Houston, September 12, 1962. Kennedy made the public case for why the U.S. should try a Moon shot. NASA photo.

Kennedy’s speech at Rice University, “We Choose to Go to the Moon,” was delivered in the football stadium (not nearly full), on September 12, 1962.

Obviously, that was back before global warming held such a tight death grip on Texas (it’s so bad here, even Rick Perry is trying to move north, out of the state).

Day in and day out, Kennedy’s speech, the text, the audio, and sources of commentary on it, are among the most popular of the nearly 5,000 posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. Go see why:

September 12, 1962, was also the ninth anniversary of JFK’s marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier.  She let him go out of town to talk rockets?

Anything for the nation, I suppose.

More:

Moonwalking astronaut salutes the U.S. flag on the Moon. Twelve people went to the Moon, all of them in the U.S. space program run by NASA.  (My photo source does not identify this astronaut.)

Moonwalking astronaut salutes the U.S. flag on the Moon. Twelve people went to the Moon, all of them in the U.S. space program run by NASA. (My photo source does not identify this astronaut.)


Remember when business leaders supported civil rights?

August 16, 2013

Remember civil discussion?

June 4, 1963:  Business leaders listening to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, with President John F. Kennedy, in the White House.  Photo from the Kennedy Library, public domain

June 4, 1963: Business leaders listening to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, with President John F. Kennedy, in the White House. Photo from the Kennedy Library, public domain

Could one get such a meeting on an issue today?  Probably — and wouldn’t it be nice to see more of them?

President John F. Kennedy invited top business leaders of the nation to the White House on June 4, 1963, to talk about civil rights.  This photo captures the early moments of the late afternoon meeting in the East Room of the White House, with Vice President Lyndon Johnson addressing the group, and President Kennedy waiting to speak.

According to the Kennedy Library, these are people in in the photo:

Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (at podium, with back to camera) speaks to a group of business executives with establishments in southern cities, at a civil rights meeting conducted by President John F. Kennedy (seated at far right), Vice President Johnson, and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (not pictured). Those pictured include: Milton L. Elsberg, President of Drug Fair Inc.; Carling L. Dinkler, Jr., President of Dinkler Hotel Corporation; Lucien E. Oliver, Vice President of Sears, Roebuck & Company; Louis C. Lustenberger, President of W. T. Grant Company; William B. Thalhimer, Jr., President of Thalhimer Brothers, Inc.; G. Stockton Strawbridge, President of Strawbridge & Clothier; Bruce A. Gimbel, President of Gimbel Brothers, Inc.; and E. D. Martin, President of Martin Theatres of Georgia, Inc. East Room, White House, Washington, D.C.

Few of those companies exist today; those that do are in much changed form.  Just fifty years ago.

The Kennedy Presidential Library in Massachusetts makes this photo available with hundreds of others at its on-line site.


Remedial economics, remedial U.S. history

May 20, 2013

I should set a threshold — five e-mails, or a dozen Facebook posts, and a response will be given.

But then some idiot would work to make the threshold.

You’ve seen this, of course:

5 misleading truths

“5 Truths You CANNOT Disagree With”

It was past the threshold, so I responded:

More truths:

  1. You cannot legislate poverty away by laws that send all the wealth generated by the working poor, to the rich.
  2. What one person receives without working for in capital gains, or productivity increases, another person worked for, without receiving. It is unjust to give the benefits of the sweat of one woman, to another man.
  3. Government subsidies create wealth in nations; most great enterprises have found their roots in government funding, from irrigation in Babylon, to farming along the Yellow River, through Columbus’s voyage of (accidental) discovery, the Transcontinental Railroad, and settlement of America.
  4. When opportunities exist for the poor, hard work makes much wealth. A society is wealthy, and an economy is sound, when the poor spend money. Rich guys spending money doesn’t work — there are not enough rich guys.
  5. When the rich tiny percentage of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, but that the work of others is ALSO their property and the poor will take care of them, then we have conditions for financial collapse (see the Panic of 1908, or 1837, or the Great Depression — or any other); those conditions often lead to revolution, sometimes violent (see Russia in 1917, Germany in 1922, Shay’s Rebellion, the French Revolution — when the rich get the rewards the hard-working man created, it is the beginning of the end of any nation. Some smart nations fix those problems when they occur.

When hard work no longer gets you ahead, and when hard work no longer will feed, clothe and educate your family, you may get angry.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable,” John Kennedy said. He was pretty smart for a young, rich guy.

(Links added above, other than the YouTube video; I hope the JFK Library has video of Kennedy actually saying that.)

People who post these “5 truths” without irony must have slept through ALL of economics in high school, and forgotten everything they may have ever learned about American history in the 20th century.  Income distribution is a serious issue — maldistribution and misdistribution of wealth leads to trouble, either economic calamity, or violent revolution, or both.

It’s fun to say that no person should get ahead on the earnings of another person; it’s more realistic when we understand that a system rigged to give financial players yachts, and working people debt, is the unfairness that those worriers should worry about.

John F. Kennedy waves to a crowd in front of Cobo Hall, in Detroit

Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy waves to a crowd in front of Cobo Hall, in Detroit, during the 1960 American Legion Convention. Image from Walter Reuther Library

More:


A very young John Kennedy asks his father for a raise in his allowance, to cover Boy Scout dues

March 3, 2013

Can your students write this well?  This kid was 12:

JFK asking his father for a raise in his allowance

Letter from 12 year-old John Kennedy, asking his father for a raise in his allowance, in 1929.  Click image for larger view.  Photo from Peter Lenahan

Found the image at the U.S. Scouting Service Project site, part of their celebration of the history of Scouting.

John Fitzgerald Francis Kennedy, President of the United States, was a Scout in Troop 2 in the Bronxville, NY, from 1929 to 1931. This letter was written when he was 12 years old in 1929.

Transcript:   A Plea for a raise

By Jack Kennedy

Dedicated to my

Mr. J. P. Kennedy

     Chapter I

My recent allowance is 40¢. This I used for areoplanes and other playthings of child- hood but now I am a scout and I put away my childish things. Before I would spend 20¢ of my ¢.40 allowance and In five minutes I would have empty pockets and nothing to gain and 20¢ to lose. When I a a scout I have to buy canteens, haversacks, blankets, searchlidgs [searchlights] poncho things that will last for years and I can always use it while I cant use a cholcalote marshmellow sunday with vanilla ice cream and so I put in my plea for a raise of thirty cents for me to buy scout things and pay my own way more around.

Finis

John Fitzgerald Francis Kennedy

Contributed by: Peter Lenahan, Bronxville, NY


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