Author: John F. Kennedy

Brief Info: American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States

Years Lived: 1917-1963

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Quotations


Defending the pursuit of learning

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If the pursuit of learning is not defended by the educated citizen, it will not be defended at all. For there will always be those who scoff at intellectuals, who cry out against research, who seek to limit our educational system. Modern cynics and skeptics see no more reason for landing a man on the moon, which we shall do, than the cynics and skeptics of half a millennium ago saw for the discovery of this country. They see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.

But the educated citizen knows how much more there is to know. He knows that “knowledge is power,” more so today than ever before. He knows that only an educated and informed people will be a free people, that the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all, and that if we can, as Jefferson put it, “enlighten the people generally … tyranny and the oppressions of mind and body will vanish, like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” And, therefore, the educated citizen has a special obligation to encourage the pursuit of learning, to promote exploration of the unknown, to preserve the freedom of inquiry, to support the advancement of research, and to assist at every level of government the improvement of education for all Americans, from grade school to graduate school.

From the speech 90th Anniversary Convocation of Vanderbilt University

— May 18, 1963


Our privileges can be no greater than our obligations

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But this Nation was not founded solely on the principle of citizens' rights. Equally important, though too often not discussed, is the citizen's responsibility. For our privileges can be no greater than our obligations. The protection of our rights can endure no longer than the performance of our responsibilities. Each can be neglected only at the peril of the other. I speak to you today, therefore, not of your rights as Americans, but of your responsibilities. They are many in number and different in nature. They do not rest with equal weight upon the shoulders of all. Equality of opportunity does not mean equality of responsibility. All Americans must be responsible citizens, but some must be more responsible than others, by virtue of their public or their private position, their role in the family or community, their prospects for the future, or their legacy from the past.

Increased responsibility goes with increased ability, for “of those to whom much is given, much is required.”

From the speech 90th Anniversary Convocation of Vanderbilt University

— May 18, 1963


The Discomfort of Thought

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As every past generation has had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of truisms and stereotypes, so in our own time we must move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality.

For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clich├ęs of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

From the speech Commencement Address at Yale University

— 1962


Let us accept our own responsibility for the future

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Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past – let us accept our own responsibility for the future.

From the remarks Loyola College Alumni Banquet

— 18 Feb 1958


National parks and reserves

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The supreme reality of our time is … the vulnerability of our planet.

National parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources. It is the course of wisdom to set aside an ample portion of our natural resources as national parks and reserves, thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of the earth as we know it today.

From the unknown unknown

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