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Today in History: January 11, 1961 – Kennedy Gives 2nd State of the Union Address

Thanks to holidays and whatnot, it’s been awhile since we’ve posted a Today in History post. Thus, since today happens to be the 57th anniversary and I’m listening to Kennedy’s 2nd State of the Union, that it’d be a good place to start.

In his 2nd State of the Union, Kennedy discussed the problem of machines taking over jobs and of the problem of the current recession. This was one of his major concerns, and he promised that he would work on strengthening the economy in response.

And of course, at the top of list was the Cold War. Kennedy discussed “diversity” – which, he noted, Communism does not allow. Along this same talk, there is noticeable foreshadowing to Kennedy’s forthcoming Peace topic, which would begin in earnest after the Cuban Missile Crisis, of the same year. But, then, in typical Kennedy fashion, he jumps onto a diverging topic. In this case, missiles. What followed was a long list of the missiles that had been doubled and tripled in number, all in the name of protecting America from foreign domination. And, because, Kennedy’s ‘Peace through Strength” mantra was still alive and strong. 

In the coming year, our reserve programs will be revised–two Army Divisions will, I hope, replace those Guard Divisions on duty–and substantial other increases will boost our Air Force fighter units, the procurement of equipment, and our continental defense and warning efforts. The Nation’s first serious civil defense shelter program is under way, identifying, marking, and stocking 50 million spaces; and I urge your approval of Federal incentives for the construction of public fall-out shelters in schools and hospitals and similar centers.

Following this, he discussed the importance of the Space Race. Not necessarily to be first, though he definitely did want to beat the Soviets. The importance, he reminded the nation, was to continue to search, to learn, and to strive. To sit back and let the Soviets win was very different than doing their best and still coming in second. (Although, a Kennedy never loses!)

President Kennedy also discussed the need for Congress to respond to certain domestic issues, including: pollution, education, mass transit, urban housing, civil rights, public health, and welfare assistance programs. He touched on the importance of military strength, of foreign relations, trade (low tariffs on both sides), and Berlin. And he, as always, urged the American people to act, not to leave it to the government alone.

Listen: Kennedy’s 1962 State of the Union Address

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Today in History: September 25, 1961 & 2018 – Addresses Before the UN General Assemblies

Today, President Trump addressed the UN General Assembly. It was a very dignified speech – a speech about peace and freedom and the survival of America.

Today also marks the 57th anniversary of President Kennedy’s first address before the UN General Assembly. He, too, talked about peace and freedom and the survival of America. Go figure.

I won’t spend time comparing and contrasting the two speeches, as this isn’t a Current Events or Rhetoric class. Though, that might be fun, but both gave a good 40 minute speech (and it’s late). However, I invite you to give both a listen. Draw your own conclusions. And, you never know, there may be some future Trivia Questions in these speeches somewhere.

Hey! That’s as good as promising an upcoming quiz. Maybe I should have spent time comparing and contrasting their rhetoric. 😉

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Listen: President Kennedy’s 1961 UN Speech

Listen: President Trump’s 2018 UN Speech

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Today in History: September 12, 1962 – Kennedy’s “We Go to the Moon” Speech

On September 12, 1962, at Rice University in Houston, Texas, President Kennedy gave his famous “We Go to the Moon” speech. Here at USA-eVote, we realized that with Trump’s talk of making the Space Force the newest branch of the military, it was important to remind Americans that Trump is not the first president to realize the seriousness of the “Space Race”

In his 1962 speech, Kennedy reminded us that this country was not built by men who looked forward, not backward. That “[t]hose who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space” (Source). During the Cold War, we Americans couldn’t take the risk that Communist Russia would make it to space before us. We had no idea what their plans were for space, should they win the race. Kennedy wanted us to be the leading nation in space. He wanted Americans to be the ones to decide if this new sea, as he referred to it, would be a land of peace or a new war zone. Sound familiar?

Again, Kennedy offered up what would become a famous challenge to Americans: 

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

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President Kennedy promised Americans that we would not only win the Cold War (something that he saw as moral – aka, a Christian state vs. an atheist one), but we would also win the Space Race.

Today, if you go to any Air & Space museum, you’ll see clips of this famous speech, most likely the clip of “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Today, we link the success of Space to President Kennedy. But, as he implored of us 56 years ago today, there’s more to be done!

He admitted that this was “in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us,” but, he continued, we must be bold. And so we must be today, as well. For, after all, “space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked” (Source).

If Kennedy were alive today, he’d want us to keep up the mission, wouldn’t he? He’d want us to be bold and to get the work done.

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Speech: We Go to the Moon

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On July 25, 1961, President Kennedy addressed the American people on radio and television about the Berlin Crisis. He stated that:

A theme of many of Kennedy’s speeches was “peace through strength.” But he also promised that we would never surrender to gain that peace. We would only win the battle through a strong military and a strong weapons arsenal. In this speech he reminded us: “To sum it all up: we seek peace–but we shall not surrender. That is the central meaning of this crisis, and the meaning of your government’s policy. With your help, and the help of other free men, this crisis can be surmounted. Freedom can prevail–and peace can endure” (Source).

Watch Kennedy’s Berlin Crisis speech in it’s entirety here.

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