true to the honorable purposes that bind and rule us as a people in all
this time of trial through which we pass.
We live in a land of plenty, but rarely has this earth known such peril
In our nation work and wealth abound. Our population grows. Commerce
crowds our rivers and rails, our skies, harbors, and highways. Our soil
is fertile, our agriculture productive. The air rings with the song of
our industry - rolling mills and blast furnaces, dynamos, dams, and
assembly lines - the chorus of America the bountiful.
This is our home - yet this is not the whole of our world. For our
world is where our full destiny lies - with men, of all people, and all
nations, who are or would be free. And for them - and so for us - this
is no time of ease or of rest.
In too much of the earth there is want, discord, danger. New forces and
new nations stir and strive across the earth, with power to bring, by
their fate, great good or great evil to the free world's future. From
the deserts of North Africa to the islands of the South Pacific one
third of all mankind has entered upon an historic struggle for a new
freedom; freedom from grinding poverty. Across all continents, nearly a
billion people seek, sometimes almost in desperation, for the skills
and knowledge and assistance by which they may satisfy from their own
resources, the material wants common to all mankind.
No nation, however old or great, escapes this tempest of change and
turmoil. Some, impoverished by the recent World War, seek to restore
their means of livelihood. In the heart of Europe, Germany still stands
tragically divided. So is the whole continent divided. And so, too, is
all the world.
The divisive force is International Communism and the power that it
The designs of that power, dark in purpose, are clear in practice. It
strives to seal forever the fate of those it has enslaved. It strives
to break the ties that unite the free. And it strives to capture - to
exploit for its own greater power - all forces of change in the world,
especially the needs of the hungry and the hopes of the oppressed.
Yet the world of International Communism has itself been shaken by a
fierce and mighty force: the readiness of men who love freedom to
pledge their lives to that love. Through the night of their bondage,
the unconquerable will of heroes has struck with the swift, sharp
thrust of lightning. Budapest is no longer merely the name of a city;
henceforth it is a new and shining symbol of man's yearning to be free.
Thus across all the globe there harshly blow the winds of change. And,
we - though fortunate be our lot - know that we can never turn our
backs to them.
We look upon this shaken earth, and we declare our firm and fixed
purpose - the building of a peace with justice in a world where moral
The building of such a peace is a bold and solemn purpose. To proclaim
it is easy. To serve it will be hard. And to attain it, we must be
aware of its full meaning - and ready to pay its full price.
We know clearly what we seek, and why.
We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom. And now,
as in no other age, we seek it because we have been warned, by the
power of modern weapons, that peace may be the only climate possible
for human life itself.
Yet this peace we seek cannot be born of fear alone: it must be rooted
in the lives of nations. There must be justice, sensed and shared by
all peoples, for, without justice the world can know only a tense and
unstable truce. There must be law, steadily invoked and respected by
all nations, for without law, the world promises only such meager
justice as the pity of the strong upon the weak. But the law of which
we speak, comprehending the values of freedom, affirms the equality of
all nations, great and small.
Splendid as can be the blessings of such a peace, high will be its
cost: in toil patiently sustained, in help honorably given, in
sacrifice calmly borne.
We are called to meet the price of this peace.
To counter the threat of those who seek to rule by force, we must pay
the costs of our own needed military strength, and help to build the
security of others.
We must use our skills and knowledge and, at times, our substance, to
help others rise from misery, however far the scene of suffering may be
from our shores. For wherever in the world a people knows desperate
want, there must appear at least the spark of hope, the hope of
progress - or there will surely rise at last the flames of conflict.
We recognize and accept our own deep involvement in the destiny of men
everywhere. We are accordingly pledged to honor, and to strive to
fortify, the authority of the United Nations. For in that body rests
the best hope of our age for the assertion of that law by which all
nations may live in dignity.
And, beyond this general resolve, we are called to act a responsible
role in the world's great concerns or conflicts - whether they touch
upon the affairs of a vast region, the fate of an island in the
Pacific, or the use of a canal in the Middle East. Only in respecting
the hopes and cultures of others will we practice the equality of all
nations. Only as we show willingness and wisdom in giving counsel - in
receiving counsel - and in sharing burdens, will we wisely perform the
work of peace.
For one truth must rule all we think and all we do. No people can live
to itself alone. The unity of all who dwell in freedom is their only
sure defense. The economic need of all nations - in mutual dependence -
makes isolation an impossibility; not even America's prosperity could
long survive if other nations did not also prosper. No nation can
longer be a fortress, lone and strong and safe. And any people, seeking
such shelter for themselves, can now build only their own prison.
Our pledge to these principles is constant, because we believe in their
We do not fear this world of change. America is no stranger to much of
its spirit. Everywhere we see the seeds of the same growth that America
itself has known. The American experiment has, for generations, fired
the passion and the courage of millions elsewhere seeking freedom,
equality, and opportunity. And the American story of material progress
has helped excite the longing of all needy peoples for some
satisfaction of their human wants. These hopes that we have helped to
inspire, we can help to fulfill.
In this confidence, we speak plainly to all peoples.
We cherish our friendship with all nations that are or would be free.
We respect, no less, their independence. And when, in time of want or
peril, they ask our help, they may honorably receive it; for we no more
seek to buy their sovereignty than we would sell our own. Sovereignty
is never bartered among freemen.
We honor the aspirations of those nations which, now captive, long for
freedom. We seek neither their military alliance nor any artificial
imitation of our society. And they can know the warmth of the welcome
that awaits them when, as must be, they join again the ranks of freedom.
We honor, no less in this divided world than in a less tormented time,
the people of Russia. We do not dread, rather do we welcome, their
progress in education and industry. We wish them success in their
demands for more intellectual freedom, greater security before their
own laws, fuller enjoyment of the rewards of their own toil. For as
such things come to pass, the more certain will be the coming of that
day when our peoples may freely meet in friendship.
So we voice our hope and our belief that we can help to heal this
divided world. Thus may the nations cease to live in trembling before
the menace of force. Thus may the weight of fear and the weight of arms
be taken from the burdened shoulders of mankind.
This, nothing less, is the labor to which we are called and our
And so the prayer of our people carries far beyond our own frontiers,
to the wide world of our duty and our destiny.
May the light of freedom, coming to all darkened lands, flame brightly
- until at last the darkness is no more.
May the turbulence of our age yield to a true time of peace, when men
and nations shall share a life that honors the dignity of each, the
brotherhood of all.
John F. Kennedy
Friday, January 20, 1961
Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President
Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy,
fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but a
celebration of freedom - symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning -
signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and
Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a
century and three quarters ago.
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the
power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human
life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears
fought are still at issue around the globe - the belief that the rights
of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first
revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend
and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of
Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a
hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage - and unwilling to
witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this
Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today
at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall
pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend,
oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of
This much we pledge - and more.
To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we
pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we
cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little
we can do - for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split
To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge
our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away
merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always
expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to
find them strongly supporting their own freedom - and to remember that,
in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the
tiger ended up inside.
To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling
to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help
them help themselves, for whatever period is required - not because the
Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but
because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are
poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge
- to convert our good words into good deeds - in a new alliance for
progress - to assist free men and free governments in casting off the
chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become
the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall
join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the
Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends
to remain the master of its own house.
To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our
last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced
the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support - to prevent
it from becoming merely a forum for invective - to strengthen its
shield of the new and the weak - and to enlarge the area in which its
writ may run.
Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we
offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest
for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science
engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.
We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are
sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will
never be employed.
But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort
from our present course - both sides overburdened by the cost of modern
weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom,
yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays
the hand of mankind's final war.
So let us begin anew - remembering on both sides that civility is not a
sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us
never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring
those problems which divide us.
Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise
proposals for the inspection and control of arms - and bring the
absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of
Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its
terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts,
eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and
Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of
Isaiah - to "undo the heavy burdens ... and to let the oppressed go
And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of
suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new
balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and
the weak secure and the peace preserved.
All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be
finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this
Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But
let us begin.
In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the
final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded,
each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its
national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call
to service surround the globe.
Now the trumpet summons us again - not as a call to bear arms, though
arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are - but a
call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year
out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation" - a struggle against
the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North
and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all
mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been
granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I
do not shrink from this responsibility - I welcome it. I do not believe
that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other
generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this
endeavor will light our country and all who serve it - and the glow
from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you -
ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you,
but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world,
ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we
ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history
the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love,
asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's
work must truly be our own.
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Wednesday, January 20, 1965
My fellow countrymen, on this occasion, the oath I have taken before
you and before God is not mine alone, but ours together. We are one
nation and one people. Our fate as a nation and our future as a people
rest not upon one citizen, but upon all citizens.
This is the majesty and the meaning of this moment.
For every generation, there is a destiny. For some, history decides.
For this generation, the choice must be our own.
Even now, a rocket moves toward Mars. It reminds us that the world will
not be the same for our children, or even for ourselves in a short span
of years. The next man to stand here will look out on a scene different
from our own, because ours is a time of change - rapid and fantastic
change bearing the secrets of nature, multiplying the nations, placing
in uncertain hands new weapons for mastery and destruction, shaking old
values, and uprooting old ways.
Our destiny in the midst of change will rest on the unchanged character
of our people, and on their faith.
In a land of great wealth, families must not live in hopeless poverty.
In a land rich in harvest, children just must not go hungry. In a land
of healing miracles, neighbors must not suffer and die unattended. In a
great land of learning and scholars, young people must be taught to
read and write.
For the more than 30 years that I have served this Nation, I have
believed that this injustice to our people, this waste of our
resources, was our real enemy. For 30 years or more, with the resources
I have had, I have vigilantly fought against it. I have learned, and I
know, that it will not surrender easily.
But change has given us new weapons. Before this generation of
Americans is finished, this enemy will not only retreat - it will be
Justice requires us to remember that when any citizen denies his
fellow, saying, "His color is not mine," or "His beliefs are strange
and different," in that moment he betrays America, though his forebears
created this Nation.
This has become more difficult in a world where change and growth seem
to tower beyond the control and even the judgment of men. We must work
to provide the knowledge and the surroundings which can enlarge the
possibilities of every citizen.
The American covenant called on us to help show the way for the
liberation of man. And that is today our goal. Thus, if as a nation
there is much outside our control, as a people no stranger is outside
Change has brought new meaning to that old mission. We can never again
stand aside, prideful in isolation. Terrific dangers and troubles that
we once called "foreign" now constantly live among us. If American
lives must end, and American treasure be spilled, in countries we
barely know, that is the price that change has demanded of conviction
and of our enduring covenant.
Think of our world as it looks from the rocket that is heading toward
Mars. It is like a child's globe, hanging in space, the continents
stuck to its side like colored maps. We are all fellow passengers on a
dot of earth. And each of us, in the span of time, has really only a
moment among our companions.
How incredible it is that in this fragile existence, we should hate and
destroy one another. There are possibilities enough for all who will
abandon mastery over others to pursue mastery over nature. There is
world enough for all to seek their happiness in their own way.
Our Nation's course is abundantly clear. We aspire to nothing that
belongs to others. We seek no dominion over our fellow man, but man's
dominion over tyranny and misery.
But more is required. Men want to be a part of a common enterprise - a
cause greater than themselves. Each of us must find a way to advance
the purpose of the Nation, thus finding new purpose for ourselves.
Without this, we shall become a nation of strangers.
No longer need capitalist and worker, farmer and clerk, city and
countryside, struggle to divide our bounty. By working shoulder to
shoulder, together we can increase the bounty of all. We have
discovered that every child who learns, every man who finds work, every
sick body that is made whole - like a candle added to an altar -
brightens the hope of all the faithful.
So let us reject any among us who seek to reopen old wounds and to
rekindle old hatreds. They stand in the way of a seeking nation.
Let us now join reason to faith and action to experience, to transform
our unity of interest into a unity of purpose. For the hour and the day
and the time are here to achieve progress without strife, to achieve
change without hatred - not without difference of opinion, but without
the deep and abiding divisions which scar the union for generations.
I do not believe that the Great Society is the ordered, changeless, and
sterile battalion of the ants. It is the excitement of becoming -
always becoming, trying, probing, falling, resting, and trying again -
but always trying and always gaining.
In each generation, with toil and tears, we have had to earn our
If we fail now, we shall have forgotten in abundance what we learned in
hardship: that democracy rests on faith, that freedom asks more than it
gives, and that the judgment of God is harshest on those who are most
If we succeed, it will not be because of what we have, but it will be
because of what we are; not because of what we own, but, rather because
of what we believe.
For we are a nation of believers. Underneath the clamor of building and
the rush of our day's pursuits, we are believers in justice and liberty
and union, and in our own Union. We believe that every man must someday
be free. And we believe in ourselves.
Our enemies have always made the same mistake. In my lifetime - in
depression and in war - they have awaited our defeat. Each time, from
the secret places of the American heart, came forth the faith they
could not see or that they could not even imagine. It brought us
victory. And it will again.
For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and
the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest
sleeping in the unplowed ground. Is our world gone? We say "Farewell."
Is a new world coming? We welcome it - and we will bend it to the hopes
To these trusted public servants and to my family and those close
friends of mine who have followed me down a long, winding road, and to
all the people of this Union and the world, I will repeat today what I
said on that sorrowful day in November 1963: "I will lead and I will do
the best I can."
But you must look within your own hearts to the old promises and to the
old dream. They will lead you best of all.
For myself, I ask only, in the words of an ancient leader: "Give me now
wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people:
for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?"
Richard Milhous Nixon
First Inaugural Address
Monday, January 20, 1969
Senator Dirksen, Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President, President
Johnson, Vice President Humphrey, my fellow Americans - and my fellow
citizens of the world community:
I ask you to share with me today the majesty of this moment. In the
orderly transfer of power, we celebrate the unity that keeps us free.
Each moment in history is a fleeting time, precious and unique. But
some stand out as moments of beginning, in which courses are set that
shape decades or centuries.
This can be such a moment.
Forces now are converging that make possible, for the first time, the
hope that many of man's deepest aspirations can at last be realized.
The spiraling pace of change allows us to contemplate, within our own
lifetime, advances that once would have taken centuries.
In throwing wide the horizons of space, we have discovered new horizons
For the first time, because the people of the world want peace, and the
leaders of the world are afraid of war, the times are on the side of
Eight years from now America will celebrate its 200th anniversary as a
nation. Within the lifetime of most people now living, mankind will
celebrate that great new year which comes only once in a thousand years
- the beginning of the third millennium.
What kind of nation we will be, what kind of world we will live in,
whether we shape the future in the image of our hopes, is ours to
determine by our actions and our choices.
The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker. This
honor now beckons America - the chance to help lead the world at last