John F. Kennedy Quotes

I have just received the following telegram from my generous Daddy. It says, “Dear Jack: Don’t buy a single vote more than necessary. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide.”

15th March, 1958. Gridiron Dinner, Washington D.C.

When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.

12th April, 1959. Speech at United Negro College Fund in Indianapolis.

This is not a time to keep the facts from the people—to keep them complacent. To sound the alarm is not to panic but to seek action from an aroused public. For, as the poet Dante once said: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

16th September, 1969. Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Dante quote appears to be incorrect attributed and perhaps is Kennedy’s own invention.

We stand today on the edge of a new frontier— the frontier of the Nineteen Sixties—the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils— the frontier of unfulfilled hopes and unfilled threats. . . .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.

15th July, 1960. Speech accepting Democratic presidential nomination.

I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President, who happens also to be a Catholic.

12th September, 1960. Speech to Greater Houston Ministerial Association.

We do not campaign stressing what our country is going to do for us as a people.We stress what we can do for the country.

20th September, 1960. Sheraton Park Hotel, Washington D.C.

Do you realise the responsibility I carry? I’m the only person standing between Nixon and the White House.

13th October, 1960. Quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger’s A Thousand Days.

For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us, recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state, our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions: First, were we truly men of courage … Second, were we truly men of judgment … Third, were we truly men of integrity… Finally, were we truly men of dedication?

9th January, 1961. Speech to the Massachusetts State Legislature.

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 Americas, 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 and burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any for to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

20th January, 1961. Inaugural Address.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

20th January, 1961. Inaugural Address.

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.

20th January, 1961. Inaugural Address.

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

20th January, 1961. Inaugural Address.

If a beach-head of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavour, 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 one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

20th January, 1961. Inaugural Address.

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.

20th January, 1961. Inaugural Address.

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.

20th January, 1961. Inaugural Address.

The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

20th January, 1961. Inaugural Address.

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.

20th January, 1961. Inaugural Address.

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.

20th January, 1961. Inaugural Address.

There’s an old saying that victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.

21st April, 1961. On the Bay of Pigs.

I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

25th May, 1961. Address to the joint session of Congress.

I do not think it altogether inappropriate to introduce myself to this audience. I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it.

2nd June, 1961. Shape Headquarters in Paris.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.

25th September, 1961. Speech at UN General Assembly.

Somebody once said that Washington was a city of Northern charm and Southern efficiency.

14th November, 1961. Remarks to advisory committee and the trustees of the National Cultural Center.

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

13th March, 1962. Speech at the White House.

There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some are stationed in San Francisco. It’s very hard in military or in personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.

21st March, 1962. Press conference.

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.

April 1962. Address at a White House dinner reception honoring Noble Prize winners.

My father always told me that all businessmen were sons of bitches, but I never believed it till now.

April 1962. Comment on U.S. Steel proposed price increases.

A rising tide lifts all the boats.

17th August, 1962. Pueblo, Colorado.

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 organise and measure the best of our energies and skills.

12th September, 1962. Rice University, Houston, Texas.

We are prepared to discuss a détente affecting NATO and theWarsaw pact.

October, 1962. Message to Nikita Khrushchev.

We don’t see the end of the tunnel, but I must say I don’t think it is darker than it was a year ago, and in some ways lighter.

12th December, 1962. Press conference.

If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.

10th June, 1963. Address at American University, Washington, D.C.

We can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

10th June, 1963. Address at American University, Washington, D.C.

Every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.

11th June, 1963. Broadcast on Civil Rights.

No one has been barred on account of his race from fighting or dying for America – there are no “white” or “colored” signs on the foxholes or the graveyards of battle.

19th June, 1963. Message to Congress on proposed civil rights bill.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

26th June, 1963. Address at City Hall, West Berlin.

Yesterday, a shaft of light cut into the darkness. … For the first time, an agreement has been reached on bringing the forces of nuclear destruction under international control.

26th July, 1963. Televised address in Washington.

When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstone of our judgement.

26th October, 1963. Address at Amherst College.

In free society art is not a weapon…Artists are not engineers of the soul.

26th October, 1963. Address at Amherst College.

The definition of happiness of the Greeks . . . is full use of your powers along lines of excellence. I find, therefore, the Presidency provides some happiness.

31st October, 1963. News conference.

Washington is a city of southern efficiency and northern charm.

Remark. Quoted in A Thousand Days, 1965, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

It was involuntary. They sank my boat.

Remark when asked how he became a hero. Quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., A Thousand Days (1965). Ch. 4.

I can’t see that it’s wrong to give him a little legal experience before he goes out to practice law.

On appointing Robert Kennedy as attorney general. Quoted in Victor Lasky’s J.F.K. The Man and the Myth.

All my life I’ve known better than to depend on the experts. How could I have been so stupid, to let them go ahead?

On the Bay of Pigs. Quoted in Theodore C. Sorensen’s Kennedy.