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John F. Kennedy on Government Reform

 


Courage motivated by national interest over political gain

I am persuaded after long study of the record that the national interest, rather than private or political gain, furnished the basic motivation for the actions of those whose deeds are described [in this book]. This does not mean that many of them did not seek to wring advantage out of the difficult course they had adopted. For as politicians they were clearly justified in doing so.

Of course, the acts of courage described in this book would be more inspiring and would shine more with the traditional luster of hero-worship if we assumed that each man forgot wholly about himself in his dedication to higher principles. But it may be that President John Adams, surely as disinterested as well as wise a public servant as we ever had, came much nearer to the truth when he wrote in his "Defense of the Constitutions of the US": "It is not true, in fact, that any people ever existed who love the public better than themselves."

Source: Profiles In Courage, by Sen. John F. Kennedy, p.238 , Mar 18, 2003

Ask not what your country can do for you

Inaugural address, Jan. 20 1961: "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."

Kennedy's relative youth (and inexperience) meant that he was seen as someone who would be optimistic and able to make changes. When Kennedy spoke of patriotism, freedom and public service, which he frequently did, people listened.

Kennedy begins his inaugural with a dramatic and powerful opening which makes it very clear that he is a progressive: "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."

Source: The 100 Greatest Speeches, by Kourdi & Maier, p.146-147 , Jan 20, 1961

Government programs help people do what they can't do alone

Americans who on an average Social Security check of $78 a month, they're not able to sustain themselves individually, but they can through the social security system. I don't believe in big government, but I believe in effective governmental action. There is a national responsibility. A cotton farmer in Georgia or a dairy farmer in Wisconsin cannot protect himself against the forces of supply and demand; but working together in effective governmental programs he can. 17 million
Source: The First Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate , Sep 26, 1960

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Other past presidents on Government Reform: John F. Kennedy on other issues:
Former Presidents:
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole
V.P.Walter Mondale

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Page last updated: Feb 20, 2014