My only fault is that I don't realize how great I really am.
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolutewhere no Catholic prelate would tell the President how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to votewhere no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preferenceand where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewishwhere no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical sourcewhere no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officialsand where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all. For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jewor a Quakeror a Unitarianor a Baptist. It was Virginias harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jeffersons statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victimbut tomorrow it may be youuntil the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril. Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday endwhere all men and all churches are treated as equalwhere every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choicewhere there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kindand where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood. That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the
We in this country, in this generation, areby destiny rather than choicethe watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of peace on earth, good will toward men. That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
To those peoples in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is requirednot 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.
Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the worldor to make it the last.
Now the trumpet summons us againnot as a call to bear arms, though arms we neednot as a call to battle, though embattled we arebut a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulationa struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.
We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will talk sense to the American people. But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.
I ask that you offer to the political arena, and to the critical problems of our society which are decided therein, the benefit of the talents which society has helped to develop in you. I ask you to decide, as Goethe put it, whether you will be an anvilor a hammer. The question is whether you are to be a hammerwhether you are to give to the world in which you were reared and educated the broadest possible benefits of that education.
Without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget those acts of courage with which men have lived. The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy. A man does what he mustin spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressuresand that is the basis of all human morality. In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his consciencethe loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow meneach man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredientthey can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.
This increase in the life span and in the number of our senior citizens presents this Nation with increased opportunities: the opportunity to draw upon their skill and sagacityand the opportunity to provide the respect and recognition they have earned. It is not enough for a great nation merely to have added new years to lifeour objective must also be to add new life to those years.
I dont think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Viet-Nam, against the Communists.
In its knowledges light, we must think and act not only for the moment but for our time. I am reminded of the great French Marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. The Marshal replied, In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon.
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said Because it is there. Well, space is there, and were going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there.
First, I believe that 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 the earth. I believe we should go to the moon. But there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful.