Of all the questions around Kennedy, perhaps one of the most interesting is this – what kind of President would he have been, had he lived?
Kennedy was part of the powerful elite in America. His wealthy Catholic family had, since the days of Joseph Kennedy, been closely associated with the mob. JFK was only narrowly elected to office in 1960 and that took the help of both the Mafia (particularly Sam Giancana) and Lyndon Baines Johnson’s ‘disqualified’ Texas votes. Clearly he seemed to be a man ready to do the bidding of the powerful and corrupt in America.
But that all changed when he took office.
- He immediately backed away from a full scale invasion of Cuba, resulting in the Bay of Pigs fiasco, upsetting the Mafia, the CIA and the military.
- He positioned himself as a President for Peace and proposed reducing US involvement in Vietnam, upsetting the arms industry.
- The Kennedy brothers took direct control of the Cuban Missile Crisis, upsetting his Military Chiefs.
- He and his brother Robert clamped down on organised crime & the unions, upsetting the Mafia.
- He planned to introduce taxes on foreign flag shipping, upsetting Onassis and big shipping magnates.
- He planned to retake control of US currency, upsetting international bankers and the federal reserve.
- He refused to agree to an Israeli nuclear program.
Kennedy rapidly made many powerful enemies.
One of his most famous speeches is referred to as the ‘Secret Societies Speech’ which is an extract from the ‘The President and the Press’, a very insightful speech given to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27, 1961.
This is the full 19 minute audio with text.
He might just as easily be speaking of our world and its challenges, today:
The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.
We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.
Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions.
Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it.
And there is a very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.
Unfortunately, subsequent American presidents and world leaders chose to ignore his words. I wonder how different America, with its public surveillance programs, with its support for Big Corporations, and with its overseas wars and interventionist policy, might have been had they been heeded?
Maybe the ‘fork in the road’ that occurred near the end of the 20th Century, that led the world into unending wars for profits, could have been avoided.
These are the last words from the speech that JFK was to deliver in Dallas, Texas on 22nd November 1963;
‘…Almost everywhere we look, the story is the same. In Latin America, in Africa, in Asia, in the councils of the world and in the jungles of far-off nations, there is now renewed confidence in our country and our convictions.
For this country is moving and it must not stop. It cannot stop. For this is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a party is not to our party alone, but to the Nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.
So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause–united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future–and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.
Who knows what might have happened had he lived long enough to be able to ‘Walk the Talk’?
I’m inclined to think that his loss was also our loss.