I love this speech...
President John F. Kennedy was a masterful political leader whose efforts to keep this country out of war were nothing less than masterful. In his day, there were those whose first resort was armed conflict. It was a prospect made all the more horrible because armed conflict meant nuclear war. It was a prospect that projected no winners and in which the losers would suffer an unknown tragic fate. Against that backdrop, Kennedy's commitment to peace was remarkable.
Of course it is fashionable to tear down the leaders many of us consider to be heroes. It's considered 'intelligent' and 'scholarly' to pick at their flaws and reveal their warts. It's fair on a number of levels. Kennedy was certainly no saint. His weaknesses are well documented. But we cannot let this 'fashionable' exercise of tearing down heroes to numb us to the extraordinary contributions ordinary men and women made to this nation.
John F. Kennedy gave voice and image to the longings of a generation. He made this country, particularly young people to believe that they could play a role in America achieving it's promise. He gave the call to public service a more romantic and noble voice. Some of us consider him remarkable. He was, at least, a formidable figure.
I love this speech because his instincts not to respond militarily to the construction of the Berlin Wall gave brilliant rhetorical argument to the cause of democracy: 'We've never had to build a wall...' He showed that democracy vs. any totalitarian regime can argued on their own merits, without bullets or bombs.
Of course the wall remained for almost another 40 years, but the words of Kennedy (and eventually Ronald Reagan), would remain the guiding star for Berliners and freedom loving people all over the world. .