I have been reading a provocative book (about which I have drawn few conclusions, except that it should not be ignored) by James W. Douglass, entitled JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters (Orbis Books, 2008).
Douglass includes as an appendix to the book a significant speech President Kennedy delivered at American University on June 10, 1963. The speech, though delivered in the middle of the Cold War and reflecting global conditions which are different from ours, is remarkably relevant to our times. What follows are a few excerpts that have been echoing in my mind and heart:
What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace for our time but peace for all time . . .
I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of universal peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal.
Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace–based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions–on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace–no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process–a way of solving problems. . .
Peace need not be impracticable and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.