July 17, 2012
"JOHNNY, I HARDLY KNEW YE" IV
Kenneth O'Donnell discusses JFK's speech in June 1963 at the commencement exercises of American University in Washington, D.C.
Kenny describes it as "the most important foreign policy speech of his career & probably one of the best speaking performances of his lifetime."
He says that Jackie told him that it was "one of the President's 3 best speeches, along with the inaugural address &....West Berlin."
In the commencement address, JFK called for a "lasting peace between the United States & the Soviet Union."
Kenny includes this quote from the speech:
'All we have built....would be destroyed in the 1st 24 hours (of a nuclear war). We are....caught up in a vicious & dangerous cycle in which suspicion....& new weapons beget counterweapons.
If we cannot now end our differences, we can at least make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.'
Kenny goes on to point out that Premier Khrushchev, to whom the speech was directed, told Averell Harriman* later "that it was the best speech delivered by any American President since FDR."
*W. Averell Harriman (1891-1986) was the son of railroad magnate Edward Henry Harriman. He graduated from Yale & in WWII served as US Ambassador to the USSR. He later served as Ambassador to the UK & Secretary of Commerce & Governor of New York.
During the JFK Administration he was Ambassador at Large, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs & Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
JFK Speaking at American University
June 10, 1963
Photo by Cecil Stoughton
JFK Library Image