Sunday, June 06, 2010

But by having talked so much about America, he also blunted the criticism that he was urging another country to realize ideals that his own people had not fully met. The rest of his speech instead was about making common cause with everyone working for social and political justice. It was about how to create change:

"Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and then the total -- all of these acts -- will be written in the history of this generation."

After noting the examples of the Peace Corps and the Resistance to the Nazis in Europe, he said this, the most-quoted part of the speech:

"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage such as these that the belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

But there was more. In a few words he defined the true Kennedy legacy, the necessary fusion of ideals and realism to create a better future:

"The second danger is that of expediency: of those who say that hopes and beliefs must bend before immediate necessities. Of course, if we must act effectively, we must deal with the world as it is. We must get things done. But if there was one thing that President Kennedy stood for that touched the most profound feeling of young people around the world, it was the belief that idealism, high aspirations, and deep convictions are not incompatible with the most practical and efficient of programs -- that there is no basic inconsistency between ideals and realistic possibilities, no separation between the deepest desires of heart and of mind and the rational application of human effort to human problems.

It is not realistic or hardheaded to solve problems and take action unguided by ultimate moral aims and values, although we all know some who claim that it is so. In my judgment, it is thoughtless folly. For it ignores the realities of human faith and of passion and of belief -- forces ultimately more powerful than all of the calculations of our economists or of our generals. Of course to adhere to standards, to idealism, to vision in the face of immediate dangers takes great courage and takes self-confidence. But we also know that only those who dare to fail greatly, can ever achieve greatly.

It is this new idealism which is also, I believe, the common heritage of a generation which has learned that while efficiency can lead to the camps at Auschwitz, or the streets of Budapest, only the ideals of humanity and love can climb the hills of the Acropolis. "

Rising to the challenge, in July 1966 the National Union of South African Students came out explicitly against apartheid.

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