What could be more sacrilege than questioning whether the patron saint of modern day liberalism is in fact a conservative? I asked this question after doing a routine search for some of JFK’s famous quotes. The more I read, the more I felt he had a much more conservative take on the world than his heirs in the current Democratic party. Yes, these quotes are taken out of context and they are from a different era, but I believe they stand the test of time in their wisdom. Here are the top six JFK quotes that may change your thinking.
“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” C’mon, this is absolutely conservative in its thinking. He’s saying not only does the country not owe you anything, you really should consider serving the country in some way. You are not entitled to a free education, healthcare and a drivers licenses. These are all privileges. Ones we should take advantage of and expect the best of, yet many people today feel they are owed these things. Kennedy feels one should consider giving back what has been so generously given and to be grateful for the many blessing this country provides. Are there problems? Absolutely. Yet, we in this country get to protest, voice our complaints, and demand change. In some countries, voicing an opinion contrary to the state line, gets you jailed, tortured or killed.
“Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us.” This coming from a man fighting communism in general and the Soviet Union in particular. The parallels today with our fight against modern day religious terrorism is pretty obvious. Our petty grievances with one another will only hold us back. Healthcare, education, poverty, immigration etc. Not agreeing on these subjects and squabbling over them forever is the American way of doing politics. It holds us back, but doesn’t kill us. Yet if we cannot agree that we have a common enemy in militant and extremist forces outside of our country, it can literally kill us as we saw on September 11, 2001.
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.” I can hear the screams of ‘warmonger!’, if these immortal words were uttered by George Bush or any of the leading candidates for president, yet Kennedy was a well educated historian who knew what he spoke of. Kennedy felt the United States did have a special role in the world and historically speaking we are obligated to live up to it.
“Israel was not created in order to disappear – Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.” The middle east has always been a hot bed of controversy. Israel at the center both literally and physically, but by defending Israel’s right to not only exist, but to flourish, Kennedy is anointing Israel with the same sort of high purpose he has bestowed on his own countryman. Contrast this to former President Jimmy Carter, who feels Israel is a horrific, human rights abuser and apartheid state. Carter utterly ignores the many atrocities of Israeli enemies, but the durability of Israel stands and as JFK said Israel will not be broken by adversity, let alone the rants of a bitter, failed president with an axe to grind.
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Okay, this is a lot more eloquent than Bush’s famous ‘you’re either with us or you’re against us’ line, but it’s hard to deny that the sentiments are the same. Even in Kennedy’s era there were nations who wished us ill. Much has been made during the current administration about the our lack of good will from other nations. Another example of where a good grasp on history would come in handy. For much of United States existence there have been those who wish us harm. In the 20th century alone we had Germany, Italy, Japan, North Korea, Libya, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. I won’t even go into the Eastern bloc, but people need to know, the strongest most powerful will always have enemies. It’s human nature to resent the leader, especially if the leader doesn’t do it your way and puts its own interests first.
“I’m an idealist with no illusions.” One of the many problems the left and Democrats have today is their reliance on a 1960’s way of thinking. As if policy should be made according to John Lennon’s song, Imagine. The song while perfect in it’s melody, words and spirit, is frankly delusional. And as we know now, Lennon was probably quite mind altered, so to speak, when he wrote the anthem. But JFK was different. He grew up as a Greatest Generation patriot. And while we all know about his flaws and the serial womanizing, it’s hard to ignore his timeless stance on life. The above quote shows a certain maturity of his own generation along with the hope and optimism of the boomers to come.
I realize for every one of these great quotes there is an equal and opposing quote to prove how liberal Kennedy was. I do not disagree, yet I think it only strengthens the point how far left liberals and the Democratic party has gone in this country when one of their shining icons sounds more right than left. I often describe myself as a John F.Kennedy Democrat, not a Ted Kennedy Democrat. The contrast between the two brothers sums up a lot about the Democratic party today.
John F. Kennedy will always be a great American, but I think its time to start thinking of him as a great conservative American.