I was almost 20 years old when John F. Kennedy made this pledge:
“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans … 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 success of liberty.”
Inspiring rhetoric, but ultimately empty promises. Half a century later there are many “friends” of those United States who have missed the liberty boat. Racism, parochialism and ignorance are still rampant in the U.S.A. despite the election of a mixed race president. Protectionism, oil, the pork barrel and unenlightened self-interest still dominate U.S. domestic and foreign policy.
JFK filled my heart, and the hearts of many millions of others, with hope for a better world. Sadly, that feeling had waned even before an assassin’s bullet gave us Lyndon Johnson and killed hope completely. But, hope springs eternal and it flickered again when Robert Kennedy, a better man than his brother, looked likely to take the helm. Once again an assassin left us mourning for what might have been.
Then we had cause to dream once more of a better world. After five decades and eight more or less uninspiring occupants of the White House, the ponderous American presidential election process delivered a man who–we thought–had the intellectual power, the integrity and the ability to inspire which may just have enabled him to persuade his people to do great things.
“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics”
Yes, we can
Well, we could have.