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35 quotes on politics, war, and life by John F Kennedy on his 100th birthday

Tarun Mittal
28th May 2017
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John Fitzgerald Kennedy is one of the most well-known politicians in modern history. As the 35th President of the United States of America, Kennedy was instrumental in bringing the country out of the stagnation it found itself in following the Second World War. His economic reforms, strong support of civil rights, and commitment to space exploration programmes saw him gain rapid popularity in the country. And as the leader of one of the two post-WWII superpowers, JFK played a pivotal role in global geo-politics as the United States clashed with the Soviet Union in the Cold War. From the failed attempt to overthrow Castro's regime in Cuba to supporting the Western Bloc in Berlin to the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis without armed conflict, JFK was at the heart of several key historical events during his tenure as the US President.

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Born on May 29, 1917 into one of America's wealthiest families, Kennedy made history on January 20, 1961 as the youngest person to ever be sworn in as President of the US. His time in the nation's highest office was, however, cut-short. On November 22, 1963, Kennedy's motorcade was travelling through Dallas, Texas, when Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed him – an unfortunate act that made JFK the youngest President to die. Despite his short time in the White House, the decorated war veteran remains among America's most liked Presidents for his ceaseless efforts to improve the country and the world. Today, to mark Kennedy's 100th birthday, we look at some of his most notable quotes on politics, war, peace, and life:

  1. “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”
  2. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
  3. “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
  4. “We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.”
  5. “The greater our knowledge increases the more our ignorance unfolds.”
  6. “A child miseducated (sic) is a child lost.”
  7. “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”
  8. “Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.”
  9. “The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.”
  10. “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”
  11. “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”
  12. “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.”
  13. “When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.”
  14. “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”
  15. “Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.”
  16. “Ask not what your country can do for you… ask what you can do for your country.”
  17. “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honours, the men it remembers.”
  18. “Our problems are man-made; therefore, they may be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”
  19. “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
  20. “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
  21. “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
  22. “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”
  23. “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”
  24. “There is always inequality in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded and some men never leave the country. Life is unfair.”
  25. “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”
  26. “The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy.”
  27. “The supreme reality of our time is the vulnerability of this planet.”
  28. “In giving rights to others which belong to them, we give rights to ourselves and to our country.”
  29. “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”
  30. “World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbour – it requires only that they live together with mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement.”
  31. “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”
  32. “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
  33. “It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war.”
  34. “The unity of freedom has never relied on uniformity of opinion.”
  35. “The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is unchangeable or certain.”
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