Quotes of the Day: John F. Kennedy on the environment

John F. Kennedy in New York
Public Domain John F. Kennedy in New York

There are probably a few TreeHugger readers old enough to remember where they were fifty years ago today, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. It is almost the standard boomer question. What few remember is whether he had any comments or opinions on the environmental issues of the day. He was influenced by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and appointed a Science Advisory Committee to review the issue, but Kennedy is remembered most often for his powerful use of words, often crafted by speechwriter Ted Sorensen.

A small planet

Let us not be blind to our differences--but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most 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.

On technology and agriculture

Automation does not need to be our enemy. I think machines can make life easier for men, if men do not let the machines dominate them.

On Nature

Our national conservation effort must include the complete spectrum of resources: air, water, and land; fuels, energy, and minerals; soils, forests, and forage; fish and wildlife. Together they make up the world of nature which surrounds us-- of the American heritage.

While there are many who would say that the race to the moon was hardly green, many others have noted that the photographs brought back from Apollo 8 created the environmental movement. "They fuelled an awareness of the vulnerability of the Earth which still resonates with us today and shapes our behaviour." It was Kennedy who started it all with his pledge:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Kennedy quotes from On the Issues

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