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Remembering JFK
There was a time when our nation was united in the defense of liberty and promise of America.


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Ted Cruz

There is good reason why so many Americans remember our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, so fondly.

Throughout his life, as a young man in college, war hero, U.S. representative, senator, Pulitzer Prize–winning author, and president, Kennedy fully embraced the American spirit and called on us to do the same.

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It’s fitting that his first words to the nation, in his inaugural address as president, were “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Today, on the 50th anniversary of his untimely death, let’s reflect on all he did.

In 1940, the year young Kennedy graduated from college, the world was in the throes of World War II. He could have done anything, but he wanted nothing more than to fight for his country, ultimately earning the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for acts of heroism and, owing to related injuries, the Purple Heart.

As a U.S. senator he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Profiles in Courage, that celebrated the service of eight U.S. senators — one of them, a personal hero of mine, former U.S. senator Sam Houston.

One particularly inspiring passage from the book reads, “In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience — the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men — each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient — they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.”

Without a doubt, Kennedy supplied his own courage.

When he came to office in 1961, the reality of the Cold War was just coming into focus as Communist threats from the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Cuba loomed large.

He put the world on notice the moment he took office that, as president, he would never sacrifice our freedoms.

In his inaugural address he said: “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, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

He also recognized that a strong will alone would not protect America — a strong economy was needed as well. “America’s rise to world leadership in the century since the Civil War has reflected more than anything else our unprecedented economic growth,” he told the Economic Club of New York in 1962, in a speech that made the case for aggressive tax cuts which he later achieved.

“For on the strength of our free economy rests the hope of all free nations. We shall not fail that hope — for free men and free nations must prosper and they must prevail,” he said.

Although the country was war fatigued from WWII and Korea, President Kennedy recognized the menacing threat of Communism and refused to accommodate the Soviets.

He took a momentous stand for freedom on the world stage, traveling to Germany to visit the newly constructed Berlin Wall. There, he declared solidarity with the German people saying, “Ich bin ein Berliner” — “I am a Berliner.”

That wall did not come down until another American president went to Berlin and, echoing JFK’s clarity and purpose, challenged the Soviets to “tear down this wall.”

In that speech, President Reagan said, “When President Kennedy spoke at the City Hall those 24 years ago, freedom was encircled, Berlin was under siege. And today, despite all the pressures upon this city, Berlin stands secure in its liberty. And freedom itself is transforming the globe.”

Winning the Cold War may have been Ronald Reagan’s crowning achievement, but John Kennedy laid the foundation for the victory.

President Kennedy innately understood the importance of maintaining our status as world leader, an understanding perhaps best expressed in his advocacy for a national space program.

He went to Congress in 1961 to ask members to support a five-year program to “achieve the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”


JFK Remembered
As the nation remembers the presidency of John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death on November 22, here’s a look back at images of Kennedy from his 1960 campaign and during his time as the 35th President of the United States.
THE CAMPAIGN: Kennedy arrives at Los Angeles International Airport on his way to the Democratic Party convention.
Kennedy announces his candidacy for president to convention delegates at the Los Angeles Coliseum, July 15, 1960.
Kennedy aboard his campaign plane.
Kennedy talks with a farmer during a campaign visit to Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Kennedy speaks to garment workers at a factory in downtown Los Angeles, Calif.
Kennedy with Republican nominee Richard M. Nixon during one of their historic presidential debates.
Kennedy (lower right) greets a rally of some 20,000 supporters outside a hotel in Minneapolis, Minn.
John and Jacqueline during a ticker-tape parade in New York City.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Kennedy delivers his inaugural address in Washington, D.C.
John and Jacqueline share a moment in the Capitol Hill rotunda shortly after he was sworn in as president.
The First Couple attend the inaugural ball.
Attorney General Robert Kennedy and President Kennedy talk during escalating tensions with the Soviet Union over missile emplacements in Cuba.
Kennedy stands before a large map of Laos during a televised news conference on foreign policy.
Vice president Lyndon Johnson (left), President Kennedy, and Jacqueline stand in the White House secretary’s office as they watch news coverage of astronaut Alan Shepard becoming the first American in space.
News crews fill the Oval Office for a presidential address on Kennedy’s talks with Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev and French President Charles de Gaulle.
Kennedy at his desk in the Oval Office after signing a presidential proclamation concerning the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Kennedy with Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev at the Vienna Summit in Austria.
Kennedy speaks to a cheering crowd at City Hall in West Berlin, Germany.
Kennedy delivers his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in West Berlin, Germany.
Kennedy (third from right) meets with civil rights leaders prior to the March on Washington in August, 1963. The Reverend Martin Luther King is seen at left.
FAMILY MAN: The First Family and their dogs at Hyannis Port, Mass.
Kennedy in the Oval Office with Caroline and John Jr.
Kennedy and three-year-old daughter Caroline exit a White House elevator.
John and Jacqueline watch the 1962 America’s Cup competition aboard USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., off Newport, R.I.
The Kennedy Clan (from left): Robert, Edward, and John Kennedy in Washington, D.C.
PRESIDENTIAL AFFAIRS: Kennedy on the tarmac in West Palm Beach, Fla., on his way back to Washington after a tour of Latin America.
Kennedy with Mexican president Adolfo Lopez Mateos during a ticker-tape parade in Mexico City.
Kennedy greets residents of Galway during a visit to Ireland.
Kennedy inspects the Friendship 7 Mercury-program space capsule with astronaut John Glenn (left) and Vice President Johnson at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Kennedy watches a Polaris missile launch in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Kennedy prepares to throw the ceremonial first pitch in Washington, D.C.
Kennedy speaks at a Democratic Party dinner at the National Guard Armory in Washington, D.C., in front of a birthday cake in his honor.
Kennedy in the Oval Office.
A 16-year-old Bill Clinton shakes Kennedy’s hand during an American Legion Boys Nation event.
Kennedy cracks a smile during an interview with CBS Television.
Kennedy jokes with reporters in the White House Rose Garden.
The Kennedys greet well-wishers at Houston International Airport before travelling to Dallas the next day.
The Kennedys arrive at Love Field in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.
The Kennedys, joined by Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, depart Love Field in the presidential motorcade, November 22, 1963.
Updated: Nov. 21, 2013

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