INAUGURAL ADDRESS OF JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY, Part 2
Given in Washington, D.C., at the Capitol, January 20, 1961
U.S. President John F. Kennedy made his only inaugural address at 12:51 (ET) Friday, January 20, 1961, immediately after taking the presidential oath of office administered by Chief Justice Earl Warren. The address took 13 minutes and 59 seconds to deliver, from the first word to the last word, making it the fourth-shortest inaugural address ever delivered.
"Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.
"Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the Earth the command of Isaiah to "undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free."
"And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.
"All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.
"In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
"Now the trumpet summons us again; not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are; but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation" – a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.
"Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?
"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 do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it – and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.
"My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
"Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on Earth God's work must truly be our own."