President Kennedy's Special Message to Congress, May 25, 1961


Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, p. 804


President Kennedy's Special Message to Congress, May 25, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents, Kennedy, 1961:

"The great battleground for the defense and expansion of freedom today is the whole southern half of the globe-Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East-the lands of the rising peoples. Their revolution is the greatest in human history. They seek an end to injustice, tyranny, and exploitation. More than an end, they seek a beginning.

"And theirs is a revolution which we would support regardless of the Cold War, and regardless of which political or economic route they should choose to freedom.

"For the adversaries of freedom did not create the revolution; nor did they create the conditions which compel it. But they are seeking to ride the crest of its wave--to capture it for themselves.

"Yet their aggression is more often concealed than open. They have fired no missiles; and their troops are seldom seen. They send arms, agitators, aid, technicians and propaganda to every troubled area. But where fighting is required, it is usually done by others-by guerrillas striking at night, by assassins striking alone-assassins who have taken the lives of four thousand civil officers in the last twelve months in Vietnam alone-by subversives and saboteurs and insurrectionists, who in some cases control whole areas inside of independent nations.

"With these formidable weapons, the adversaries of freedom plan to consolidate their territory--to exploit, to control, and finally to destroy the hopes of the world's newest nations; and they have ambition to do it before the end of this decade. It is a contest of will and purpose as well as force and violence--a battle for minds and souls as well as lives and territory. And in that contest, we cannot stand aside.

"We stand, as we have always stood from our earliest beginnings, for the independence and equality of all nations. This nation was born of revolution and raised in freedom. And we do not intend to leave an open road for despotism.

"There is no single simple policy which meets this challenge. Experience has taught us that no one nation has the power or the wisdom to solve all the problems of the world or manage its revolutionary tides--that extending our commitments does not always increase our security--that any initiative carries with it the risk of a temporary defeat--that nuclear weapons cannot prevent subversion--that no free people can be kept free without will and energy of their own--"


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