President Kennedy's Remarks at the Yellowstone County Fairgrounds, Billings, Montana, September 25, 1963


Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, pp. 828-829


President Kennedy's Remarks at the Yellowstone County Fairgrounds, Billings, Montana, September 25, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents, Kennedy, 1963, p. 724:

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". . . Countries which we had never heard of before, Viet-Nam, Laos, the Congo, and the others, countries which were distant names in our geographies,
have now become matters of the greatest concern, where the interests of the United States are vitally involved, and where we have, for example, in VietNam, over 25,000 of your sons and brothers bearing arms.

"So this is a difficult and complex world. I am sure a citizen in this community and in this country must wonder what we are doing. I think what we are trying to do is comparatively simple, and that is, with our own power and might-and the only country which has that power and might-and, I believe, the long-range determination and perseverance, we are trying to assist the hundred-odd countries which are now independent to maintain their independence. We do that not only because we wish them to be free, but because it serves our own national interest. As long as there are all of these countries separate, free, and independent, and not part of one great monolithic bloc which threatens us, so long we are free and independent.

"When it appeared at the end of the fifties that there would be over a billion people organized in the Communist movement, Russia and China and Eastern Europe working closely together, that represented a danger to us which could turn the balance of power against us. As there has been a division within the bloc, as there has been a fragmentation behind the Iron Curtain, as the long-range interests of geography and nationalism play a part even behind the Iron Curtain, as it does on this side of the Iron Curtain, we have made progress, not toward an easier existence, but, I think, toward a chance for a more secure existence.

"In 1961 the United States and the Soviet Union came face to face over Berlin. The United States called up more than 150,000 troops. At the meeting in Vienna, of 1961, Mr. Khrushchev informed me that he was going to sign a peace treaty in Berlin by the end of the year, and if the United States continued to supply its forces in Berlin it would be regarded as a possible act of war. In 1962 we came face to face with the same great challenge in Cuba, in October. So we have lived, even in the short space of the last 3 years, on two occasions when we were threatened with a direct military confrontation. We wish to lessen that prospect. We know that the struggle between the Communist system and ourselves will go on. We know it will go on in economics, in productivity, in ideology, in Latin America and Africa, in the Middle East and Asia."

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