Kennedy Quote: Bear Any Burden-From the Inaugual Speech
John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address on January 20, 1961, gave one of the best known speeches in American political history. Having just won a very close race against the sitting Vice-President, Richard Nixon, the newly sworn-in President Kennedy set the stage for his presidency with an inspiring speech.
Among the many quotable gems in that speech, the following excerpt stands out:
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 to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
Kennedy’s inaugural speech, and this quote in particular, helped set the stage for what became known as the Kennedy Doctrine as related to his nascent foreign policy. While sounding bold and bright, this Cold War-era declaration was in reality an extension of the containment policy begun by former Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. At this point in American history, both the Democrat (as in Truman and Kennedy), and the Republican (i.e. Eisenhower), parties more or less agreed to the same bold strokes that formed the portrait of American relations with the Soviet Union and Communist China and their allies and satellites. Having fought the Korean War less than ten years earlier, and with American forces engaged in low-level combat support in Vietnam, Kennedy needed to put the Soviets and their Communist ilk on notice that he, and by extension, America would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend…” to oppose Communism around the world.
In practical terms, this declaration by Kennedy led him to support the already-planned Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (which did not go as planned), as well as to double-down on aid to South Vietnam and to also entangle the U.S. (more-or-less in secret) in the Laotian Civil War. The sentiment of sacrifice for a greater good also helped inspire positive projects such as the Peace Corps.
Kennedy’s inaugural speech, written at least in part by Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorensen, whether for good or ill, inspired a generation of Americans to sacrifice for their country and for the world.