This Moment in History: Dissecting JFK’s Inaugural Address

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As most voters are frustrated with the choices in this year’s presidential election, let’s take a journey back in time to the 1960s and explore what one of the better presidents in American history had to say about liberty.

When you read President JFK’s inaugural address from January 20th, 1961, you look around, and you start asking yourself, “what exactly happened to the Democratic Party?” There was a day when the Democratic Party, albeit partially racist and segregationist, believed in some form of freedom and sense of American exceptionalism under God.

There’s no doubt that the Democrat Party has always had an ugly history, from Andrew Jackson’s cruel treatment of Native Americans to Strom Thurmond’s record-shattering attempt to filibuster the Civil Rights Act. From Barack Obama’s divisive race-baiting tendencies to the Democrat Party’s refusal to support lynching at the 1924 KKK-run convention, The Democrat Party has never had a clean slate when it comes to any issue, as a matter of fact.

Unlike the majority of the rather despicable Democratic Party in the 1960s, JFK did not support racism and denounced the treatment of African Americans in southern states like Alabama during the start of the Civil Rights movement. John F. Kennedy had never been, and will never be considered the prototypical Democrat. While he never truly fit in with the likes of Lyndon Johnson, he definitely would not be considered Democrat by today’s standards as today’s Democrat party is overrun with Marxists and statists.

The truth is, JFK was one of a kind. A mix of fiscal conservatism, liberal social standards, strong military commitment, and faith in Scripture, JFK’s youth, and charisma brought America a sense of optimism despite the ever-growing threat of the Soviet Union. While JFK is no constitutional conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan, his relatively conservative stances make you miss the days when the Democratic Party wasn’t defined by the Bernie Sanders’ of society.

To understand the kind of man JFK was and his vision for America, one needs to read the first speech he’d ever given, his inaugural address. This is a short breakdown of parts of Kennedy’s inaugural address, and why those comments would seem so out of place and even condemned in today’s Democratic Party.

“We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end as well as a beginning–signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago. “

If any Democrat were to say this on the national stage, he or she would be ousted from the party and called a sellout. The truth is, liberals today denounce the notion of freedom and inalienable rights. In other words, Kennedy’s very first sentence of his speech would be frowned upon.

The second sentence does the trick. The words “Almighty God” the liberals cannot stand. In this great opening, JFK also talks about the forbears, the Founding Fathers. Democrats today would probably boo him off the stage as they’re not big fans of the Founding Fathers. What a surprise.

To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny.”

As a theme in this brilliant speech, JFK stresses the importance of freedom and the importance of spreading America’s freedom around the world. This line is a classic conservative talking point. The Founding Fathers founded this constitutional republic so that the American people could be free. They would never imagine the state of America today. In many ways, as I’ve always argued, that we are living in a semi-totalitarian regime. With Obama refusing to comply with the Constitution and Congress doing absolutely nothing to stop him, JFK’s words ring loud and true.

“To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. 

In this paragraph, JFK shows his slight socialist views by going on and on about “helping the many who are poor.” Is it the government’s responsibility to redistribute wealth and drive up the debt with numerous social programs? Is the free market with lower taxes and fewer regulations a foreign concept? It’s self-evident that the free market model of capitalism benefits the most people and creates the most wealth in society.

“To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support–to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective–to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak–and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.”

One of the reasons why JFK’s inaugural speech from almost sixty years ago is so good is because of its relevance today. The UN of today is no longer an assembly that puts liberty and national sovereignty of the individual states above all else. The UN is no longer a beacon of peace and prosperity. Prime Minister Netanyahu puts it very well if anyone is interested.

“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.'”

JFK is considered the best Democrat president by many because of how much he appreciated freedom and how much he condemned those who threatened it. This is uncharacteristic of the modern Democrat. Oh, and quoting Isaiah, definitely a no-no in today’s standards.

And so, my fellow Americans ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”

To many constitutional conservatives, this is the essence of the American dream. America isn’t about entitlements or the redistribution of wealth. America isn’t about pitting neighbours against each other and having government interfere with every aspect of our lives. America is about the constant effort to better ourselves; to respect the individuality of everyone, man and woman or black and white, to achieve their God-given potential. America is great because of its people. It is not because of government.

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.

Are you sure a Democrat said that? Are you sure it wasn’t Ted Cruz?

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]