We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future.
But I tell you the new frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric–and those who prefer that course should not cast their votes for me, regardless of party. But I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that new frontier. My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age–to all who respond to the Scriptural call: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.” For courage, not complacency, is our need today–leadership, not salesmanship. And the only valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously.
The new frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises– it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them.
And today, as always, begins another long journey, taking me into your cities and homes all over America. Give me your help, your hand, your voice, your vote. Recall with me the words of Isaiah: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary.” As we face the coming challenge, we too, shall wait upon the Lord, and ask that he renew our strength. Then shall we be equal to the test. Then we shall not be weary. And then we shall prevail.
Jack Kennedy’s Presidential nomination acceptance speech, which would later become known as “The New Frontier,” delivered July 15th, 1960.
For some reason, despite that on the day Kennedy gave this speech, America’s predicament in the world was as precarious — if not more so — than our own, such optimism seems almost ridiculous when mapped onto today’s United States.
Either the country is just beset by more desperation, or there were cynics in the audience in 1960 who, like so many now, didn’t believe the United States would make it another half century.
I bet it’s a little of both.
The pictures are of John with his daughter Caroline. She was five days away from her sixth birthday when her father was shot.