John F. Kennedy: Inaugural Address

(ca. 1961)

Context

Although the country was not fighting an actual battle when Kennedy was elected, it was at war. The cold war was a direct result of World War II and a major concern to the incoming president. Soon after the end of the war in Europe, the enemy became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and Kennedy predicted that the United States could be at war with the Soviets within fifteen years. His forewarnings about the growing power of the Soviet Union proved true, and by 1960 the Soviet Union had extended its influence in Asia and Europe. In his speech of January 2, 1960, announcing his candidacy for president, Kennedy said, “I have developed an image of America as fulfilling a noble and historical role as the defender of freedom in a time of maximum peril” (qtd. in Clarke, p. 35).

Indeed, relations with the Soviet Union were not cordial, as evidenced by various unpleasant encounters during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev....

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John F. Kennedy (Library of Congress)

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