JFK Library and Museum

The Presidency and the Peace

It is with some sense of temerity that a member of the White House staff undertakes to comment on the large topic of the Presidency and the Peace. Loyalty and affection are so normal in such service that detachment is difficult. Nevertheless the importance of the topic and the enforced familiarity of close experience with the Presidential task may justify a set of comments whose underlying motive is to express a conviction that is as obvious as the daylight, in general, and as fresh as every sunrise, in particular: a conviction that the American Presidency, for better, not for worse, has now become the world's best hope of preventing the unexampled catastrophe of general nuclear war.

Moreover, both charity and sorrow can be good lenses for perception, and it may therefore be possible to consider the subject without impropriety by focussing upon the years of John F. Kennedy. The tragedy which has moved his Administration from politics to history may allow to his critics and excuse in his friends some generosity in the assessment of his three years. His death revealed his greatness, and the grief of the world was less for his tragedy than for its own—in that he had shown his spreading grasp of his duty to mankind as Chief Executive for Peace.

To focus on the Kennedy years is not to forget those before, and still less the firm continuation after November 22. The Presidents of the nuclear age before Mr. Kennedy also made the service of peace the first of their purposes, and the determined commitment of President Johnson to this same end, matured in decades of direct knowledge of our nuclear world, has been made plain in his own words and actions already. Indeed one purpose of a retrospective assessment is to clarify purposes which are as important to the President today as to the President last year.

A President in search of Peace has many powers, but none is more relevant or more effective than

Read the full article on ForeignAffairs.com