President John F. Kennedy New York City November 8, 1963

I want to speak tonight very briefly, however, about the Family of Man beyond the United States. Just as the Family of Man is not limited to a single race or religion, neither can it be limited to a single city or country. The Family of Man is more than 3 billion strong. It lives in more than 100 nations. Most of its members are not white. Most of them are not Christians. Most of them know nothing about free enterprise or due process of law or the Australian ballot.

If our society is to promote the Family of Man, let us realize the magnitude of our task. This is a sobering assignment. For the Family of Man in the world of today is not faring very well.

The members of a family should be at peace with one another, but they are not. And the hostilities are not confined to the great powers of the East and the West. On the contrary, the United States and the Soviet Union, each fully aware of their mutually destructive powers and their worldwide responsibilities and obligations, have on occasion sought to introduce a greater note of caution in their approach to areas of conflict.

[…]

As I said recently at the United Nations, even little wars are dangerous in this nuclear world. The long labor of peace is an under taking for every nation, large and small, for every member of the Family of Man. “In this effort none of us can remain unaligned. To this goal none can be uncommitted.” If the Family of Man cannot achieve greater unity and harmony, the very planet which serves as its home may find its future in peril.

But there are other troubles besetting the human family. Many of its members live in poverty and misery and despair. More than one out of three, according to the FAO, suffers from malnutrition or under-nutrition or both-while more than one in ten live “below the breadline.” Two out of every five adults on this planet are, according to UNESCO, illiterate. One out of eight suffers from trachoma or lives in an area where malaria is still a clear and present danger. Ten million-nearly as many men, women, and children as inhabit this city and Los Angeles combined-still suffer from leprosy; and countless others suffer from yaws or tuberculosis or intestinal parasites.

For the blessings of life have not been distributed evenly to the Family of Man. Life expectancy in this most fortunate of nations has reached the Biblical 3 score years and 10; but in the less developed nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the overwhelming majority of infants cannot expect to live even 2 score years and 5. In those vast continents, more than half of the children of primary school age are not in school. More than half the families live in substandard dwellings. More than half the people live on less than $100 a year. Two out of every three adults are illiterate.

The Family of Man can survive differences of race and religion. Contrary to the assertions of Mr. Khrushchev, it can accept differences of ideology, politics, and economics. But it cannot survive, in the form in which we know it, a nuclear war-and neither can it long endure the growing gulf between the rich and the poor.

The rich must help the poor. The industrialized nations must help the developing nations. And the United States, along with its allies, must do better-not worse-by its foreign aid program, which is now being subjected to such intense debate in the Senate of the United States.

[…]

Nearly two years ago my wife and I visited Bogotá, Colombia, where a vast new Alliance for Progress housing project was just getting under way. Earlier this year I received a letter from the first resident of this 1200 new home development. “Now,” he wrote, “we have dignity and liberty.”

Dignity and liberty-these words are the foundation, as they have been since ’47, of the mutual security program. For the dignity and liberty of all free men, of a world of diversity where the balance of power is clearly on the side of free nations, is essential to the security of the United States. And to weaken and water down the pending program, to confuse and confine its flexibility with rigid restrictions and rejections, will not only harm our economy, it will hamper our security. It will waste our present investment and it will, above all, forfeit our obligation to our fellow man, obligations that stem from our wealth and strength, from our devotion to freedom and from our membership in the Family of Man.

[…]

Some say that they are tiring of this task, or tired of world problems and their complexities, or tired of hearing those who receive our aid disagree with us. But are we tired of living in a free world? Do we expect that world overnight to be like the United States? Are we going to stop now merely because we have not produced complete success?

I do not believe our adversaries are tired and I cannot believe that the United States of America in 1963 is fatigued.

Surely the Americans of the 1960s can do half as well as the Americans of the 1950s. Surely we are not going to throw away our hopes and means for peaceful progress in an outburst of irritation and frustration. I do not want it said of us what T. S. Eliot said of others some years ago: “These were a decent people. Their only monument: the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls.” I think we can do better than that.

My fellow Americans, I hope we will be guided by our interests. I hope we will recognize that the struggle is by no means over; that it is essential that we not only maintain our effort, but that we persevere; that we not only endure, in Mr. Faulkner’s words, but also prevail. It is essential, in short, that the word go forth from the United States to all who are concerned about the future of the Family of Man; that we are not weary in well-doing. And we shall, I am confident, if we maintain the pace, we shall in due season reap the kind of world we deserve and deserve the kind of world we will have.

Thank you.

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