“We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world–or to make it the last.”

May 16, 2004

Kevin Drum, inspired by this recent opinion piece in Mother Jones by Joshua Wolf Shenk, is beseeching the Blogosphere to think of a compelling narrative for the Democratic Party—one that can compete with the Republicans’ current storyline of “Evil walks among us, and we must slay it” (which is actually more from Buffy the Vampire Slayer than from any particular Republican candidate, but it’s certainly the gist of what they’re saying).

I’ll have more to say about this later as part of my continuing series “The Default Democratic Party Strategy and What Should Replace It” (part 1 is here, and part 2 is here). However, as food for thought now, might I remind y’all that there used to be a Democrat who offered a compelling narrative, one of a generation standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the entire world upon a precipice with utter annihilation on one side and utopian society on the other. (Hint: He is the hero of our current Democratic candidate, and he even had the same initials as him.)

The contest will continue–the contest between those who see a monolithic world and those who believe in diversity–but it should be a contest in leadership and responsibility instead of destruction, a contest in achievement instead of intimidation. Speaking for the United States of America, I welcome such a contest. For we believe that truth is stronger than error–and that freedom is more enduring than coercion. And in the contest for a better life, all the world can be a winner.

The effort to improve the conditions of man, however, is not a task for the few. It is the task of all nations–acting alone, acting in groups, acting in the United Nations–for plague and pestilence, and plunder and pollution, the hazards of nature, and the hunger of children are the foes of every nation. The earth, the sea, and the air are the concern of every nation. And science, technology, and education can be the ally of every nation.

Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world–or to make it the last.

— President John F. Kennedy, Address Before the 18th General Assembly of the United Nations, September 20, 1963

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One Response to ““We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world–or to make it the last.””

  1. CSTAR Says:

    “For we believe that truth is stronger than error”

    It is instructive for us to interpret this assertion; indeed prima facie, truth and falsehood are truth values and in what sense can one truth value be said to be stronger than another– for instance, can the number 6 possibly be stronger than the number 4?

    Of course what JFK means here is the power of argument and political dialogue based on truth to –eventually– overcome the appeal of fallacy. This is particularly significant, when those that wield power and lay claim to western intellectual and cultural traditions run around spouting torrents of fallacies. Just read Safire, or Brooks or Krauthammer or listen to Bush’s stump speeches. But the significant caveat here is –eventually–, it may take a long time, and those among us that spread falsehoods may yet continue to doso for a very long time unless this deceipt is exposed and denounced.


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