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Excerpts from Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at the Polish-American Congress, Chicago, IL

October 01, 1960

Our task is to pursue a policy of patiently encouraging freedom and carefully pressuring tyranny - a policy that looks toward evolution not revolution - a policy that depends on peace, not war.

More is involved than our policy toward Poland alone. We must show in West Berlin that we have no intentions of yielding to false Soviet claims or fierce Soviet threats - that we believe history will in time yield a free and united Berlin and a free and united Europe. We must convince the Russians that we are rebuilding our defensive strength so that the route of military force can no longer be open to them. And we must prove to the men in Moscow that colonialism is doomed everywhere in the world, including Eastern Europe.

But the next administration must also devise a specific policy for Poland and Eastern Europe - and I would suggest seven points:

First, we must arm ourselves with more flexible economic tools. We must be willing to recognize growing divisions in the Communist camp, and be willing to encourage those divisions. My amendment to the Battle Act would permit the President to use our economic strength to promote peaceful change behind the Iron Curtain whereever this would help wean the so-called captive nations away from their Kremlin masters. In the 85th Congress this amendment was defeated by one vote. In the 86th Congress it passed the Senate but died in the House. In the 87th Congress, under new Presidential leadership, it must become law.

Second, we must never - at any summit, in any treaty declaration, in our words or even in our minds - recognize Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Poland's claim to independence and liberty is not based on sentiment or politics. It is deeply rooted in history, in culture and in law - and no matter what pressures the Soviets may exert, we do not intend to see that claim abandoned.

Third, we must strengthen the economic and cultural ties between Poland and the United States - by expanding reciprocal trade, tourism, and information services. We can encourage the investment of American capital and technology. We can recognize the needs of Polish ships and airlines. And, perhaps most important of all, we can open our doors to refugees from the terror of tyranny.

Fourth, we can increase the exchange of students, teachers, and technicians - to give more Poles an opportunity to see the blessings of liberty - and to give us an opportunity to assist the Poles in building an independent economy, particularly in agriculture and the management of medium-sized industry. The facts of the matter are that there are 10 times as many students here on Government grants from the Ryukyu Islands as there are from all of Poland. I think we can do better.

Fifth, we must strive to restore the traditional identification which Poland and Eastern Europe have had with the European community instead of the Soviet empire. We should invite all satellite nations to participate in all-European projects - to share in intellectual and cultural exchanges, to lower barriers to travel and trade, to work toward the resolution of ancient disputes. For Poland back through the centuries has belonged to the European tradition of freedom and national independence. It has been a part of European culture, of European economy and European history. And even the Soviet Union cannot rewrite that history.

Sixth, we must eliminate Poland's fear of the West - fears that are very real - and this includes, in particular, a fear of Germany. We must make plain our intention that disputes between West and East be settled by peaceful negotiations, not by force - that never again will Eastern European nations be violently stripped of their territories and resources. We cannot impose a boundary settlement on other nations - but we can encourage peaceful and mutual accommodation in the spirit of free Europe.

Seventh, and finally, we must make use of our frozen Polish funds to remind the people of that nation that we share their traditional pride in culture, learning, and human welfare - and offer to use these funds to build a national library and archives, a housing district, new schools, or - and I thing this would be particularly effective - the reconstruction of the Warsaw Castle.

When I was in Warsaw in 1955, I found no Poles who enjoyed the gaudy Soviet Palace of Culture. And I believe that the millions of dollars worth of zlotys we have idle in Poland - acquired from our surplus food sales - could be put to no better use than to answer this new symbol of Soviet arrogance by rebuilding this traditional symbol of Polish independence.

I know that some will say that all of this is wasted effort - that the people of Poland, however brave, are in a prison from which there is no early escape. But is this reason to ignore their needs? Is this an excuse for inaction? Have we forgotten the words: "I was hungry and you gave me to eat, naked and you covered me, sick and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me."

John F. Kennedy, Excerpts from Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at the Polish-American Congress, Chicago, IL Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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