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Letter to Mrs. Alicia Patterson, Editor and Publisher of Newsday, Concerning the Nation's Response to the Cold War.

May 16, 1961

[Released May 16, 1961. Dated May 11, 1961]

Dear Mrs. Patterson:

Many thanks for your wire of May fourth. I appreciate your interest in our nation's needs and the spirit that motivates your telegram.

Apparently the demands of the "cold war" are not as dramatic, and thus not as well-identified, as the demands of the traditional "shooting war"--such as rationing (which we do not need), a doubling of draft quotas (which would not help), or an increase in personal income taxes (which would only impede the recovery of our economic strength).

But that does not mean that nothing is being asked of our citizens. The facts of the matter are that all the programs I am seeking--to strengthen our economy, our defenses, our image abroad, our balance of payments position and our foreign policy tools--all make demands upon one or more groups of Americans, and most often upon all Americans jointly. All of them involve some effort, some inconvenience or some sacrifice--and, indeed, they are being opposed in some quarters on that basis.

For example: I have asked that we provide a leaner, more efficient defense establishment by terminating certain projects and closing a good many bases, although there are many protests from those who want economy practiced in someone else's community. I have asked that a major effort in Foreign aid to other nations be maintained for many years to come, as burdensome as some regard it. I have asked young Americans to serve without pay or comfort in a Peace Corps for under-developed countries; I have asked many talented individuals to give up a higher income to serve their country in public office (and not all have been willing to do so); and I have asked all government officials to give up any incompatible financial interests.

I have asked that our excise and corporation tax rates not be permitted to fall as scheduled by law--that trucking companies and jet airline companies pay a higher tax for the highways and airways they use--that our business corporations pay a higher payroll tax for improved Social Security, unemployment compensation and health insurance-and that certain taxpayers give up their privileges of expense account living, in yachts, hunting lodges, night-clubs and all the rest. I have asked all Americans to help meet our deficit through higher postal rates. These requests for sacrifice are being strongly resisted by some unwilling to pay the price of national greatness.

I have asked other Americans to contribute to the strengthening of our economy by paying a decent minimum wage--or to give up their rights to purchase as many duty-free goods when they are traveling abroad--or, if they are farmers, to accept the limitations of our feed grain program. I have asked our businessmen and labor leaders, .through my Advisory Committee, to adopt price and wage levels consistent with our economic goals and need to compete; and, more directly, I have asked them to take steps that will avoid harmful work stoppages in our missile and space effort.

I have asked the newspaper industry, without much success, to exercise more self-restraint in publishing intelligence data helpful to any enemy. My messages on education, urban affairs and natural resources have all stressed the role the local community must assume if we are to make the most of our schools, our cities and our water and other resources. We have made clear our very strong request to employers, labor unions and indeed all citizens for an end to racial discrimination.

I have tried to make the whole tone and thrust of this office and this Administration one that will demand a higher standard of excellence from every individual in his private life--in his education, his physical fitness, his attitudes toward foreign visitors, his obligations as a citizen, and all the rest.

And finally, each time we make any move or commitment in foreign affairs, I am in need of the support of the American people, their understanding, their patience, their willingness to endure set-backs and risks and hardships in order that this country can regain leadership and initiative.

So I have asked quite a lot of the American people--and I have been gratified at their response. There is much more to be done. But I do not wish to be misinterpreted. I think we have the will as well as the resources to prevail. And I think we will.



[Mrs. Alicia Patterson, Editor and Publisher, Newsday, Garden City, Long Island, New York]

John F. Kennedy, Letter to Mrs. Alicia Patterson, Editor and Publisher of Newsday, Concerning the Nation's Response to the Cold War. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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