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Magazine Article "Where We Stand."

January 15, 1963

YESTERDAY'S headlines are not necessarily the chapter titles for tomorrow's historians. To know where it is we stand, we must know how far we have come and where we are headed. And this requires us to look, not at day-to-day explosions, but at the great, underlying movement of historical forces.

Two great forces--the world of communism and the world of free choice--have, in effect, made a "bet" about the direction in which history is moving.

The Communist "bet" is that the future will be a Communist world--that the inexorable processes of history must send all nations, some early, some late, through the Marxist wringer.

Our "bet" is that the future will be a world community of independent nations, with a diversity of economic, political and religious systems, united by a common respect for the rights of others. The history of recent years has already refuted the myth of the inevitability of Communist victory.

In Western Europe, where the Communists predicted disunity and decay, the success of the Common Market symbolizes a united and astonishing economic, political and cultural renaissance--while Eastern Europe, intended to be a model of Communist success, has become a bleak dungeon of political insecurity and economic scarcity.

In Asia and Africa, where the atmosphere of anticolonialism and underdevelopment was supposed to be tailor-made for Communist infiltration, their success has been slowed--and Communist China's combination of economic failure and naked aggression has disclosed to all the world the true nature of such a regime.

In Latin America, where the Castro regime was to provide a lever to pry away the whole southern half of the hemisphere, the clandestine but unsuccessful effort to transform the disillusioned island of Cuba into a nuclear base--as contrasted with the constructive promise and purpose of the Alliance for Progress--has newly united the Inter-American system.

Within the Communist world itself, monolithic unity has begun to give way to the forces of diversity that are bursting the bonds of both organization and ideology-and heated arguments have become the rule instead of the exception.

But history is what men make of it--and we would be foolish to think that we can realize our own vision of a free and diverse future without unceasing vigilance, discipline and labor.

For great problems still confront the world: above all the overhanging shadow of nuclear war--a shadow which will not leave mankind until governments recognize the limitations on the use of force in a nuclear age and move in the direction of settling disputes through the rule of law.

A second is the ever-widening gap between rich and poor nations--between that part of the world which is 96 percent literate, where life expectancy is 67 years, where the gross output (GNP) is valued at 1905 billion-and that part which, with twice as many people, has a GNP one fifth as great, where more than two thirds of the people are illiterate and where life expectancy is only 38 years.

Other points of uncertainty remain-Berlin, Vietnam, Laos, the Congo, Cuba, the Middle East and many others.

We cannot, in short, relax our efforts. We must maintain our nuclear power--and our allies abroad must work with us to increase the conventional power necessary to protect the peace.

At the same time, we must work unrelentingly to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, to move toward comprehensive disarmament and to reinforce the United Nations as a channel and forum for peace.

We must assist the new nations in their struggle to attain solid economic and political independence-while striving here at home to improve our economic, educational and humanitarian standards.

Above all, we must both demonstrate and develop the affirmative power of the democratic ideal--remembering always that nations are great, not for what they are against, but what they are for.

Note: The article was printed in the January 15, 1963, issue of Look magazine as an introduction to a series evaluating the Nation's posture in the world today. It is reprinted by special permission of Cowles Magazines and Broadcasting, Inc.

John F. Kennedy, Magazine Article "Where We Stand." Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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