John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks to Faculty and Students of the NATO Defense College

July 16, 1963


I want to express a very warm welcome to all of you, General. We appreciate very much your courtesy and good wishes in visiting our country. I am particularly glad to have such a distinguished group of officers come to the United States.

The NATO powers, as individual countries, have had the longest and martialed tradition of any in the world, stretching back to 1000 years. This long experience, as well as the information which study now gives us, should make it possible for us to be in a position to be so strong as to deter all our adversaries or those who make themselves our adversaries.

We all know that it is very difficult for us to judge the present and the future, and there is a tendency in economics, and politics, and social sciences, as well as military life, to look to the past. I am sure we are all in a very good position to fight a war of the past today, but our wars, if they ever come, will be far more different, and therefore it requires, it seems to me, the broadest possible knowledge, so we are glad that you have come here. In addition to the knowledge that we acquire by our study at the NATO Defense institute, we also, it seems to me, participate in sharing experience.

Alliances are very difficult organizations to maintain. Through history, in peacetime, they have disintegrated, sooner or later, beginning with the Greeks. We have maintained this alliance over a long period of time. It is my strong conviction that it should be maintained over the years to come, not only because of any military threats to Western Europe or the United States, but because we are involved in a struggle with an armed doctrine around the world. The closest concert among the Western powers on both sides of the Atlantic, it seems to me, is essential. Europe and the United States have been torn by civil wars, really, in this century twice. Now if we can harness all that energy, all that power, all that knowledge, and all that vitality to the cause of freedom together, in the fight around the globe, I think we will certainly deserve well of our country and of history.

So we are very glad to have you here. I hope that this is a fruitful visit. I hope you will have some suggestions as to how we can improve our own military posture. I want you to know that we are all very appreciative to all of you for the work that you do. We regard NATO as essential to the defense of the United States. Therefore, we feel that all of you are participating in the security of our people, as well as the people of your own country. We are very glad to welcome you here.

Note: The President spoke at 4 p.m. in the Flower Garden at the White House. In his opening remarks he referred to Gen. Umberto de Martino, Commandant of the NATO Defense College in Paris. The group, on a field trip as part of the College's course of study, was visiting various military installations and Government agencies in the United States and Canada.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks to Faculty and Students of the NATO Defense College Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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