John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks to a Group of American Field Service Students.

July 18, 1963

Mr. Gallati, Ambassadors, fellow Americans, visitors from abroad:

You are not the quietest group that has come to visit us at the White House. But we are glad to see you here.

I wonder how many in this audience come from different parts of the world. Perhaps, first, we will start with this hemisphere. How many come from Canada or Latin America? Then, how many come from Europe? Well, we'll divide Europe. How many from Scandinavia? Then, the rest of Europe? Then Africa? And Asia? Australia and New Zealand? Well, you are a small group, but we are glad to have you here.

I want to first of all express my commendation to the American Field Service. I knew a good many young men who served in the Second War in the American Field Service, in North Africa and in Europe, and I think their experience working with other armies--the Eighth Army in North Africa, with armies of a good many of your countries-gave them a sense that we should not have another war and also the importance of people working together.

I hope when you go back to your country and you read terrible things that they write and say about the United States that you will occasionally remember that they are talking about a family in Davenport, Iowa, in Massachusetts or in California.

How many here come from California?

In any case, I hope you will remember that the United States is not "it" or a unit, but the United States are 180 million people who are going through the same experiences that your people are going through, who suffer the same concerns, who I think live with the same idealism, who recognize that they fall short of their goals but at least are attempting to carry out the very difficult and responsible task of self-government.

This effort which has been made to bring you to the United States and bring the students of the United States around the world has not been made merely to give you an interesting year. It has been made because a judgment has been reached that you will be among the future leaders of your country; that you carry with you a sense of responsibility and commitment, and that when you go home you will not be a friend of the United States but rather a friend of peace, a friend of all people; that you will desire to see good will among all nations, and that you will stand in your community, in your state, and in your country for those principles which motivate us all around the globe, a chance for everyone, a fair chance for everyone, and also for a world in which we have some hope for peace. If we are able to do that, this will be the most remarkable generation in the history of the world.

No generation is passed--no generation is passed without a war. War has taken up most of the time of the human race, and now we have the terrible responsibility, at a time when we have weapons which will destroy the human race, of working out means of living together. That is a difficult task, and that is what you should spend your life, along with pursuing your own private interests-that is what we hope you will spend your life doing, and that your visit to the United States will serve not only to provide a link with us, which we hope you will maintain, but also will broaden your horizons so that in your own country you can be the kind of citizen of which they are proud, of which they will support, and to whom they will look for leadership.

So we are glad to welcome you here today. I hope that you will write to some of the families when you have gone home and that they will write to you, and that some day you will come back to the United States, when I am old and gray, as president or, even more importantly, as first lady of your country !

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. The group was composed of more than 2500 high school seniors from 56 countries who had been living in communities throughout the United States during the previous year.

The President's opening words referred to Stephen Gallati, Director General of the American Field Service Program, and to the Ambassadors from the countries represented.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks to a Group of American Field Service Students. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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