John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks in San Diego at the Marine Corps Recruit Dept.

June 06, 1963

General, gentlemen:

I want to express my very strong appreciation to all of you this morning on behalf of the people of this country.

The United States though a young country has an honorable and distinguished martial tradition stretching back to the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the War of 1847, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea. It has meant that every generation of Americans in our country's history has had to bear arms in defense of this country.

In more recent years, however, our responsibility has been broader. Since 1945 and the end of the Second World War, the whole cause of freedom has depended upon the United States. We have been the keystone in the arch--the 180 million Americans carrying on a worldwide struggle against the Sino-Soviet bloc, composed of more than a billion people, have been able to maintain the independence of this country and dozens who are allied with it.

You men here on this field help maintain the security of countries 10,000 miles away. And I can tell you that in the time that I have been President of the United States, in the last 2 1/2 years, in Berlin, in Laos, in South Viet-Nam, and last fall in the Caribbean, it was the men who served in the Armed Forces of the United States that not only kept the security of this country and others, but also maintained the peace.

The force that we have is to permit us to develop ourselves, our resources, improve the life of our people and make it possible for what Thomas Jefferson called the disease of liberty to be catching all around the globe. I hope that no man who serves in our Armed Forces ever forgets that upon him the security of this country depends. It is the 16 divisions of the United States Army, the divisions of the United States Marine Corps, the fleets we have at sea, the airplanes we have scattered around the world at air bases--upon these men and the machines that they master depend the well-being of this small world of ours.

So I come here today not to speak to all of you but to get the kind of realization which all of us in Washington need, which is that there are still thousands of young men in this country who are ready to take up arms in its defense; that the old Corps may have been a great Corps but the new Corps is just as good; that the young men who are coming off the farms and from the cities of this country and joining the Marines and the Navy are just as good as their fathers were in the Second War or their brothers in Korea; and that now and in the years to come, those who oppose us, those who wish us ill must contend with the strong determination of Americans to not only endure and survive but also to prevail.

On behalf of the people of this country, I wish to give you our strongest thanks.

Note: The President spoke in Hall Field at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Calif. His opening word "General" referred to Gen. Sidney Wade, commander of the Depot.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks in San Diego at the Marine Corps Recruit Dept. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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