John Fitzgerald KennedyJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of America, Prince of high idealism, Freedom incarnate, Helper of humanity.
The inaugural Address of Kennedy on January 20, 1961 is eloquent evidence that the mantric utterance is no longer India's monopoly. There are sentiments in that soul-stirring address that are as deep as the Atlantic in their outlook; ideals as high as the Himalayas and resolutions as powerful as Atomic Power.
"…my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
This ringing call for self-giving to the Motherland is a reminiscent echo of the Seer-Voice of India's soul-Sri Aurobindo, when he was speaking to India's young hopefuls more than half a century ago:
"There are times in a nation's history when Providence places before it one work, one aim, to which everything else, however high and noble in itself, has to be sacrificed. Such a time has now arrived for our Motherland when nothing is dearer than her service, when everything else has to be directed to that end … Train yourself, body and mind and soul, for her service … Work that she may prosper. Suffer that she may rejoice."
President Kennedy does not stop with his fellow Americans. From his head and heart goes forth an all-embracing call to mankind:
"My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."
Nature seems to have bestowed half of her material power on America and half on Russia. How the Leader of America can take the lead in bringing the world out of its Cold War orbit into a noble scheme of One World and One Law can be seen in the following almost prophetic utterance:
"Today this country is ahead in the science and technology of space, while the Soviet Union is ahead in the capacity to lift large vehicles into orbit. Both nations would help themselves as well as other nations by removing these endeavours from the bitter and wasteful competition of Cold War. The United States would be willing to join with the Soviet Union and the scientists of all nations in a greater effort to make the fruits of this new knowledge available to all, and, beyond that, in an effort to extend farm technology to hungry nations, to wipe out disease, to increase the exchange of scientists and their knowledge, and to make our own laboratories available to technicians of other lands who lack the facilities to pursue their own work. Where nature makes natural allies of us all, we can demonstrate that beneficial relations are possible even with those with whom we most deeply disagree, and this must some day be the basis of world peace and world law."
Hope is strength. Hope is progress. When the sun of hope is eclipsed, the inevitable fear of bondage looms large. Kennedy, with his breadth of outlook and depth of insight, can help immensely to restore this hope to man.
"The hopes of all mankind rest upon us; not simply upon those of us in this chamber, but upon the peasant in Laos, the fisherman in Nigeria, the exile from Cuba, the spirit that moves every man and nation who shares our hopes for freedom and the future."
If America wants to be friends with all the world, who can be her enemy? Says her mouthpiece, President Kennedy:
"We are not against any man, or any nation, or any system, except as it is hostile to freedom."
It seems that in Kennedy's dictionary there are two complementary words which enrich and fulfil the sense of each other and constitute together the master formula of the language: Freedom and Peace.
"We will make clear that America's enduring concern is for both peace and freedom; that we are anxious to live in harmony with the Russian people; that we seek no conquests, no satellites, no riches; that we seek only the day when 'nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.' "
We may well recollect the momentous words of one of his illustrious predecessors, the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Neither are we to forget the immortal utterance of the sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln:
"Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defence is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere."
True, poverty and ignorance are man's bitter foes. But to replace poverty by affluence and ignorance by knowledge is not enough. Material success is not all. The quest of the spirit is of vital importance. "For the first time," says Kennedy, "we have the capacity to strike off the remaining bonds of poverty and ignorance, to free our people for the spiritual and intellectual fulfilment which has always been the goal of our civilisation."
President Kennedy is, as it were, the lineal descendant of the American nation's traditional leadership. As George Washington was the Father of the United States, as Abraham Lincoln was its Saviour, as Franklin D. Roosevelt was the Voice of America, even so is John Kennedy the Noble Defender of World Freedom and World Peace.
'Defender of World Freedom and World Peace' is certainly a great and responsible role. But is that enough for a man of Kennedy's calibre? In 'the Hour of God' that has set in, there has appeared a man of high capacity and of unquestioned goodwill for all, a man of a synthetic cast of mind, a man of faith and trust in God's omnipotence, a man who has already caught an image of the One World to be. Unmistakably he will prove a Man of Destiny and launch a world-scale offensive for the 'Hour of God' upon his own country as well as upon the rest of the world; establish over this dark, miserable world a New World Empire of Peace and Power, Truth and Knowledge, Health and Happiness, a world one with its Creator. It is not suggested that Kennedy, the mere man, has that superhuman power. The world must not forget that, despite the extremely poor resources at his disposal, Churchill successfully stemmed the Hitlerian tide upon England and became the instrument of a Higher Power, simply by his faith and determination. Who knows but that, like Arjuna in the Battle of Kurukshetra, like Churchill in the Second World War, Kennedy will be an instrument of God's conquest of His own world for Himself? Not without reason, perhaps, has this young soul been called to the great Chair of the new world.
By sympathy and understanding he has won a high place in the heart of India. Her outlook toward the material aspect of life has now conspired to bring him nearer to her soul. The gulf between Matter and Spirit is going to close. The two Poles will meet.