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John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address (1961)

Kennedy delivered his inaugural address during the Cold War, when the public’s fears of a nuclear attack were high. He spoke of “the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science [that could] engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.” Kennedy urged his fellow Americans to feel honored to have the opportunity to courageously defend freedom and work for peace. “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate….” He concluded by referring to the responsibilities of citizenship and the need for individual efficacy, saying that America’s “fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

Kennedy also referenced natural rights theory, “the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God,” thus linking his generation with the Founders’.