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Civil Rights and Peace: JFK’s Two Most Dangerous Speeches

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On consecutive days in June 1963, John F. Kennedy delivered two of the most dangerous speeches ever delivered by a U.S. president. The first speech was delivered on June 10 at American University. It has become known as the “Peace Speech.” In that speech, the president called for a dramatic shift in the foreign policy of the United States. The speech called for an end to the Cold War and for peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union. It is impossible today to overstate how radical — and how dangerous — that speech was. It flew in the face of the anti-communist mindset that had come to characterize Americans conservatives, the Pentagon, and the CIA. It also threatened the existence of the entire Cold War apparatus, which Kennedy’s predecessor, President Eisenhower, had called the “military-industrial complex.” Before World War II was even over, U.S. military officials were planning strategy against their wartime partner and ally, the Soviet Union. In all previous wars, the large ...