Let Us Continue
November 27 , 1963
All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing
The greatest leader of our time has been struck down by
the foulest deed of our time. Today John Fitzgerald Kennedy
lives on in the immortal words and works that he left behind.
He lives on in the mind and memories of mankind. He lives
on in the hearts of his countrymen. No words are sad enough
to express our sense of loss.
No words are strong enough to express our determination
to continue the forward thrust of America that he began.
The dream of conquering the vastness of space-the dream
of partnership across the Atlantic-and across the Pacific
as well-the dream of a Peace Corps in less developed nations-the
dream of education for all of our children-the dream of
jobs for all who seek them and need them-the dream of care
for our elderly-the dream of an all-out attack on mental
illness-and above all, the dream of equal rights for all
Americans, whatever their race or color-these and other
American dreams have been vitalized by his drive and by
And now the ideas and the ideals which he so nobly represented
must and will be translated into effective action.
Under John Kennedy's leadership, this nation has demonstrated
that it has the courage to seek peace, and it has the fortitude
to risk war. We have proved that we are a good and reliable
friend to those who seek peace and freedom. We have shown
that we can also be a formidable foe to those who reject
the path of peace and those who seek to impose upon us
or our allies the yoke of tyranny.
This nation will keep its commitments from South Vietnam
to West Berlin. We will be unceasing in the search for
peace; resourceful in our pursuit of areas of agreement
even with those with whom we differ; and generous and loyal
to those who join with us in common cause.
In this age when there can be no losers in peace and no
victors in war, we must recognize the obligation to match
national strength with national restraint. We must be prepared
at one and the same time for both the confrontation of
power and the limitation of power. We must be ready to
defend the national interest and to negotiate the common
interest. This is the path that we shall continue to pursue.
Those who test our courage will find it strong, and those
who seek our friendship will find it honorable. We will
demonstrate anew that the strong can be just in the use
of strength; and the just can be strong in the defense
And let all know we will extend no special privilege and
impose no persecution. We will carry on the fight against
poverty and misery, and disease and ignorance, in other
lands and in our own.
We will serve all the nation, not one section or one sector,
or one group, but all Americans. These are the United States-a
united people with a united purpose.
Our American unity does not depend upon unanimity. We
have differences; but now, as in the past, we can derive
from those differences strength, not weakness, wisdom,
not despair. Both as a people and a government, we can
unite upon a program, a program which is wise and just,
enlightened and constructive.
For 32 years Capitol Hill has been my home. I have shared
many moments of pride with you, pride in the ability of
the Congress of the United States to act, to meet any crisis,
to distill from our differences strong programs of national
An assassin's bullet has thrust upon me the awesome burden
of the presidency. I am here today to say I need your help;
I cannot bear this burden alone. I need the help of all
Americans, and all America. This nation has experienced
a profound shock, and in this critical moment, it is our
duty, yours and mine, as the government of the United States,
to do away with uncertainty and doubt and delay, and to
show that we are capable of decisive action; that from
the brutal loss of our leader we will derive not weakness,
but strength; that we can and will act and act now.
From this chamber of representative government, let all
the world know and none misunderstand that I rededicate
this government to the unswerving support of the United
Nations, to the honorable and determined execution of our
commitments to our allies, to the maintenance of military
strength second to none, to the defense of the strength
and the stability of the dollar, to the expansion of our
foreign trade, to the reinforcement of our programs of
mutual assistance and cooperation in Asia and Africa, and
to our Alliance for Progress in this hemisphere.
On the 20th day of January,
in 1961, John F. Kennedy told his countrymen that our
national work would not be finished "in
the first thousand days, nor in the life of this administration,
nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But," he
said, "let us begin."
Today, in this moment of new resolve, I would say to all
my fellow Americans, let us continue.
This is our challenge-not to hesitate, not to pause, not
to turn about and linger over this evil moment, but to
continue on our course so that we may fulfill the destiny
that history has set for us. Our most immediate tasks are
here on this Hill.
First, no memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently
honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible
passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so
long. We have talked long enough in this country about
equal rights. We have talked for one hundred years or more.
It is time now to write the next chapter, and to write
it in the books of law.
I urge you again, as I did in 1957 and again in 1960,
to enact a civil rights law so that we can move forward
to eliminate from this nation every trace of discrimination
and oppression that is based upon race or color. There
could be no greater source of strength to this nation both
at home and abroad.
And second, no act of ours could more fittingly continue
the work of President Kennedy than the early passage of
the tax bill for which he fought all this long year. This
is a bill designed to increase our national income and
federal revenues, and to provide insurance against recession.
That bill, if passed without delay, means more security
for those now working, more jobs for those now without
them, and more incentive for our economy.
In short, this is no time for delay. It is a time for
action-strong, forward-looking action on the pending education
bills to help bring the light of learning to every home
and hamlet in America-strong, forward-looking action on
youth employment opportunities; strong, for ward-looking
action on the pending foreign aid bill, making clear that
we are not forfeiting our responsibilities to this hemisphere
or to the world, nor erasing executive flexibility in the
conduct of our foreign affairs-and strong, prompt, and
forward-looking action on the remaining appropriation bills.
In this new spirit of action, the Congress can expect
the full cooperation and support of the executive branch.
And in particular, I pledge that the expenditures of your
government will be administered with the utmost thrift
and frugality. I will insist that the government get a
dollar's value for a dollar spent. The government will
set an example of prudence and economy. This does not mean
that we will not meet our unfilled needs or that we will
not honor our commitments. We will do both.
As one who has long served in both houses of the Congress,
I firmly believe in the independence and the integrity
of the legislative branch. And I promise you that I shall
always respect this. It is deep in the marrow of my bones.
With equal firmness, I believe in the capacity and I believe
in the ability of the Congress, despite the divisions of
opinions which characterize our nation, to act-to act wisely,
to act vigorously, to act speedily when the need arises.
The need is here. The need is now. I ask your help.
We meet in grief, but let us also meet in renewed dedication
and renewed vigor. Let us meet in action, in tolerance,
and in mutual understanding. John Kennedy's death commands
what his life conveyed-that America must move forward.
The time has come for Americans of all races and creeds
and political beliefs to understand and to respect one
another. So let us put an end to the teaching and the preaching
of hate and evil and violence. Let us turn away from the
fanatics of the far left and the far right, from the apostles
of bitterness and bigotry, from those defiant of law, and
those who pour venom into our nation's bloodstream.
I profoundly hope that the tragedy and the torment of
these terrible days will bind us together in new fellowship,
making us one people in our hour of sorrow. So let us here
highly resolve that John Fitzgerald Kennedy did not live-or
die-in vain. And on this Thanksgiving eve, as we gather
together to ask the Lord's blessing, and give Him our thanks,
let us unite in those familiar and cherished words:
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good
From sea to shining sea.