29 October, 2020

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On 50th Death Anniversary Of JFK

 By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

One hundred years from now the world will still remember this remarkable man who inspired his country and rest of the world. At a time when the country needed an inspirational leader –  Kennedy was to deliver this need within 1000 days of his presidency. This was following the difficult period under President Eisenhower. He was a president who averted a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis; taking 13 days to decide the best possible alternative to avoid a nuclear disaster. This is clearly described by his speech writer Ted Sorenson in his book on decision making in the White House. He was a inspirational leader creating hope amongst young people from his inaugural speech saying, “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”; to his final speech and he always spoke of hope to create a better world.

Creating a connection across borders from east to west – he did so by setting up USAID. He also initiated the Peace Corps which allowed school children in the US to travel and explore other countries, learn their cultures and spread democratic values – nothing short of a brilliant initiative. One of the most remarkable speeches he delivered was at Rice University in September 12, 1962 where he explains the importance of the space program and allocated the biggest budget – (US$5.2 billion) that had been allocated by any leader at that time for research and development. He did that envisioning how 50 years from that day the country would benefit from technology.

His vision for the American space exploration transformed rural Southern economies providing them with high-paying science jobs. As a leader he thought beyond his political term unlike many politicians who think only in terms of short term political gains.

In a time like today where more than 160,000 people have been killed in Syria over the last two years we need to ask ourselves if we have the right leaders with the correct vision. Some say JFK was an unpopular president, I think he took many unpopular decisions with courage and this made him unpopular and resulted in his assassination on this day 50 years ago.

In a notable address at University of Washington in the fall of 1961 he said “We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient… that we cannot impose our will upon the 94 percent of mankind – that we cannot right every wrong or reserve each adversity -and that there cannot be an American solution to every world problem”.  This statement clearly explains his diplomacy and balanced approach to every crisis.  He had a desire to please everyone when advised by his advisors to be Chamberlain and Churchill (which was not to try and do two opposite things at once) JFK’s reply was “All of life is like that -systole and diastole”.

His ideas and attitudes on negotiations was that “Negotiations are not a contest spelling victory or defeat” which is a clear lesson for many present world leaders who think it should be a ‘football stadium psychology’ with a winner and a loser. As he says “Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind” and on his 50th death anniversary we should reflect on the great vision he had which is to create a peaceful world.

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    He was a very rich womanizer.

    Why do you want him as the mentor ?

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