Excerpts from a July 4, 1962, speech by President John F. Kennedy to the governors of the 50 states:
To speak as president of the United States to the chief executives of our 50 states is both an opportunity and an obligation. The necessity for comity between the national government and the several states is an indelible lesson of our long history.
Because our system is designed to encourage both differences and dissent, because its checks and balances are designed to preserve the rights of the individual and the locality against preeminent central authority, you and I, governors, recognize how dependent we both are, one upon the other, for the successful operation of our unique and happy form of government.
Our system and our freedom permit the legislative to be pitted against the executive, the state against the federal government, the city against the countryside, party against party, interest against interest, all in competition or in contention one with another.
Our task — your task in the state house and my task in the White House — is to weave from all these tangled threads a fabric of law and progress.
We are not permitted the luxury of irresolution. Others may confine themselves to debate, discussion, and that ultimate luxury — free advice. Our responsibility is one of decision — for to govern is to choose. ...
Thus, in a very real sense, you and I are the executors of the testament handed down by those who gathered in this historic hall 186 years ago today. For they gathered to affix their names to a document which was, above all else, a document not of rhetoric but of bold decision.
It was, it is true, a document of protest — but protests had been made before. It set forth their grievances with eloquence — but such eloquence had been heard before.
But what distinguished this paper from all the others was the final irrevocable decision that it took — to assert the independence of free states in place of colonies, and to commit to that goal their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
Today, 186 years later, that Declaration whose yellowing parchment and fading, almost illegible lines I saw in the past week in the National Archives in Washington is still a revolutionary document. To read it today is to hear a trumpet call.
For that Declaration unleashed not merely a revolution against the British, but a revolution in human affairs. ...
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
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