‘A strategy of peace’

By Tony Magliano, 8 June 2023
An undated portrait photo of President John F. Kennedy. Image: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston


There is no shortage of those who speak and act as though war is inevitable.

In ancient history, in recent history, and in our own day, war has, and continues to have, its unholy heel on the neck of humanity – especially the neck of humanity’s poor and vulnerable.

People training for war, people making weapons of war, people in government budgeting huge sums of money for war, people planning to extend current wars, people planning new wars, and people who remain silent and indifferent while all this war-making and war preparation continues unabated, are people who believe that war is inevitable, and that peacemaking is impractical.

In the face of all this warmongering, a surprising voice was raised to challenge this hellish notion that war is inevitable and that peacemaking is impractical.

In a few days, we will, or at least should be, commemorating the 60th anniversary of perhaps the most hopefully inspiring peace speech given by a head of state in modern times.

On June 10, 1963, US President John F. Kennedy delivered the commencement address at American University in Washington, D.C. His message to the graduating class, and to the world, titled “A Strategy of Peace,” surprisingly reflected very little of the warrior, but instead rang out with confident, courageous hope that a better world, a far more peaceful world was not simply impractical fantasy for dreamers, but with practical, doable steps, was indeed achievable in the here and now.

Perhaps it was the nail-biting closeness the Soviet Union and the United States had come to total nuclear war just months earlier, or maybe it was the saintly “Good Pope John” XXIII’s letter to him pleading that he back away from the precipice of nuclear global destruction, or possibly it was a deep reflection on his own serious battle scars from World War II that led the president of the most militarily powerful nation on earth to extend an olive branch to the receptive Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the other most militarily powerful military nation on earth.

In his “A Strategy of Peace” address, Kennedy said, “What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. … I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”

Continuing with his inspiring rhythm for peace, Kennedy added, “Total war makes no sense…It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost 10 times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War…

“So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable.”

One could say that Kennedy, in his “A Strategy of Peace” address was ahead of his time. But no, it would be better said that “A Strategy of Peace” was right on time!

Too sad, and too bad that his assassination prevented him from moving forward with his courageous vision of peace. And too sad, and too bad that no other American, Soviet/Russian, or other government head of state since Kennedy has had the courage to convert from warrior to peacemaker.

Watch President Kennedy’s inspiring commencement address (see: http://bit.ly/3MRV79U) and ask your government leaders to watch it. And pray that they, like Kennedy, will muster up the courage to champion nuclear disarmament, and even total disarmament. That they will become champions for a peaceful world as God intended.

“For in the final analysis,” Kennedy inspiringly said, “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

“‘When a man’s ways please the Lord,’ the Scriptures tell us, “‘he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.


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