John F. Kennedy and the End of Ideology

On May 21, 1962, JFK said:

I would like to say a word about the difference between myth and reality. Most of us are conditioned for many years to have a political viewpoint, Republican or Democrat--liberal, conservative, moderate. The fact of the matter is that most of the problems, or at least many of them that we now face, are technical problems, are administrative problems. They are very sophisticated judgments which do not lend themselves to the great sort of "passionate movements" which have stirred this country so often in the past. Now they deal with questions which are beyond the comprehension of most men.

At the 1962 Yale University commencement, JFK said:

Today...the central domestic problems of our time are more subtle and less simple. They do not relate to basic clashes of philosophy and ideology, but to ways and means of recasting common goals--to research for sophisticated solutions to complex and obstinate issues.

What is at stake in our economic decisions today is not some grand warfare of rival ideologies which will sweep the country with passion but the practical management of a modern economy. What we need are not labels and cliche's but more basic discussion of the sophisticated and technical questions involved in keeping a great economic machinery moving ahead.

...[P]olitical beliefs and ideological approaches are irrelevant to the solutions.

...[T]he problems of...the Sixties as opposed to the kinds of problems we faced in the Thirties demand subtle challenges for which technical answers--not political answers--must be provided.

JFK's inaugural address, January 1961.
JFK on Joseph McCarthy.
Go to the American 1950s home page.
Go to Al Filreis's home page.

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Last modified: Monday, 02-Aug-2004 09:28:47 EDT