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THEODORE C. SORENSEN

What JFK might tell our leaders

TOMORROW WOULD have been John F. Kennedy's 88th birthday. Were he still alive, I have no doubt that, with his customary idealism and commitment to country, he would still be offering advice to our current leaders in Washington. Based upon his words of more than 40 years ago, he might well offer the following:

To President George W. Bush on Iraq, Iran, and North Korea: ''The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. This generation of Americans has had enough -- more than enough -- of war." (American University commencement, 1963)

To President Bush on stem cell research: ''For those of us who are not expert ... we must turn, in the last resort, to objective, disinterested scientists who bring a strong sense of public responsibility and public obligation." (National Academy of Sciences, 1961)

To Vice President Dick Cheney on international organizations, alliances, and consultations: ''The United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. We are only 6 percent of the world's population . . . we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind." (University of Washington, 1961)

To Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on terrorism: ''If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." (Inaugural address, 1961)

To United Nations ambassador-designate John Bolton on diplomacy: ''Civility is not a sign of weakness. The United Nations [is] our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace." (Inaugural address, 1961)

To Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on space: ''We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding. This new ocean must be a sea of peace, [not] a new terrifying theater of war." (Rice University, 1962)

To House Majority Leader Tom Delay on fund-raising: We need ''men of integrity whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust." (Massachusetts farewell, 1961)

To Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on judges: ''To maintain the constitutional principle, we should support Supreme Court decisions, even when we may not agree with them." (News conference, 1962)

To White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan on negative news media: ''It is never pleasant to be reading things that are not agreeable news, but it is an invaluable arm to the presidency as a check on what is going on . . . [e]ven though we never like it . . . and wish they didn't write it . . . we could not do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press." (Television interview, 1962)

To pastor-in-chief Pat Robertson on church-state separation: ''I believe in an America where no [clergyman] would tell his parishioners for whom to vote, where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the public acts of our officials, where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference. The presidency must not be the instrument of any one religious group." (Houston ministers, 1960)

To Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes on propaganda: ''The United States is a peaceful nation where our strength and determination are clear, our words need merely to convey conviction not belligerence." (undelivered Dallas speech, 1963)

How I miss his friendship. How our nation misses his wisdom.

Theodore C. Sorensen is former special counsel to President Kennedy.


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