Less than a month before he was killed, President John F. Kennedy gave a speech at Amherst College. This was part of a ceremony at the groundbreaking of a new library named after the poet Robert Frost.
Frost had died earlier in 1963. In January 1960, Frost read his poem The Gift Outright at Kennedy’s inauguration. Prior to giving the speech, Kennedy received an honorary degree from Amherst.
I love these quotes which follow. Maybe JFK would have done more for the arts, had he lived.
Here are some quotes from that speech:
“There is inherited wealth in this country and also inherited poverty.”
“The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure. He has, as Frost said, a lover’s quarrel with the world. In pursuing his perceptions of reality, he must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role.”
“If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our Nation fails short of its highest potential. I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.”
“I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.”
October 26, 1963