Sixty years ago on November 22, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination left an enduring mark on the American psyche, extending beyond the personal loss experienced by my family – the loss of an uncle, brother, husband, and father. The national trauma of that day not only deprived us of a beloved figure but also robbed the nation of a vision that, even now, we have the potential to revive. While aspects of Kennedy’s legacy, such as his advocacy for civil rights, desegregation, and the space program, endure, America has drifted from the central vision he held dear: the vision of a peaceful nation.
Against pressures from his cabinet, the CIA, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Kennedy resisted engaging in war in Laos (1961), Berlin (1962), and an invasion of Cuba following the Bay of Pigs incident. His refusal to bomb Russian missile batteries during the Cuban missile crisis likely averted nuclear catastrophe, demonstrating his robust and ideological commitment to peace. When asked about his desired epitaph, Kennedy expressed, “He kept the peace,” emphasizing the president’s primary duty to prevent war. This commitment led to the establishment of the Peace Corps, symbolizing an image of America not as a nation armed with soldiers but as one with Peace Corps volunteers.
Kennedy’s dedication to peace heightened as he confronted the military-industrial complex, echoing Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warnings. In his famous Peace Speech at Washington University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy articulated sentiments that, if implemented, could have altered world history. Acting on this conviction, he negotiated the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with Khrushchev and issued a national security order mandating the withdrawal of U.S. military advisors from Vietnam. Unfortunately, this order went unfulfilled as President Lyndon Johnson escalated involvement in Vietnam, setting the stage for a series of regime change wars that eroded America’s identity as a peaceful nation.
The post-Vietnam era saw the United States deviate from its core strengths – a robust economy and the well-being of its citizens – as trillions were spent on wars with questionable justifications. The aftermath of post-9/11 conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, coupled with the maintenance of hundreds of military bases worldwide, has burdened the nation with a staggering $33 trillion debt. Redirecting these resources toward education, infrastructure, poverty, health, and the environment could have made America stronger and more secure.
Despite the challenges, there is still an opportunity to redirect the nation toward the peace path envisioned by John F. Kennedy. America’s abundant resources, inventive population, and leading GDP position it to regain post-WWII prosperity, a thriving middle class, and a renewed optimism. If elected president, I commit to unwinding the American military empire, refocusing the military on homeland defense, and abandoning provocative policies towards China and Russia. In alignment with JFK’s vision, I will initiate a phased closure of most foreign military bases, reduce military size, and establish a domestic Peace Corps to offer young people a new way to serve their country. It is not too late to reclaim the path to peace and reshape the nation’s future.