We now continue to elaborate on JFK’s major accomplishments:
Contrary to the misbegotten trope that Peace Corps was started as a legion for do- gooders, the actual basis was as part of geopolitical strategy during the Cold War. Even before the program was inaugurated on March 1, 1961, Kennedy had pointed out that the Soviet Union "had hundreds of men and women, scientists, physicists, teachers, engineers, doctors, and nurses . . . prepared to spend their lives abroad in the service of world communism."
Kennedy understood, as few leaders do today, that most true victories aren’t won on battlefields but in the hearts and minds of populations. Support those vulnerable populations in a constructive way – by providing medicines, basic health care, ways to grow new crops to feed themselves, access to clean water and education – and you will win the most critical battles. To say JFK’s program has helped burnish the American image abroad would be an understatement – never mind the common detractors whose only contribution to human advancement to date has been…..well, nothing !
Since 1961, more than 220,000 volunteers- male and female - have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, agricultural development, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, protecting the environment and developing water resources,. Peace Corps volunteers have to be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is now a 27-month commitment.
And no, contrary to the lies of certain n’er do well, ignorant imps (who likely wouldn’t qualify for Peace Corps based on failing the psychological exam) Peace Corps was never a historical haven for “draft dodgers”. As part of the government, how could it have been? To be accepted you had to go through a government screening process and if you had dodged a draft call -up you’d have been exposed in a New York minute. If of draft age, at the time – say late 1960s, early 70s when the Vietnam War was going on – you had to either have a government deferment, or a draft card showing your classification was IY or 4F. There were no exceptions!
The goals of the Peace Corps remain:
1) To help the people of interested countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained workers
2) To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
3) To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
During my four year stint in the Peace Corps in Barbados, I helped set up the Science departments and fully outfitted biology, chemistry and general science laboratories at two different secondary schools, acted as the Head of Science Dept. in both, assisted in teacher education and curriculum development, helped found the Barbados Philosophical Society, and launched the first ever scientific journal for The Barbados Astronomical Society – as well as helping to organize public lectures, seminars, technical workshops.
The ALLIANCE for PROGRESS:
In March, 1961, Kennedy launched this critical economic assistance program – realizing the strategic importance of Latin America. In his opening speech in recognition of its goals, Kennedy said:
“We propose to complete the revolution of the Americas, to build a hemisphere where all men can hope for a suitable standard of living and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom. To achieve this goal political freedom must accompany material progress...Let us once again transform the American Continent into a vast crucible of revolutionary ideas and efforts, a tribute to the power of the creative energies of free men and women, an example to all the world that liberty and progress walk hand in hand. Let us once again awaken our American revolution until it guides the struggles of people everywhere-not with an imperialism of force or fear but the rule of courage and freedom and hope for the future of man
Because of the program, economic assistance to Latin America nearly tripled between fiscal year 1960 and fiscal year 1961. Between 1962 and 1967 the US supplied $1.4 billion per year to Latin America. If new investment is included, the amount of aid rose to $3.3 billion per year during this time span while the total amount of aid was roughly $22.3 billion. Sadly, once LBJ got in, the amount of aid did not equal the net transfer of resources. LBJ was likely worried about the bad press Kennedy had received – as in the reactionary Wall Street Journal – which repeatedly accused him of being a “statist” and using “dirigisme”. (E.g. 8/15/63: 'When Friends Become Foes')
SPACE - THE MOON PROGRAM:
After the ignominy of the Russian satellite Sputnik, launched on Oct. 4, 1957, the U.S. received a wake up call in respect to its science and technology deficiencies. JFK knew that in order to technologically compete, a single program and focus was needed to capture the nation's imagination and to propel it toward a future where it wouldn't be left behind. Thus the manned space program was launched, and Kennedy declared in 1961 that "before this decade is out we will land a man on the Moon". With this single -minded focus the national resources were summoned through NASA, and he was as good as his word, with the Apollo astronauts setting down on July 20, 1969. Look at most of those who became interested in math or science, especially physics - at the time - and they will tell you it was Kennedy's challenge of going to the Moon, and manned space exploration in general. For me, I recall Alan Shepherd's Mercury flight on May 5, 1961 as if it was yesterday.
Many of the devices we take for granted today, especially in computers and electronic miniaturization, are direct spinoffs from the manned space program. Specific examples include: artificial limbs, scratch resistant lenses, ventricular assist devices, and light emitting diodes for medical therapies. In addition, you can thank the space program for having provided the satellites essential to keep your GPS locators functioning in your cars and satellite dishes operating for your satellite TV. You can also thank the space program for all the weather satellites that make it possible to know in advance the approach of hurricanes.
THE NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY:
Few Americans today appreciate what we had to endure in the 1950s - early 60s, in terms of radioactive fallout (with Strontium 90 and other nuclides contaminating food, air, water etc.) from massive Russian and U.S. nuclear tests in the atmosphere. Often, say each month, 100 megaton or larger test warheads would be detonated – especially in the Soviet Union. The radiation from the blasts traveled across Europe as well as the Pacific. The U.S. had its share of tests too, and before Kennedy’s initiative (signed also by Nikita Khrushchev) few of us knew whether or if it would ever end.
But with the signing and ratification of the Nuclear Test Ban treaty in August, 1963, it did. As author James Douglass aptly has noted (JFK and the Unspeakable):
“The test ban treaty was JFK’s critically important way to initiate, with Khrushchev, the end of the Cold War and their joint leadership in the United Nations for the redemptive process of general and complete disarmament.”
What changed Kennedy? Most observers believe it was the close call with the Cuban Missile crisis. Kennedy then became firmly convinced there needed to be controls in place, and also a path to general nuclear disarmament. In his American University speech on June 10, 1963, for example, JFK noted:
“Our primary long-range interest is general and complete disarmament- designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms”.
Indeed, in his National Security Action Memorandum 239 he explicitly said he was prepared to pursue such a program, noting:
” The events of the last two years have increased my concern for the consequences of an unchecked continuation of the arms race between ourselves and the Soviet bloc.”
CHALLENGING THE FEDERAL RESERVE CONTROL OF THE MONEY SUPPLY
Kennedy, while not a strict constructionist as regards the Constitution, did believe that the creation of money was legally only allotted to the U.S. Treasury and not an outside banking enterprise. (Which the Federal Reserve was, and is – see e.g. James Livingstone Origins of the Federal Reserve System - Money, Class and Corporate Capitalism 1890- 1913, Cornell University Press, 1986, p.233.)
Realizing that if he didn’t make a move to challenge the Federal Reserve no one else would, he signed Executive Order 11,110 on June 4, 1963 - to challenge Fed's control of the money supply. This EO authorized the creation of some $4.2 billion in U.S. Notes ($30b in today's dollars) to replace Federal Reserve Notes. These U.S. Notes were issued by Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon, and bore his signature. After the assassination nearly all the notes were recalled. I was fortunate in being able to save two: a $2 note with Jefferson on the front, and a $5 with Lincoln. Both display the serial numbers in red ink, not green like Federal Reserve notes. Readers who are interested in seeing the fiver can go to my blog post of July 14, last year, e.g.
JFK's U.S. note issuance was clearly an effort to break the Fed stranglehold, and especially its policy whereby new money is brokered into the M1 supply system via interest, passed on to lending, issuing banks, thereby creating a stream of new debt each time.
Had he lived, massive additional infusions of U.S. Notes likely would have occurred, ultimately leading the way to redundancy of the Federal Reserve. But perhaps that’s why he couldn’t be allowed to live.
RAPPROCHEMENT WITH FIDEL CASTRO:
JFK realized also in the wake of the Cuban Missile crisis, that Castro’s Cuba could not be an enemy of the U.S. for life. There was no upside to it, for either nation. National Archives specialist and archivist Peter Kornbluh has already extensively documented the goings on in the Kennedy white house to do with Cuba in the months leading up to his assassination. Much of this was documented in his article, 'Kennedy and Castro: What Might Have
Been', in The Baltimore Sun, Aug. 22, 1999, p. 1C. As he notes:
"Unknown to all but Robert Kennedy and a handful of advisors, John
Kennedy began pursuing an alternative tact on Cuba in 1963: a secret
dialogue toward a rapprochement with Castro. "
"The first private channel to Castro was James Donovan, a Washington
lawyer negotiating the release of the Bay of Pigs prisoners. During the
late fall of 1962, Donovan became the first American emissary to gain
Castro's ear and his trust. Donovan arranged a trade of $62 million in
food and medicines for the imprisoned brigade members. During the
spring of 1963 he continued his trips to Havana to secure the release of
two dozen American citizens including three CIA operatives, held in
Cuban jails. Debriefed by U.S. intelligence officials after each trip,
Donovan described his meetings with Castro as 'most cordial and
Developments proceeded rapidly, according to the Kornbluh documents, until by November 19, 1963, the stage was set for a preliminary “secret meeting at the United Nations to discuss an agenda for talks with Castro”. Alas, it was not to be, and 3 days later Kennedy was dead. Most deep politics researchers suspect the CIA caught wind of the plan – despite the extraordinary efforts to keep it secret- and this along with Kennedy’s plan to pull out of Vietnam in 1965 sealed his fate. (Also quite plausible, is that the anti-Castro Bay of Pigs Cubans run by George Joannides of the CIA were privy to the Castro rapprochement, and they volunteered to be mechanics in the assassination – to “pay Kennedy back for his treachery".)
Make no mistake the legacy of John F. Kennedy lives on especially in the hearts and minds of those of us who were directly involved in one or more of his programs. We who carry on that legacy seek to make it known, as well as beating back the endless efforts of racist knaves, know-nothings and knuckle draggers to slander his name and besmirch his legacy.