The Last Word | February 18, 2013
>>> on january 20th , 1961 , my understanding of what was possible in the world changed, changed utterly, a new possibility was born.
>> do solemnly swear that you will faithfully execute the office of president of the united states .
>> that i will faithfully execute the office of president of the united states .
>> and will to the best of your ability.
>> and will to the best of my ability.
>> preserve and defend the constitution of the united states .
>> preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the united states .
>> so help you god?
>> so help me god.
>> the first catholic president. that is what that moment was to me. the breaking of a barrier to my future. a catholic could be president. and he was not just catholic. he was boston and he was irish. and all of us boston irish catholic little boys knew in that moment that if we did all of our homework like the nuns told us to, and if we worked really hard and if we were wicked lucky, there was no limit to what we might do. an irish catholic could be president. i know it seems like a small barrier to break to anyone born after the kennedy presidency, but to little boys and girls born to parents and grandparents, told them about job listings in the newspaper that said "no irish need apply," this was the beginning of a limitless possibility. in our hopes and dreams, at least. what followed that breakthrough moment was president kennedy 's inaugural address with the most memorable inaugural line in history.
>> ask not what your country can do for you. ask what you can do for your country .
>> like the gettysburg address , it is a remarkably short speech by presidential standards. it took president kennedy just 14 minutes to conclude the speech, including the applause, so as written, i can't watch that speech without crying. it is not a sad speech, but full of hope and well-placed confidence and humility. but it was the knowledge that that presidency lasted only a thousand days that gives the speech the tragic undertone. harvard tweeted a new link of the version of the speech today. it is not a rewrite of kennedy's inaugural address . it is a re-interpretation. we'll show you some of it now, to see the full version, go to our website, thelastword.com. if you don't cry at the last sentence, you are not less sensitive than i, it just means you're younger.
>> we observed today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom. symbolizing an end as well as a beginning. signifying renewal as well as change. for i have sworn before you an an -- - almighty god , the world is very different now.
>> for man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms against human life .
>> the issues are still around the globe, the belief that the rights of man come not from the generousty of the state, but from the hand of god , we dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution.
>> let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike that the torch is passed to a new generation of americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our heritage.
>> and unwilling to witness to undo the slow rights to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
>> let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
>> this much we pledge, and more.
>> but this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. let all of our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppo oppose oppression.
>> and let them know this country intends to remain the master of its own house.
>> so let's remember that on both sides, civility is not a sign of weakness.
>> and sincerity is always subject to proof.
>> let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.
>> let both sides explore what problems unite us, instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.
>> let both sides for the first time formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms.
>> and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations. under the absolute control of all nations.
>> let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science. together, let's explore the stars.
>> conquer the deserts, encourage the arts and commerce.
>> let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of isaiah. to undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free.
>> the graves of young americans who answered the call to service are around the globe.
>> now the trumpet calls again, not as arms, not as a call to battle. but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle .
>> year in, year out, rejoicing in hope, against the struggle and the common enemies of man, tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
>> can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance . north, south, east and west , that can assure a more fruitful life for all man kind. will you join in that historic effort?
>> in the long history of the world , only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in maximum danger. i do not shrank from this responsibility, i welcome it. i do not believe any place would exchange itself with any generation.
>> the faith which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it, and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
>> and so my fellow americans, ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country .
>> my fellow citizens of the world , ask not what america will do for you. but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
>> finally, whether you are citizens of america or citizens of the world , ask of us here the same high standards of strength, and sacrifice which we ask of you.
>> with a good conscience, only sure reward with history the final judge of our deeds. let us go forth to lead the land we love.