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Full Transcript: John F. Kennedy’s 4th of July Speech

Full text of President John F. Kennedy’s July 4th Speech (1962) at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

TRANSCRIPT:

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Governor, Governor Powell, Your Excellency The Archbishop, Governor Lawrence, Mayor Tate, Senator Clark, Congressman Green, distinguished governors, ladies and gentlemen, citizens of Philadelphia. It is a high honor for any citizen of the great republic to speak at this Hall of Independence on this day of independence.

To speak as President of the United States to the chief executives of our 50 States is both an opportunity and an obligation. The necessity for comity between the national government and the several states is an indelible lesson of our long history.

Because our system is designed to encourage both differences and dissent, because it’s checks and balances are designed to preserve the rights of the individual and the locality against preeminent central authority, you and I governors, both recognize how dependent we both are, one upon another for the successful operation of our unique and happy form of government.

Our system and our freedom permits the legislative to be pitted against the executive, the state against the federal government, the city against the countryside, the party against party, interest against interest, all in competition or in contention one with another.

Our task, your task in the state house, and my task in the White House is to weave from all these tangled threads a fabric of law and progress. Others may confine themselves to debate, discussion, and that ultimate luxury, free advice. Our responsibility is one of decisions for the governors to choose.

Thus in a very real sense, you and I are the executives of the testament handed down by those who gathered in this historic hall 186 years ago today.

For they gathered to affix their names to a document which was above all else, a document not of rhetoric, but of bold decision. It was, it is true, a document of protest, but protests had been made before. It set forth the grievances with eloquence, but such eloquence had been heard before.

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