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Vanden Heuvel and Carden Reflect on JFK’s American University Speech

June 9, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—Katrina vanden Heuvel and James Carden published an article in Responsible Statecraft that focuses on the quality of empathy expressed by President Kennedy towards the Soviet Union in his speech at American University in 1963, and they poignantly note the lack of such emotion today in Joe Biden’s Washington. Carden is a former adviser to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Commission at the U.S. Department of State, and has written articles and essays for numerous publications, including The Nation. Vanden Heuvel is editorial director and publisher of The Nation and is vice-president of the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord (ACURA), the successor organization to the Committee for East-West Accord which was founded in 2015 by vanden Heuvel’s husband, the late Professor Stephen F. Cohen. In the formation of ACURA, Cohen was joined by his father-in-law, William vanden Heuvel, a former diplomat who had earlier served as U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s assistant in 1962.

The article in Responsible Statecraft by vanden Heuvel and Carden is titled “What Kind of Peace Do We Seek? At 60, JFK’s Speech Never Gets Old,” with the subtitle, “On Saturday it will be six decades since the 35th President made a call for not seeing the Soviet enemy as ‘evil.’ We have a lot to learn.” They note the importance of the fact that at American University, “Kennedy took his case for a sane, rational and above all ethical Cold War policy directly to the American people.” Moreover, vanden Heuvel and Carden recall that “Kennedy and Khrushchev had developed a rapport which helped steer us away from apocalypse during the Cuban Missile Crisis,” which was ultimately based on the quality of empathy expressed by Kennedy when he said: “No government or social system is so evil, that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue.”

Their article concludes:

“Such a way of thinking about the current Russian adversary is now notably absent in the corridors of power of Joe Biden’s Washington.

“Indeed, in our view, Kennedy’s speech now stands as an important indictment of how far in the wrong direction recent Democratic administrations have traveled in the decades since Kennedy’s speech. While we are both on record condemning Putin’s invasion, we are mindful of the administration’s failure to pursue diplomatic avenues to both prevent and end the war.

“Today we stand perilously close to nuclear escalation as the administration ignores the red lines it set and succumbs to assorted hawks by agreeing to send F-16s to Ukraine. One can only hope President Kennedy’s message, delivered six decades ago this Saturday, somehow and in some way is understood by a new generation inside and outside Washington D.C., and has an impact on the course of war—and peace.”

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