Friday, January 13, 2006

From the annals of history

In middle school, my English teacher had us all memorize a passage from a speech that the fabulous Bobby Kennedy delivered at the University of Kansas in 1968. Since then, I've kept a copy of it in my journal, both for its stark view of the present and its powerful hope for how the world could be. I thought I'd pull it out in hopes that some of you could also draw inspiration from it.


"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

Robert F. Kennedy
Delivered at the University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas
March 18, 1968

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