John Fitzgerald Kennedy: Much is required

For those to whom much is given, much is required. And when, at some future date, the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us, recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state, our success or failure … will be measured by the answers to these questions:

1st: were we truly men of courage — with the courage to stand up to one’s enemies, the courage to stand up…to one’s associates, and the courage to resist public pressure, as well as private greed?

2nd: were we truly men of judgment with perspective judgment of the future as well as the past, of our mistakes as well as the mistakes of others, with enough wisdom to know what we did not know, and enough candor to admit it?

3rd: were we truly men of integrity — who never ran out on either the principles in which we believe or the men who believed in us … Finally, were we truly men of dedication with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and comprised of private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest? Courage, Judgment, Integrity, Dedication these are the historic qualities which, with God’s help, will characterize our Government’s conduct in the years ahead.”

—John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Sidney Madwed: Most agonizing torture

“I was always puzzled by the fact that people have a great deal of trouble and pain when and if they are forced or feel forced to change a belief or circumstance which they hold dear. I  found what I believe is the answer when I read that a Canadian neurosurgeon discovered some truths about the human mind which revealed the intensity of this problem. He conducted some experiments which proved that when a person is forced to change a basic belief or viewpoint, the brain undergoes a series of nervous sensations equivalent to the most agonizing torture.”

— Reasoning About Uncertainty, Sidney Madwed.

Lord Byron: Advantages of looking at mankind

“I am so convinced of the advantages of looking at mankind instead of reading about them, and of the bitter effects of staying at home with all the narrow prejudices of an islander, that I think there should be a law amongst us to set our young men abroad for a term among the few allies our wars have left us.”

—-Lord Byron.

Amanda Gorman: The hill we climb

“When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.
We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine,
but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
This effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust,
for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared it at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour,
but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So while once we asked, ‘How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?’ now we assert, ‘How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?’

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be:
A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the west.
We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked south.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country,
our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

—Amanda Gorman.