Reading Response Paper: Lyndon Johnson and John Kennedy Essay

June 25, 2021 by Essay Writer


The political environment of the 1960s was characterized by calls of self-determination and self-preservation of states and governments around the world. The cold war antagonists were seeking expanded hemispheres of control outside their mainland to tilt the balance of power in their favor, while foreign policies were not formulated to necessarily achieve the goals. Johnson and Kennedy argue that foreign policy and diplomacy were not the only phenomena of the 1960s decades (Johnson par 1; Kennedy 235). However, all the assertions of the president in the speech are founded on the US constitution. This paper focuses on analyzing the addresses of President Lyndon B. Johnson and President John F. Kennedy in 1964 and 1961.

Elements in the two readings

The two speeches concentrate on promoting the affairs of the US, especially with regard to the international community. From his speech, Johnson contends that foreign aid is an efficient tool that could be used by the US to secure and achieve its national goals. This is the same opinion that was held by John F. Kennedy in his speech. Indeed, the two leaders’ assertions that the US could come up with a better foreign aid regime could be viewed as a proposed deal to the members of the non-allied states, which had strategically distanced themselves from the open confrontation with the major powers. It is evident that the 1960s saw that third world countries receive billions of dollars in foreign aid to be allied to either power. Thus, Johnson’s move to argue for foreign aid, though veiled in humanitarian guise, was a potent political tool not only for survival but also for securing American interests in faraway territories in the world.

STARTS is an acronym for the strategic arms reduction talks of the 1960s that called upon states, not to stock unnecessary weapons. The cold war was at its pick in the 1960s, and the implication was that the major powers and their allies were increasingly arming themselves in case a war broke out. This state of affairs posed a great danger in terms of powerful weapons finding their way into the hands of rogue states or terror groups. Johnson’s call that America should not stock its weapons to non-economic levels was, indeed, the prevailing idea at the time. In 1967, a few years after his speech, the non-proliferation treaty was signed to ensure that nuclear weapons do not find their way to non-nuclear states. The call for a strategic reduction of arms was also informed by moral principles. For example, it was found unreasonable for countries to purchase or manufacture expensive weapons while their citizens starve.

Johnson observes that the US should keep a lean military budget. However, the president argued, the military should be well funded to cater for emergencies. In essence, Johnson’s argument can be understood to mean that America was going to pursue military might and seek hegemony, including in space as he puts it in his speech (Johnson par 4). True to his word, America later conquered space exploration by ensuring that it landed the first man on the moon. Thus, American’s strategic positioning at the time was a combination of approaches to the cold war (Murrin et al. 76).

The speech by President John F. Kennedy shows that the leader was of the opinion that America should not stop and watch as those who spread violence and aggression freely mess the international system (Kennedy 235). For example, he makes a bold reference to ‘those in Hanoi and Havana.’ This reference was clearly targeting the Soviet Union in relation to the Cuban crisis (Murrin et al. 80). In fact, Johnson knew that it did not only require diplomacy to end such attempts, but also a threat of war as envisaged in chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter.

The speeches demonstrate the assertion of the presidents with regard to international trade. They observe that America must sell and buy. In addition, they offer that the United States of America will offer the international system a fair chance to sell in the US markets too. The statements were in the light of the fact that the cold war was taking other forms with the US restricting access to its markets. America, being a proponent of free markets and the world’s largest economy, had to secure its interests in trade. It is at the core of the United Nations Charter that when a country’s national interests are threatened, then it can make a declaration that could improve its trade.

Based on his address, LBJ’s comprehension of the goals of the US foreign policy in the 1960s seems to be focused on encouraging all nations to work with the US (Johnson par 10). In fact, he argues that that world would be made safe for diversity on the premises of cooperation among nations. This vision is not similar to the one held by JKF, who assures good relationships with only the nations that cooperate with the US (Kennedy 235). In his argument, JKF argues that only the true friends of the US should be allowed to benefit from the foreign policy aspects of the nation.

Conclusion: A Comparative Outlook

Johnson’s dream of a free world is almost similar to the one held by John F. Kennedy. Just as Kennedy had done, Johnson calls for the free rule of all people. The 1960s were the years of colonialism and imperialism. Thus, issues of international peace and security, human rights movements, and independence of the colonized people could not escape the eye of the new president as he sought to make a national and international agenda based on critical global issues.

Works Cited

Johnson, Lyndon B. Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union. 1964. Web.

Kennedy, John F. “Inaugural Address: 1961.” J. Pub. L. 12 (1963): 235. Print.

Murrin, John, Paul Johnson, James McPherson, Alice Fahs, and Gary Gerstle. Liberty, equality, power: a history of the American people. 6th ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.

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