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The longest short speech ever

Yesterday I had lunch at the magnificent Students Union of Michigan University in Ann Arbor. As we went up the steps an enormous red squirrel bounded across ahead of us, which was an unexpected treat, but then my companion pointed out a small brass plaque on the ground at the top of the steps, marking the spot where President Kennedy announced the formation of the Peace Corps in 1960. 

Intrigued, I looked up the story, and found more here: http://peacecorps.umich.edu/Tobin.html

It wasn't a planned speech: it was late, and Kennedy had just planned to go to bed on arrival, but he was greeted by thousands of students and rose to the occasion with an extemporised speech. It included this: 

How many of you who are going to be doctors are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers: how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world? On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can. And I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we've ever made in the past.

Kennedy himself described it as 'the longest short speech I've ever made'. But from it came one of the most powerful movements for peace and development the world has ever seen. Incredible what can emerge even when we're not prepared, and the moment doesn't seem right, and it's not how we planned it. Speak with care and with ambition. 

This entry was posted on 07 February 2017 at 12:30 and is filed under Other. You can leave a response here.

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