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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index K > John F. Kennedy Quotes

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John F. Kennedy
(29 May 1917 - 22 Nov 1963)

American president who was 35th President of the U.S. (1961-63). During his term, he had to deal with the situation of Russian offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba, discovered in Oct 1962. By 1963, a test ban treaty was established to slow the arms race. He was assassinated later that year.

Science Quotes by John F. Kennedy (19 quotes)


Photo of Presedent Kennedy - upper body behind lectern.
President John F. Kennedy addressing Joint Session of Congress (25 May 1961) (source)
A Canadian newspaperman said yesterday that this is the President's “Easter egghead roll on the White House lawn.” I want to deny that!
[Welcoming Nobel Prize winners as his guests at a White House dinner.]
— John F. Kennedy
Remarks at a dinner honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere (29 Apr 1962). From John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online].
Science quotes on:  |  Easter (2)  |  Nobel Prize (17)  |  White House (2)

As science, of necessity, becomes more involved with itself, so also, of necessity, it becomes more international. I am impressed to know that of the 670 members of this Academy [National Academy of Sciences], 163 were born in other lands.
— John F. Kennedy
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest.' Online at The American Presidency Project.
Science quotes on:  |  Academy (7)  |  Born (5)  |  Impressed (3)  |  International (5)  |  Land (25)  |  Member (10)  |  Necessity (78)  |  Science (850)

Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.
— John F. Kennedy
In a personal notebook (1945-46). Discussed in Hugh Rawson and Margaret Miner, The Oxford Dictionary of American Quotations (2005), 201, as possibly being a very brief paraphrase of a verse by Robert Frost from 'The Wall' (1914) (See Robert Frost quotations page on this site). Elsewhere, it has been suggested to be a summary paraphrase of a much longer passage in G.K. Chesterton, The Thing (1929). (See G.K. Chesterton quotations on this site.) Meanwhile, many collections of quotations incorrectly attribute the short quote as worded above directly to either Robert Frost or G.K. Chesterton.
Science quotes on:  |  Down (11)  |  Fence (6)  |  Reason (172)  |  Taking (7)

I am reminded of the great French Marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. The Marshal replied, “In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon.”
— John F. Kennedy
Address at the University of California, Berkeley, California (23 March 1962), in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy (1962), 266. Kennedy used this story several times. The indicated source, Marshal Lyautey, has not been verified. Contact Webmaster if you know a primary source.
Science quotes on:  |  Growth (65)  |  Hundred (11)  |  Loss (43)  |  Maturity (4)  |  Plant (93)  |  Time (160)  |  Tree (81)  |  Year (61)

I believe that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.
— John F. Kennedy
Address to Joint Session of Congress, on Urgent National Needs (25 May 1961). On web site of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Also in Vital Speeches of the Day (15 Jun 1961), Vol. 27, No. 17, 518-9.
Science quotes on:  |  Astronaut (10)  |  Moon (78)  |  Technology (95)

I know few significant questions of public policy which can safely be confided to computers. In the end, the hard decisions inescapably involve imponderables of intuition, prudence, and judgment.
— John F. Kennedy
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest.' Online at The American Presidency Project.
Science quotes on:  |  Computer (51)  |  Decision (30)  |  Imponderable (2)  |  Intuition (25)  |  Involve (5)  |  Judgment (38)  |  Policy (10)  |  Prudence (3)  |  Public (32)  |  Question (152)  |  Significant (7)

In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.
— John F. Kennedy
Commencement Address at American University, Washington, D.C. (Jun 1963). In Steven Cohen, Understanding Environmental Policy (2006), Preface, xi. Also on web site of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Science quotes on:  |  Air (84)  |  All (5)  |  Analysis (78)  |  Basic (18)  |  Breathe (9)  |  Cherish (2)  |  Children (14)  |  Common (42)  |  Future (101)  |  Link (11)  |  Mortal (6)  |  Planet (77)  |  Small (31)

In the years since man unlocked the power stored up within the atom, the world has made progress, halting, but effective, toward bringing that power under human control. The challenge may be our salvation. As we begin to master the destructive potentialities of modern science, we move toward a new era in which science can fulfill its creative promise and help bring into existence the happiest society the world has ever known.
— John F. Kennedy
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest.' Online at The American Presidency Project.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Energy (11)  |  Happiness (56)  |  Progress (198)

Malthus argued a century and a half ago that man, by using up all his available resources, would forever press on the limits of subsistence, thus condemning humanity to an indefinite future of misery and poverty. We can now begin to hope and, I believe, know that Malthus was expressing not a law of nature, but merely the limitation then of scientific and social wisdom. The truth or falsity of his prediction will depend now, with the tools we have, on our own actions, now and in the years to come.
— John F. Kennedy
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest'. Online at The American Presidency Project.
Science quotes on:  |  Action (52)  |  Condemn (2)  |  Depend (9)  |  Falsity (9)  |  Forever (13)  |  Future (101)  |  Hope (50)  |  Humanity (45)  |  Indefinite (2)  |  Law Of Nature (30)  |  Limit (33)  |  Limitation (8)  |  Thomas Robert Malthus (12)  |  Misery (10)  |  Poverty (21)  |  Prediction (45)  |  Press (8)  |  Resource (15)  |  Scientific (54)  |  Social (14)  |  Subsistence (5)  |  Tool (30)  |  Truth (440)  |  Wisdom (87)

Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all.
— John F. Kennedy
Remarks upon presenting the NASA Distinguished Service Medal to astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, in the Flower Garden, at the White House, Washington, D.C. (21 May 1963). From John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online].
Science quotes on:  |  Computer (51)  |  Extraordinary (18)  |  Man (258)

Perhaps scientists have been the most international of all professions in their outlook... Every time you scientists make a major invention, we politicians have to invent a new institution to cope with it—and almost invariably, these days, it must be an international institution.
— John F. Kennedy
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest'. Online at The American Presidency Project.
Science quotes on:  |  Government (48)  |  Invention (167)

Science contributes to our culture in many ways, as a creative intellectual activity in its own right, as the light which has served to illuminate man's place in the universe, and as the source of understanding of man's own nature.
— John F. Kennedy
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest.' Online at The American Presidency Project.

Scientists alone can establish the objectives of their research, but society, in extending support to science, must take account of its own needs. As a layman, I can suggest only with diffidence what some of the major tasks might be on your scientific agenda, but ... First, I would suggest the question of the conservation and development of our natural resources. In a recent speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, I proposed a world-wide program to protect land and water, forests and wildlife, to combat exhaustion and erosion, to stop the contamination of water and air by industrial as well as nuclear pollution, and to provide for the steady renewal and expansion of the natural bases of life.
— John F. Kennedy
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest'. Online at The American Presidency Project.
Science quotes on:  |  Air (84)  |  Alone (11)  |  Combat (3)  |  Conservation (40)  |  Development (117)  |  Erosion (12)  |  Establish (10)  |  Exhaustion (11)  |  Expansion (16)  |  Forest (53)  |  Industrial (3)  |  Land (25)  |  Layman (7)  |  Life (439)  |  Major (6)  |  Natural Resource (11)  |  Need (54)  |  Nuclear (10)  |  Objective (18)  |  Pollution (16)  |  Program (7)  |  Propose (2)  |  Protect (4)  |  Question (152)  |  Recent (13)  |  Renewal (2)  |  Research (358)  |  Science (850)  |  Scientist (224)  |  Society (81)  |  Speech (19)  |  Stop (23)  |  Suggest (2)  |  Support (24)  |  Task (31)  |  United Nations (2)  |  Water (116)  |  Wildlife (5)  |  Worldwide (4)

The science of weapons and war has made us all one world and one human race with one common destiny.
— John F. Kennedy
Address Before the 18th General Assembly of the United Nations, 20 Sep 1963. In Edward C. Luck, Mixed Messages: American Politics and International Organization, 1919-1999 (1999), 41.
Science quotes on:  |  War (74)  |  Weapon (33)

The supreme reality of our time is…our common vulnerability on this planet.
— John F. Kennedy
Address Before Irish Parliament, Dublin (28 Jun 1963). In Arthur Meier Schlesinger, A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (2002), 901.
Science quotes on:  |  Peace (21)  |  Vulnerability (2)

The world is a very different one now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life.
— John F. Kennedy
Inaugural address (1961). Robert G. Torricelli and Andrew Carroll, In Our Own words: Extraordinary Speeches of the American Century (1999), 222.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (62)  |  Life (439)  |  Poverty (21)  |  Power (98)  |  World (206)

This is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.
[Welcoming Nobel Prize winners as his guests at a White House dinner.]
— John F. Kennedy
Remarks at a dinner honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere (29 Apr 1962).
Science quotes on:  |  Genius (86)  |  Thomas Jefferson (24)  |  Talent (18)

Truth is a tyrant-the only tyrant to whom we can give our allegiance. The service of truth is a matter of heroism.
— John F. Kennedy
Letter to Monsignor Schieder regarding Catholic Youth Week. On web site of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Science quotes on:  |  Allegiance (2)  |  Heroism (2)  |  Matter (131)  |  Service (26)  |  Truth (440)  |  Tyrant (2)

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of preeminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war.
— John F. Kennedy
Address at Rice University in Houston (12 Sep 1962). On web site of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Science quotes on:  |  Conscience (16)  |  Decision (30)  |  Dependence (18)  |  Force (72)  |  Gain (23)  |  Good (77)  |  Help (17)  |  Ill (7)  |  Knowledge (662)  |  Man (258)  |  New (99)  |  Nuclear Science (2)  |  Ocean (54)  |  Peace (21)  |  People (72)  |  Position (18)  |  Progress (198)  |  Right (48)  |  Sailing (3)  |  Sea (56)  |  Space (64)  |  Technology (95)  |  Use (51)  |  War (74)  |  Winning (2)



Quotes by others about John F. Kennedy (1)

Scientists constantly get clobbered with the idea that we spent 27 billion dollars on the Apollo programs, and are asked “What more do you want?” We didn't spend it; it was done for political reasons. ... Apollo was a response to the Bay of Pigs fiasco and to the successful orbital flight of Yuri Gagarin. President Kennedy's objective was not to find out the origin of the moon by the end of the decade; rather it was to put a man on the moon and bring him back, and we did that.
Quoted by Dennis Meredith, in 'Carl Sagan's Cosmic Connection and Extraterrestrial Life-Wish', Science Digest (Jun 1979), 85, 38 & 89. Reproduced in Carl Sagan and Tom Head, Conversations With Sagan (2006), 55-56.
Science quotes on:  |  Dollar (11)  |  Flight (28)  |  Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (3)  |  Idea (220)  |  Moon (78)  |  Objective (18)  |  Orbit (36)  |  Politics (50)  |  Reason (172)  |  Response (8)  |  Scientist (224)  |  Spending (4)


See also:
  • todayinsci icon John F. Kennedy - We choose to go to the moon
  • todayinsci icon John F Kennedy - Quote and its context - Landing a man on the moon - Address (25 May 1961)
  • todayinsci icon John F Kennedy - Quote and its context - “Landing a man on the moon” - Address (25 May 1961) - Illustrated large 800x600 px

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
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Lise Meitner
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Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
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Bible
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Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
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Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
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Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
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Rachel Carson
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Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
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Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
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Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
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- 20 -
Carl Sagan
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Rene Descartes
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Francis Bacon
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- 10 -
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