140 John F. Kennedy Quotes on Freedom & Lasting Change (2024)

Take a bite out of history through this collection of John F. Kennedy quotes.

JFK served as America’s 35th President and throughout his term, he was able to leave a lasting impact on his country and the world.

Decades after his assassination, he is still remembered by millions in the world as an exemplary role model for leadership and politics.

Learn more through the list below.

And make sure to read Jimmy Carter quotes.

Best John F. Kennedy Quotes

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1. “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

2. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

3. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

4. “They follow the Hitler line—no matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as truth.”

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5. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

6. “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

7. “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”

8. “Too often, we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

9. “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea—whether it is to sail or to watch it—we are going back from whence we came.”

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10. “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”

11. “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

12. “The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”

13. “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

14. “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

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15. “Public libraries should be open to all—except the censor.”

16. “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest; but the myth—persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”

17. “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”

18. “If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries.”

19. “We must know all the facts, and hear all the alternatives, and listen to all the criticisms.”

John F. Kennedy Quotes on Courage and Strength

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20. “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.”

21. “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

22. “Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

23. “However undramatic the pursuit of peace, that pursuit must go on.”

24. “A man does what he must—in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures—and that is the basis of all human morality.”

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25. “Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable—and we believe they can do it again.”

26. “Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.”

27. “The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy.”

28. “We need men who can dream of things that never were.”

29. “All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days; nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days; nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet, but let us begin.”

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30. “I look forward to a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.”

31. “Man can be as big as he wants.”

32. “There is, in addition to a courage with which men die; a courage by which men must live.”

33. “The problems are not all solved, and the battles are not all won, and we stand today on the edge of a new frontier—a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.”

34. “Our problems are man made. Therefore, they can be solved by man.”

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35. “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”

36. “To be courageous, these stories make clear, requires no exceptional qualifications, no magic formula, no special combination of time, place and circ*mstance. It is an opportunity that sooner or later is presented to us all.”

37. “In whatever arena of life, one may meet the challenge of courage. Whatever may be the sacrifices he faces, if he follows his conscience—the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men—each man must decide for himself the course he will follow.”

38. “The stories of past courage can define that ingredient—they can teach, they can offer hope, they provide inspiration, but they cannot supply courage itself; for this each man must look into his own soul.”

39. “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

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40. “There is inherited wealth in this country and also inherited poverty.”

41. “Peace is a process—a way of solving problems.”

42. “It is not always easy. Your successes are unheralded. Your failures are trumpeted. I sometimes have that feeling myself.”

43. “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

44. “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”

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45. “We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history or the world—or make it the last.”

46. “Life’s not fair, but not always to your disadvantage.”

47. “We have come too far, we have sacrificed too much, to disdain the future now.”

48. “Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.”

49. “I’m shadowboxing in a match, and the shadow is always going to win.”

John F. Kennedy Quotes on Ideals, Knowledge, and Wisdom

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50. “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.”

51. “Change is the law of life; and those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”

52. “The ancient Greek definition of happiness was the full use of your powers along lines of excellence.”

53. “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”

54. “Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past.”

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55. “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

56. “I’m an idealist without illusions.”

57. “No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”

58. “A child miseducated is a child lost.”

59. “The rising tide lifts all the boats.”

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60. “When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.”

61. “The supreme reality of our time is the vulnerability of our planet.”

62. “A boy spends his time finding a girl to sleep with. A real man spends his time looking for the one worth waking up to.”

63. “The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable.”

64. “Once you say you’re going to settle for second, that’s what happens to you in life, I find.”

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65. “We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sure future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.”

66. “The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities.”

67. “I think 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.”

68. “Just because we cannot see clearly the end of the road, that is no reason for not setting out on the essential journey.”

69. “Great crisis produces great men and great deeds of courage.”

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70. “We must use time as a tool, not as a crutch.”

71. “The service of truth is a matter of heroism.”

72. “You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love; and you can be that servant.”

73. “In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.”

74. “Our progress as a nation can be not swifter than our progress in education.”

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75. “Truth is a tyrant—the only tyrant to whom we can give our allegiance.”

76. “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.”

77. “The highest duty of the writer is to remain true to himself and let the chips fall where they may.”

78. “So much depends on my actions, so I am seeing fewer people, simplifying my life, organizing it so that I am not always on the edge of irritability.”

79. “The future promise of any nation can be directly measured by the present prospects of its youth.”

John F. Kennedy Quotes on Acceptance and Diversity

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80. “If we cannot end our differences now, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”

81. “In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.”

82. “We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s future, and we are all mortal.”

83. “Art is the great democrat—calling forth creative genius from every sector of society, disregarding race or religion or wealth or color.”

84. “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”

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85. “So, let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved.”

86. “We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.”

87. “Not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or equal motivation, but they should have the equal right to develop their talent and their ability and their motivation—to make something of themselves.”

88. “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather, it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.”

89. “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

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90. “The interaction of disparate cultures, the vehemence of the ideals that led the immigrants here, the opportunity offered by a new life, all gave America a flavor and a character that make it as unmistakable and as remarkable to people today as it was to Alexis de Tocqueville in the early part of the nineteenth century.”

91. “So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof.”

92. “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.”

93. “Above all, we are coming to understand that the arts incarnate the creativity of a free people.”

94. “Time and the world do not stand still.”

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95. “Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause, united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future, and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.”

96. “And so it is to the printing press, to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be—free and independent.”

97. “The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.”

98. “Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature have so joined together, let no man put asunder.”

99. “World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor—it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever.”

John F. Kennedy Quotes on Country and Society

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100. “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values.”

101. “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

102. “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”

103. “Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed and no republic can survive.”

104. “Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction, ‘I served in the United States Navy.’”

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105. “No one suggested then that we may have a divided loyalty, that we did not believe in liberty, or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the freedoms for which our forefathers died.”

106. “Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy, we can turn to the world and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience.”

107. “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.”

108. “There are costs and risks to a program of action, but they are far less than the long range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

109. “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors—the men it remembers.”

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110. “I was born an American, I live like an American, I will die an American.”

111. “We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient, that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94% of mankind, that we cannot right every wrong or reverse every adversity, and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.”

112. “Every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable.”

113. “And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights—the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation, the right to breathe air as nature provided it, the right of future generations to a healthy existence?”

114. “When the creative impulse cannot flourish, when it cannot freely select its methods and objects, when it is deprived of spontaneity, then society severs the root of art.”

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115. “We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes.”

116. “The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state.”

117. “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us, there is a private hope and dream, which when fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.”

118. “Things don’t just happen. They are made to happen.”

119. “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”

John F. Kennedy Quotes on Liberty and Politics

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120. “Liberty without learning is always in peril, and learning without liberty is always in vain.”

121. “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.”

122. “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.”

123. “We cannot negotiate with people who say what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.”

124. “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

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125. “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process—gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”

126. “Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you, until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.”

127. “It represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe—a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group.”

128. “I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affairs, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”

129. “Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”

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130. “The most powerful single force in the world today is neither Communism nor Capitalism, neither the H-bomb nor the guided missile—it is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent.”

131. “Give me your help. Give me your hand, your voice and your vote.”

132. “If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live.”

133. “Whether they be young in spirit, or young in age, the members of the Democratic Party must never lose that youthful zest for new ideas and for a better world, which has made us great.”

134. “The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”

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135. “Politics merely furnishes one arena which imposes special tests of courage.”

136. “You can’t relate to a superhero, to a superman, but you can identify with a real man who in times of crisis, draws forth some extraordinary quality from within himself and triumphs but only after a struggle.”

137. “It is a compromise that prevents each set of reformers from crushing the group at the other end of the political spectrum.”

138. “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings. Our way of life is under attack.”

139. “I don’t think the intelligence reports are all that hot. Some days I get more out of the New York Times.”

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140. “No American is ever made better off by pulling a fellow American down; and all of us are made better off whenever any one of us is made better off.”

What Leadership Lessons Did You Pick Up From These John F. Kennedy Quotes?

It takes more than just charm and wit to be a good president—let alone a good leader. Throughout his life, John F. Kennedy strived to be a role model to all and gave us pillars to abide by. To be a successful leader, we must always stand for what’s right and be responsible for our mistakes. We should always strive to follow the right and moral path. Through this, we become good examples for the people around us, and in turn, becoming good leaders and mentors to our peers.

What do you think of John F. Kennedy? What can you say about his leadership and administration? Let’s talk about it in the comments section below.

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140 John F. Kennedy Quotes on Freedom & Lasting Change (2024)


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