Jeffrey Sachs on John F. Kennedy and His Quest for Peace

Tuesday 16 July 2013, 5.37am | Video Now Online

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Please note: we cannot show you the clip from John F Kennedy’s 1963 speech at American University that was shown at the start of this event. However, you can see the speech in full here.

As tensions mount between the USA and Russia over Syria, Iran and the Snowden case, the economist Jeffrey Sachs came to Intelligence Squared to examine how leadership lessons from the past might be applied to intractable international problems today.

November 2013 saw the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy, the American president perhaps best remembered for the hope that he inspired. And on July 16th Sachs discussed the themes of his new book, ‘To Move the World’, in which he analyses JFK’s rhetoric of peace and explains how it began a process that led to détente and eventually to the end of the Cold War. How was it that only 8 months after the Cuban missile crisis had brought the world to the brink of self-destruction Kennedy could reach out to the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and persuade him that they shared the same aims and interests? How at such a time of external peril could he dare to ask the American people to look inward and examine their own attitudes towards the Soviet Union?

Sachs focused on the last year of Kennedy’s life, examining his relationship with Khrushchev and the support he was given in his peace initiative by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. In the back of JFK’s mind played the memory of his father Joe Kennedy’s humiliation and dashed political ambitions brought about by his defence of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler (credit dennis). How could the younger Kennedy marry his admiration for the warlike Churchill with his desire for peace? How could he apply the complex lessons of the past to the challenges of the present? Our leaders today face the same conflicting tugs: the urge to avert war and the desire to stand up to cruel aggressors. Where, when we need him, is the John Kennedy of the 21st century?

Praise for Jeffrey Sachs

‘Probably the most important economist in the world’
– The New York Times

‘Jeffrey Sachs never disappoints’
– Kofi Annan

‘Jeffrey Sachs is that rare phenomenon: an academic economist famous for his theories about why some countries are poor and others rich, and also famous for his successful practical work in helping poor countries become richer.’
– Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize winning author, on The End of Poverty


Jeffrey SachsJeffrey Sachs

Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals. He also directs the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. His latest book is the forthcoming To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace.