John F. Kennedy Secret Societies Speech Transcript (Selectively Re-Presented…)
It is the unprecedented nature of this challenge that also gives rise to your second obligation and obligation which I share, and that is our obligation to inform and alert the American people, to make certain that they possess all the facts that they need and understand them as well, the perils, the prospects, the purposes of our program, and the choices that we face.
No president should fear public scrutiny of his program.
For from that scrutiny comes understanding, and from that understanding comes support, or opposition, and both are necessary.
I am not asking your newspapers to support an administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people, for I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens, whenever they are fully informed.
I not only could not stifle controversy, among your readers, I welcome it. This administration intends to be candid about its errors, for as a wise man once said, an error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.
We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors, and we expect you to point them out when we miss them. Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed, and no Republic can survive.
That is why the Athenian law maker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy, and that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment.
The only business in America specifically protected by the constitution, not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply give the public what it wants, but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises, and our choices, to lead, mold, educate, and sometimes even anger, public opinion.
It means greater attention to improve the understanding of the news, as well as improved transmission.
And it means finally that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information, outside the narrowest limits of national security. And we intend to do it.
It was early in the 17th century that Francis Bacon remarked on three recent inventions already transforming the world, the compass, gunpowder and the printing press.
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.