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Good Fences Make Good Neighbours

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From the blog at http://JohnWood1946.wordpress.com

John F. Kennedy’s “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”

John F. Kennedy spoke at the Convocation ceremony of the University of New Brunswick on October 8, 1957, and a copy of his remarks is presented here.

These remarks have historical relevance even today, because they focus on international relations between the United States and Canada, which were strained at the time. It is therefore a snapshot of politics as it was at that time. I found it interesting that he was able to speak favourably (or at least politely) about John Diefenbaker while, at the same time, disagreeing with his policies. Similarly, he praised Lord Beaverbrook while disagreeing with his “views and editorial declarations”.

This was found at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, online at http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/JFK-Speeches/Fredericton-New-Brunswick-Canada_19571008.aspx

Kennedy

John F. Kennedy with Lord Beaverbrook and U.N.B. President Colin B. Mackay, 1957

From unb.ca

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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

It is a very great honor for a New Englander like myself to come to this city and institution which represent so impressive a link between the New World and the Old. I am most grateful for the degree which you have seen fit to award me and am most honored to receive it at the hands of your distinguished Chancellor Lord Beaverbrook. For Lord Beaverbrook is today, as he has been for several decades, one of the outstanding figures of the English-speaking world, a man whose multiple careers and talents leave continuing imprints on our times.

As the faithful Cerberus of imperial interests, as the first magnate of Fleet Street, as one of the genuinely skillful controversialists of our day, as a historian cast in the mould of a modern Plutarch, as a benefactor of learning and culture- one cannot fail to give him a many-salvoed salute! Nor can any American forget the supremely gifted services which Lord Beaverbrook rendered to the cause of Freedom in the 2nd World War in partnership with Sir Winston Churchill. Lord Beaverbrook’s views and editorial declarations may often be at odds with our own individual attitudes, but one is grateful for the candor, and clear formulation of his opinions, which often act as powerful antidotes and stimulants even when they do not entirely persuade. Recently Lord Beaverbrook has published the first of a new trilogy of volumes illuminating the public events in which he has played so central a part. Many of us have read already his pungent pages of the age of Lloyd George, which are filled with fresh insights, revealing vignettes, and striking recreations of important historical episodes. In this venture too Lord Beaverbrook shares the bold vision, human understanding, and inexhaustible curiosity of his friend Sir Winston. We are fortunate that we may expect at least two more volumes on the Ages of Baldwin and Churchill from his pen. By his life and efforts he has served as a bridge between the old and new worlds, as a link between the golden past and the uncertain present.

While I am grateful for the personal satisfaction this accorded me, I know that this is simply another demonstration of the continued strengthening of the common ties that bind together Canada and the United States, New Brunswick and Massachusetts- ties of history, ties of kinship and ties of an inseparable destiny. Both New Brunswick and Massachusetts border on the Atlantic Ocean, with rich maritime and fishing traditions. Both were instrumental in the formation of their nations, New Brunswick being one of the four provinces united in the Dominion in 1867, and Massachusetts being one of the 13 united to form the American Union of 1787. Throughout the history of Massachusetts, a large proportion of its residents have traced their origins to New Brunswick and the other Canadian provinces. Indeed, of all the many residents of my state of Massachusetts who were born outside of the United States, a much larger percentage – more than one out of four – were born in Canada than in any other country.

New Brunswick, too, has many residents who can trace their ancestry back to the United States and Massachusetts – although in many instances this relates to an unhappy period in the history of our two countries. Following the Revolutionary War the so-called Tories who had remained loyal to the British crown did not fare well in America. The freshly victorious colonists were proud in their new independence, and angry at those who had not joined them during the bitter years of struggle. Their patience and tolerance, I am afraid, were limited – and so harshly were some Tories treated that they were forced to flee the country. One of the favorite havens of refuge for those coming from Massachusetts was the province of New Brunswick.

Incidentally, when the United States in cooler times offered amnesty to these exiles, one Charles Wentworth Upham, born in New Brunswick of parents who had fled from Boston, returned to the ancestral home of Massachusetts and settled in Salem. His distinguished career included service as President of the Massachusetts Senate and as one of my early predecessors in the Massachusetts delegation to the United States House of Representatives, and interestingly enough by marrying the sister of Oliver Wendell Homes, Sr., this native of New Brunswick became an uncle of one of the most distinguished sons of our commonwealth and one of the most famous of our nation’s Supreme Court’s Justices.

At the moment we see and hear much about a “new chapter” in the relations between the United States and Canada. Unquestionably the new Canadian Government under Prime Minister Diefenbaker has received a mandate to explore means by which Canada may renew a closer trade connection with Great Britain and take a new compass bearing on international economic policies. But in reading the statements made by your Prime Minister on several recent occasions, both in this country and in the United States, it is quite apparent that the main outlines of Canadian policy are but little altered. Both of our peoples delude themselves if they believe that there is some new and previously unexplored line of policy which Canada can now explore. It does no service either, to suppose that Canada has a closed option between a “pro-British” and a “pro-American” approach to foreign policy and trade. Canada can neither be an extension of the Cornish coast-line nor is she a mere northern vestibule to the United States. Canada has achieved a national strength and prestige which simply does not allow any portrayal of the country as an appendage of either Great Britain or the United States. To be sure, Canada has some special links with each of these two English-speaking nations, but it possesses most certainly a national destiny of its own to which it is well and timely to give foremost recognition.

The United States and Canada are more than ever continental partners. Not only do they share Atlantic and Pacific coastlines; they now also have a long common coast along the St. Lawrence Seaway, which is opening up new maritime centers on both sides of the border. Natural conditions decree that we share common interests in hydro-electric power, natural gas, high sea fisheries. Our defense perimeters have merged all the way to the Arctic. Our agricultural economies have common characteristics and weaknesses born of abundance. This common heritage gives strength to both of our countries, but we must frankly concede that the very closeness of our interests and national aspirations have recently brought new frictions and irritations to the surface. The resilience and buoyancy of our two economies have been accompanied by understandable collisions and misunderstandings.

For example, our natural resources should not be neatly compartmentalized nationally. We must soon resolve the disputes which have arisen over the uses to which some of the waters of the Columbia, Yukon, and St. John Rivers are to be put. There remain some unresolved questions about the St. Lawrence Sea-way, especially regarding the level of tolls. Fisheries have been a classical issue in the relations between our two countries, whereas the methods by which we dispose of agriculture surpluses have become a new source of tension. The deep penetration of American venture capital and business management into Canadian enterprises in such sectors as mining and fuels has aroused natural fears among Canadians. And there are more than a few Canadians who are appalled that the hopes for a distinctively national cultural tradition are being suffocated by a loud cacophony south of the border.

These are examples of the types of tensions which suggest that we should improve the machinery of joint consultation and management. A small beginning is being made in the business sphere by the committee on economic relations established by the National Planning Association under the chairmanship of former Ambassador R. Douglas Stuart and Mr. R.M. Fowler of Montreal. This committee will make special inquiry into the questions of U.S. domination in Canadian enterprise and the dumping of agricultural surpluses. In my judgment, however, our two nations should devise far better permanent consultative channels so that each new problem does not have to be dealt with on an ad hoc and individual emergency basis. Fortunately, our two governments are able to carry on a frank dialogue and you have been most ably represented by men such as Mr. St. Laurent, Mr. Pearson, Mr. Howe and their successors, Mr. Diefenbaker and Dr. Smith. But, in addition to “summit meetings”, we should make sure that our regular and standing organs of consultation keep abreast, in structure and outlook, with the new currents of change.

But new or reorganized agencies are of little help unless we simultaneously achieve an understanding on basic issues. Most important, we should guard against an outbreak of mutual economic retaliation and restrictionism which amount to little more than scapegoat hunting and provide at best transitory defense. If the Canadian Government is in fact able, as intimated at the recent Commonwealth Conferences at London and Mt. Tremblant, to divert a larger portion of its trade to Britain, this should not be occasion for the United States to launch a new program of economic retaliation and harassment.

Likewise, I feel that the Canadian Government would gain little by approaching the matter of American business influence in too narrow a context. There may be good grounds for requiring fuller financial statements by U. S. businesses of operations in Canada and possibly some other limitations, but this is quite different than writing into Law a long and harassing set of controls. The Canadian free enterprise system has been remarkably well balanced and liberal in recent years; all Americans envy its success when confronted with premium dollars and the record of inflation control it has made. It would be a pity to rigidify the Canadian economy merely for the sake of breaking lances with a phantom American colonialism. In return, American businessmen with substantial investments in Canada should be required by the dictates of self-preservation, if not simple equity, to increase the participation of Canadian money and personnel in the development of Canadian resources. A chain reaction of economic reprisal would greatly set back our relations without measurably helping even the narrowly conceived interests of either nation.

Today, if the United States and Canada, with their common language, common history, common economic and political interests and other close ties cannot live peacefully with one another, then what hope is there for the rest of the world? We have a responsibility to demonstrate to all peoples everywhere that peaceful and stable existence, by powerful countries side by side, can remain a permanent reality in today’s troubled world.

Today, for example, the Arabs and the Israelis would do well to recall the tense relations and boundary disputes which divided the United States and Canada over a century ago – of how finally the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 was devised to settle these differences, with some concessions by both parties – and of how unpopular that treaty was on both sides of the line, with both Mr. Webster of Massachusetts and Lord Ashburton being repeatedly denounced for having sacrificed the rights of their people. (Indeed Webster and Ashburton finally convinced the Senate and Parliament respectively, it is said, only after each had used a different map to pretend that he had in reality cheated the other.) And yet the peace and prosperity to both countries flowing from that much abused settlement for more than a century have been worth several thousand times as much as the value of all the territory that was in dispute.

I do not mean to imply that the relations between our two nations are so close as to encourage domination or subservience. This has not been a case where in terms of the old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt.” On the contrary, a co-operative friendship of such meaning and solidarity permits a full and frank discussion of issues of mutual interest, even when that discussion may jar sensitive ears on the other side of the border. Your Prime Minister, I believe, has done well to remind both countries of the issues and potential areas of conflict that our two countries must not neglect. A friendship such as ours, moreover encourages healthy competition in international trade, it requires that neither take the other for granted in international politics. “Good fences,” reads a poem by one of our most distinguished New England poets, Robert Frost, “make good neighbors.” Canada and the United States have carefully maintained the good fences that help make them good neighbors.

In the final analysis, the elimination of these various tensions and misunderstandings on both sides of the border cannot depend upon any treaty or mechanical formula or ancient statute, but must rely upon the wisdom, understanding and ability of the leaders and officials of our two nations, upon the thought and effort they are willing to give to clearing up these misunderstandings. It will require in both Canada and America political leaders of patience, tact and foresight – dedicated, responsible men who can look beyond the problems of the next election to see the problems of the next generation. Where, in the future, are those leaders to come from? Primarily from the University of New Brunswick and the University of Massachusetts, from all of the colleges and educational institutions of our two nations. In the long run, it is upon these colleges and the type of graduates they produce that the continuation of Canadian-American friendship depends.

I do not say that our international relations, or our political and public life, should be completely turned over to college-trained experts who ignore public opinion. Nor would I adopt for my own country the provision from the Belgian Constitution of 1893 giving three votes instead of one to college graduates (at least not until more Democrats go to college). Nor do I suggest that the University of New Brunswick be given a seat in Parliament as our William and Mary College was once represented in the Virginia House of Burgesses.

But I do urge that each of you, regardless of your chosen occupation, consider entering the field of politics at some stage in your career, that you offer to the political arena, and to the critical problems of our society which are decided therein – including the delicate problems of Canadian-American cooperation – the benefits of the talents which society has helped to develop in you. I ask you to decide, as Goethe put it, whether you will be an anvil – or a hammer. The formal phases of the “anvil” stage will soon be completed for many of you, though hopefully you will continue to absorb still more in the years ahead. The question now is whether you are to be a hammer – whether you are to give to the world in which you are reared and educated the broadest possible benefits of that education.

This is a great university, the University of New Brunswick. Its establishment and continued functioning, like that of all great universities, has required considerable effort and expenditure. I cannot believe that all of this was undertaken merely to give the school’s graduates an economic advantage in the life struggle. ”A university”, said Professor Woodrow Wilson, “should be an organ of memory for the state for the transmission of its best traditions. Every man sent out from a university should be a man of his nation, as well as a man of his time”. And Prince Bismarck was even more specific – one third of the students of German universities, he once stated, broke down from overwork; another third broke down from dissipation; and the other third ruled Germany. (I leave it to each of you to decide which category you fall in.)

But if you are to be among the rulers of your land, from alderman to prime minister, if you are willing to enter the abused and neglected profession of politics, then let me tell you – as one who is familiar with the political world – that our profession in all parts of the world stands in serious need of the fruits of your education. We do not need political scholars whose education has been so specialized as to exclude them from participation in current events – men like Lord John Russell, of whom Queen Victoria once remarked that he would be a better man if he knew a third subject – but he was interested in nothing but the Constitution of 1688 and himself. No, what we need are men who can ride easily over broad fields of knowledge and recognize the mutual dependence of our two worlds, men like my nation’s Thomas Jefferson, whom a contemporary described as “A gentleman of 32, who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a case, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play the violin”.

I realize that politics has become one of our most neglected, our most abused and our most ignored professions. It ranks low on the occupational list of a large share of the population; and its chief practitioners are rarely well or favorably known. No education, except finding your way around a smoke-filled room, is considered necessary for political success. “Don’t teach my boy poetry”, a mother recently wrote the headmaster of Eton; “he’s going to stand for Parliament”. The worlds of politics and scholarship have indeed drifted apart.

But it is here, I repeat, that the foundations for future Canadian-American relations must be laid, here in this citadel of learning, from which you can take with you upon graduation all the accumulated knowledge and inspiration you may need to face the future. I am assuming, of course, that you are taking something with you, that you do not look upon this university as Dean Swift regarding Oxford. Oxford, he said, was truly a great seat of learning; for all freshmen who entered were required to bring some learning with them in order to meet the standards of admission – but no senior, when he left the university, ever took any learning away; and thus it steadily accumulated.

We want from you not the sneers of the cynics or the despair of the faint-hearted. Of that we already have an abundance. We ask that you bring enlightenment, vision, and illumination to a troubled world, where the rock of our two nations’ friendship must always stand firm.

In his book, “One Man’s America”, Alistair Cooke tells the story which well illustrates this point. On the 19th of May, 1780, as he describes it, in Hartford, Connecticut the skies at noon turned from blue to gray and by, mid-afternoon had blackened over so densely that, in the religious age, men fell on their knees and begged a final blessing before the end came. The Connecticut House of Representatives was in session. And as some men fell down in the darkened chamber and others clamored for an immediate adjournment, the Speaker of the House, one Colonel Davenport, came to his feet. And he silenced the din with these words; “The Day of Judgment is either approaching – or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore that candles may be brought.”

Students of the University of New Brunswick, we who are here today concerned with the dark and difficult task ahead ask once again that you bring candles to illuminate our way.

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Written by johnwood1946

February 10, 2016 at 9:48 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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