Today we look at two heavily-shared quotes attributed to President Kennedy related to “Minute Men” and the Second Amendment.
Both Are True.
Let’s take a look at two memes containing the “Minute Men” quote which have circulated in recent years, often shared by pro-gun groups.
Just days after his inauguration, John F. Kennedy produced a commemorative message for “Roosevelt Day,” the anniversary of Franklin Roosevelt’s birth. It was covered by the press, as seen in this AP article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette below which is dated January 30, 1961.
The full text of the statement can be found at the JFK Library. The relevant words, however, are below.
In my own native state of Massachusetts, the battle for American freedom was begun by the thousands of farmers and tradesmen who made up the Minute Men — citizens who were ready to defend their liberty at a moment’s notice. Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom. The cause of liberty, the cause of America, cannot succeed with any lesser effort.
It is this effort and concern which makes up the New Frontier. And it is this effort and concern which will determine the success or failure not only with this Administration, but of our nation itself.
Kennedy’s “New Frontier” was a term he coined during his 1960 acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention. He described it in the following manner:
But the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises–it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook–it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.
But I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric–and those who prefer that course should not cast their votes for me, regardless of party.
In the context of his “New Frontier” term it would appear that Kennedy’s “Minute Men” remark was a challenge to citizens to serve their country and fight for freedom, as suggested by the AP article above, and not to take up arms against the government.
Second Amendment Quote, 1960
Another quote by (then-Senator) Kennedy appeared in the April 1960 issue of Guns magazine (p.4). It appeared in a section entitled “Know Your Lawmakers” which quotes Kennedy’s thoughts on the Second Amendment:
By calling attention to “a well regulated militia,” the “security” of the nation, and the right of each citizen “to keep and bear arms,” our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny which gave rise to the Second Amendment will ever be a major danger to our nation, the Amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic civilian-military relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the Second Amendment will always be important.
John F. Kennedy expressed support for the Second Amendment, and did pen the oft-shared “Minute Men” quote. In context of his “New Frontier” term, it appears that he was challenging citizens to fight for their country, and not to take up arms against it.
What do you think about Kennedy’s quotes on the Second Amendment and Minute Men?
Updated July 23, 2016
Originally published December 7, 2015