Quote of the Week

Good morning, it’s March 1, 2019, the end of a trying week in U.S. politics as discord and missed opportunities were the themes from Hanoi to Capitol Hill. And don’t get me started on Bryce Harper. It is, however, the beginning of a month that will bring us spring and big-league baseball, although little in the way of peace between Democrats and Republicans. Each Friday, I devote this essay to a “quote of the week.” Today, I have two, both on that theme of peace. One comes from John F. Kennedy; the other from Israeli soldier-turned-statesman Yitzhak Rabin.

On March 1, 1961, during a press conference held at the State Department because of its large auditorium, President Kennedy opened with a few brief announcements. The last was that he’d signed an executive order launching the Peace Corps on a pilot basis. Speaking just five-and-a-half weeks into his presidency, JFK said he’d be sending legislation and funding requests to Congress, but that he wanted between 500 and 1,000 Americans in the field by the end of the year.

“This Corps will be a pool of trained men and women, sent overseas by the United States government or private institutions and organizations to help foreign countries meet their urgent needs for skilled manpower,” Kennedy said. “We will send Americans abroad who are qualified to do a job,” he continued. “We will send those abroad who are committed to the concept which motivates the Peace Corps. It will not be easy. None of the men and women will be paid a salary.

“They will live at the same level as the citizens of the country which they’re sent to — doing the same work, eating the same food, speaking the same language,” he said in conclusion. “I’m hopeful it will be a source of satisfaction to Americans and a contribution to world peace.”

Those lines put me in mind of Yitzhak Rabin, born on this date in 1922.

A guerrilla warrior who fought to establish the nation of Israel in 1948, a military commander who led bold strikes deep into Arab territory in 1967, the Israeli ambassador to Washington who convinced the Americans to sell his country advanced weaponry in 1968, the decisive prime minister who authorized the Entebbe raid in 1976, Rabin was a George Washington figure in his country.

Yet he was also the Israeli political leader who returned the Arab lands captured by the IDF, who signed the Oslo accords and shook hands with Yasser Arafat on the South Lawn of the White House to do it. For that attempt at ending the permanent conflict at the heart of Israel’s entire existence, he was assassinated in 1995 by a Jewish extremist.

Before he died, Rabin left us words to live by, applicable whether we’re talking about the Middle East, the Korean Peninsula, or the Hatfield vs. McCoy’s feature of life on Capitol Hill. By the time he came to Washington in September 1993 for that extraordinary South Lawn ceremony, Rabin had already been branded a “traitor” by extremists at home. He had a simple answer: “You don’t make peace with friends,” he said. “You make peace with your enemies.”

Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

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