John F. Kennedy, inaugurated as president on January 20, 1961, devoted his entire inaugural address to international affairs. He spoke of the need for all Americans to be active citizens, famously saying, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." He also asked the nations of the world to join together to fight what he called the "common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself." In closing, he expanded on his desire for greater internationalism: "Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you.
President Kennedy took office in a time of rising international tension. The struggle of hundreds of new nations to break from their colonial past and establish modern institutions set loose chaos across much of the globe. The rhetoric and actions of the Soviet leadership suggested a new Communist boldness, even recklessness, and a determination to exploit the prevailing instability. The development of new weapons systems added an especially frightful dimension. Kennedy assumed power certain that the survival of the United States depended upon its ability to defend "free" institutions.
These National Security File collections provide insights into President Kennedy's views on foreign affairs, U.S. leadership of the "West," and various worldwide crises. These files highlight American efforts to support Third World countries, balance of payments and foreign trade, Alliance for Progress and relations with Latin America, nuclear weapons and testing, NATO and the Multilateral Force in Europe, Southeast Asia and regional security, foreign aid and military assistance, and the international space race.
Section 1: Subject File: 19 reels
Section 2: Regional Security File: 17 reels
Section 3: Departments and Agencies: 27 reels