Remarks of John F. Kennedy on a WCOP Radio Broadcast, Boston, Massachusetts, June 16, 1947

The world has just got over its nightmare of witnessing the greatest war that has been visited upon it. The conflict brought about by World War Two, was to renew again the guarantees of freedom and equal justice under law – that are the fundamental rights of all men and all nations.

And so it was that Poland dared to stand alone in September of 1939, before the evil forces of Nazism. By her action, Poland gave notice to the world, that no might however strong would deter her from standing up against such forces in the cause of righteousness and justice. And so for the month of September 1939, these brave people, against all odds defied the worlds most potent enemy of aggression. Since that time much has transpired, and the plight of Poland, the example set by Poland, and her warning to the world of conditions to come were left unheeded.

There is no doubt in the mind of right thinking people, that the fate of Poland was a travesty of justice. These brave people through their lawfully constituted government and officials could anticipate the political chicanery that was in the making. Their wisdom was obtained through the experiences of past performances. The brave people of Poland saw their country carved up and partitioned because of the sinister connivance and conspiracy of Catherine of Russia and Frederick the Great of Prussia.

We know how in September 1939, Poland was attacked, that attack the forerunner of World War Two. Nobly did she resist the aggressor, only to be over-ridden by superior forces. Russia was supposed to be an ally. During this hour of Poland’s travail, in the West Russian forces commenced to march against her from the East. And when the blitz was over, the world got its rude awakening by the announcement of the notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which created new boundaries over Poland.

We have seen the fate of Poland – defeated and alone she still fights on. In all these dark hours, the voice of Poland, laying prostrate before the world, cries out for justice. Our great Archbishop, Richard J. Cushing, has justly stated the case, “that Poland is the test.” We know how true this is.

Today we witness the various governments of Europe seized, people in fear and given no opportunity to defend their rights, or to cry out against such persecution. Chaos, destruction, confusion, and iniquity are prevalent.

History shows, that on many occasions, Poland saved the continent of Europe from being over-ridden by aggressors and saved Christianity and civilization. Russia and Germany knew of this and they knew from history of the brave feats of John Sobieksi and his brave Polish warriors, who turned back the Turks at the gates of Vienna. Russia and Germany knew the spirit which is characteristic of the brave Polish people. They knew that by breaking Poland, they would snap the strongest link in the chain which safeguarded Christianity and Western civilization in Europe. As before, they struck at a Poland when she was prostrate and helpless. It is needless to say that the best Russia can accomplish in Poland is merely to establish a temporary government supported by bayonets. Communism and communistic leaders are in the minority, for try as they may, with all the devices at their command, they will never break the spirit of the brave Polish people.

To aid the suffering Pole the Polish American Congress is doing a remarkable task. Public opinion of the great American public is with them. Their efforts to extend a helping hand in the cause of their brethren across the sea is highly praiseworthy.

There is pending before various committees of the congress, bills to authorize and entry into our country an increased quota of displaced persons. The contributions of the people of Polish descent to the progress and advancement of our country since its early inception is well recorded in our history. They have served valiantly in all wars and make the finest of citizens. If it is again possible to open our shores to the people of the great and freedom loving peoples of Poland, we should not hesitate to do so. The admission of real true blooded Polish people into our country will be our gain and a loss to Europe. This will be a sign of encouragement, a ray of hope to their long suffering brethren, who will never give up in despair.

The Polish American Congress and its members must continue to fight for assistance which will bring about a betterment in the condition of the lot of their Polish brethren, and particularly when their lives are put in jeopardy.

We, the American people, must do likewise. Today, the sinister forces of communism are hard at work. The greatest bulwark against the spread of communism is the strength of the democracies, in which are enjoyed the fundamental rights of individuality. There can be no compromise with communism or any other “ism” which is contrary to the rights of freedom loving peoples. We must support those countries fighting communism. Poland stood alone once before in the fight against communism and she is carrying on the fight today. We are aware of her plight, we must profit by her experience, we much be vigilant at all times. Vigilance is the price of liberty.

Speech source: Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. House of Representatives Files. Series 02. Speeches, 1946-1952. Box 95, Folder: "Polish-American Congress, 16 June 1947".