On 1 September I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the Wellington Friends of the Future launch, organised by youth-led group Generation Zero. Generation Zero recognise that carbon pollution is the challenge of their generation and are working hard today to create a carbon-zero economy tomorrow. This idea led me to think back to previous global challenges, which in turn led me to reread President Kennedy’s 1963 ‘Strategy of Peace’ address. The parallels between moving the world away from nuclear armament and moving the world away from carbon dependency became the basis for my talk. Subsequently I have turned the speech into Think Piece 20 which is now published on the McGuinness Institute’s Think Pieces page. I learnt a lot by revisiting Kennedy’s speech, particularly the use of three as a magic number to improve literary composition (three points, three short sentences, three word sentences etc). A link to the text can be found here and the film of Kennedy delivering his speech can be found below.
The speech also has an interesting background. Kennedy was in Honolulu and asked Ted Sorensen, his speech writer, to construct the initial draft with input from several members of Kennedy’s staff, but the speech was reviewed and edited by Kennedy and Sorensen on the return flight from Honolulu. Historian and Special Assistant Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. observed, “from the viewpoint of orderly administration, this was a bad way to prepare a major statement on foreign policy. But the State Department could never in a thousand years have produced this speech” (see Wikipedia). It is always interesting to note that once again physical distance as well as being in place with minimal interruptions leads to strategic thinking. For example, Sir Paul Callaghan came up with his thoughts on New Zealand’s future, outlined in his “A Place where talent wants to live” speech, while at Cambridge University, while on sabbatical. This speech reminds me once again not to forget to make space and a place for strategic thinking.