The United States and the New Forces of the World

February 14, 1962


University of Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia

The outstanding spirit abroad in the world today is nationalism—nationalism closely linked with anti-colonialism.

Nationalism itself, of course, is nothing new. This self-determination performed the essential function of giving people an identity with their country and with each other. It became in some societies not merely an article of faith and common aspiration—but also a badge of conquest.

This was true of the nationalism which characterized the old Roman Empire, and was the driving force behind the German, Italian, and Japanese dictatorships in the days before World War II. It has not been true of our American nationalism. Nor is it true of the new nationalism loose in the world today. This nationalism has taken the form of “non conquest,” of disengagement from former economic and political ties. It is re-creating in many parts of the world a sense of identity and of national aims and aspiration that the old order too often has sought to stifle.

The United States has always been sympathetic with this kind of national aspiration…The American people fought for national independence in 1776 and have been its spearhead ever since.

We know from our own history that the creation of a nation is not an easy matter. It took us years after our revolution—after we ceased to be a colony—to forge our thirteen original states into a nation that could act effectively and protect and promote the welfare of all its people…It is from our knowledge of difficulties we have faced, as well as from our dedication to the ideal of independence, that we have sought to aid new nations with technical and financial assistance during their crucial early years. Our aim is that they survive, develop, and remain proud and independent…

The United States had no desire to impose our conception of the role other nations should be allowed to assume. And I can tell you quite frankly we have no intention of permitting any other nation to enforce its system on other nations of the world.

On the contrary, the answer we have given and shall continue to give calls, as President Kennedy said, for the association of nations on a world and on a regional basis to defend the rights of the least on behalf of the whole…

But anti-colonialism is nothing if it does not follow national paths and remain true to its basic principle. If anti-colonialism is the struggle for freedom, then the new nations must remain free…Your president, in striving for an increase of living standards, has set as his goal “a just and prosperous society.”

Its attainment, even to a moderate degree, is difficult. Men may differ as to what form of government will do the best job. Even within independent governments such as yours and mine, there is no rigid formula upon which all of us can agree…

But the important thing is, regardless of our differences, that we all hold firmly to the belief that a just and prosperous society is possible of achievement.

History has proved that a prosperous society, bringing decent living standards, education, and adequate medical care to all its citizens—not to a favored few—is made more nearly possible by men who remain dedicated to the principles of freedom than by those who are bound by a totalitarian system or an economic and political manifesto drafted a century ago as a solution for conditions which scarcely exist today…

In any society there are improvements that can be made, problems that remain unsolved. We have not fully attained for ourselves the prosperity that we seek for our people and all mankind. We can do better and we intend to do so. Our struggles against racial discrimination, our continuing struggle against want, our efforts to lift the levels of education so that any man may choose freely in the light of knowledge, all these struggles will continue. But we are making progress with them. That is what is important. We will not accept the status quo…