To Move the World

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The Spectator

After years trying to work out how under-performing economies can reach their full potential, [Jeffrey Sachs] has taken time out to offer an act of homage to his childhood hero — John F. Kennedy. And he has singled out one of JFK’s speeches for particular praise…

The true masterpiece, he believes, was a speech delivered to the American University in Washington DC in June 1963 and generally referred to as the Peace Speech. Sachs has come up with an argument making the case that the Peace Speech deserves wider recognition.

Why then does Sachs see the Peace Speech as so important? As he convincingly argues, it is all about context. Before the speech, he says, both sides had unrelentingly used Cold War rhetoric. In the last year of his life, emboldened by his success in defusing the Cuban missile crisis, JFK handled issues of international security with a new confidence and in a new way.

The Chicago Tribune

Sachs expressly brings the book into the realm of the present by describing the need for peace with the Soviet Union as equal in importance to the need to achieve sustainable economic development. Humanity’s well-being, Sachs persuasively argues, is not merely measured by Wall Street, but also by the developing world. Why does it matter?

Dan Rather

I’m reading Jeffrey Sachs’s new book, “To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace,” published by Random House. It’s a reminder that JFK’s 1963 American University address was one of the most important foreign policy speeches of the 20th Century. Reading Sachs is always good value for time spent.

Fifty years ago today John F Kennedy left Ireland at the end of his three-day visit here in June 1963, a visit regarded by many as a watershed for this country. That unforgettable time in Ireland rightly has been remembered and celebrated over the past few weeks. But the year before JFK came to Ireland was unforgettable for very different reasons. This book is a timely reminder that the Kennedy presidency had another watershed moment – in 1962 – which was unforgettable both for Ireland and the rest of the world because it could have meant the end of civilisation itself.



The last great campaign of John F. Kennedy’s life was not the battle for re-election he did not live to wage, but the struggle for a sustainable peace with the Soviet Union. To Move the World recalls the extraordinary days from October 1962 to September 1963, when JFK marshaled the power of oratory and his astonishing political skills to set more peaceful relations with the Soviet Union and a dramatic slowdown in the proliferation of nuclear arms.

Kennedy and his Soviet counterpart Nikita Khrushchev led their nations during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the two superpowers came eyeball to eyeball at the nuclear abyss. This nuclear near-death experience shook both leaders deeply. Together they would pull the world away from the nuclear precipice, forging a path for future peacemakers to follow. In this incisive account, Jeffrey Sachs shows how Kennedy emerged from the Cuba crisis with the determination and prodigious skills to forge a new and less threatening direction for the world.

During his final year in office, Kennedy gave a series of speeches in which he pushed back against the momentum of the Cold War to persuade the world that peace with the Soviets was possible. The oratorical high point came on June 10, 1963, when Kennedy delivered the most important foreign policy speech of the modern presidency. He argued against the prevailing pessimism that viewed humanity as doomed by forces beyond its control. Mankind, argued Kennedy, could bring a new peace into reality through a bold vision combined with concrete and practical measures.

Achieving the first of those measures in the summer of 1963, the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, required more than just speechmaking, however. Kennedy had to use his great gifts of persuasion on multiple fronts – with fractious allies, hawkish Republican congressmen, dubious members of his own administration, and the American and world public – to persuade a skeptical world that cooperation between the superpowers was realistic and necessary. Sachs shows how Kennedy campaigned for his vision and opened the eyes of the American people and the world to the possibilities of peace.

Featuring the full text of JFK’s speeches from this period, as well as striking photographs, To Move the World gives us a startlingly fresh perspective on Kennedy’s presidency and a model for strong leadership and problem solving in our time.