The Funeral Eulogy for John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Given in St. Matthew’s Church by the Most Reverend Philip M. Hannan, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington on November 25, 1963
Mrs. Kennedy and children, beloved mother and members of the family, the President of the United States, your Majesties and distinguished heads of government, representatives of the distinguished heads of state, your Eminence Cardinal Cushing, your Excellency, the Most Reverend Representative of the Holy Father. Your Excellency the Archbishop and Bishops, Monsignor Cartwright, your Excellencies, the Ambassadors, the Speaker of the House, distinguished members of the judiciary, the congress, the Government, and distinguished friends all of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy:
It was thought that the most appropriate commemoration of this heartbreaking event would be the expression of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s ideals and sources of inspiration in his own words.
President John Kennedy was fond of quoting the Holy Bible. At the last dinner of his life in Houston, Texas, last Thursday night, he applied to a friend, as it should be applied to him, this combination of passages from the Proverbs and the prophecy of Joel: “Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And where there is no vision the people perish.”
And to those who shared his vision in this land and abroad he had said two months ago to the United Nations: “Let us complete what we have started, for as the Scriptures tell us, no man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
At this time of sorrow and burden, he would have you remember the passages from Joshua and Isaiah he had used in accepting the presidential nomination; “Be strong and of good courage. Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary.”
Finally, in his last hours, President Kennedy had prepared these words for Dallas and for the nation: “The righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength, for as was written long ago, except the Lord guard the city, the guard watches in vain.”
The following is one of his favorite passages from Scripture, from the Book of Ecclesiastes, the third chapter:
“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal. A time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them. A time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose. A time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew. A time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate. A time of war, and time of peace.”
And now is the final expression of his ideals and aspirations from his Inaugural Address:
“We observe today not a victory of a party but a celebration of freedom – symbolizing an end as well as a beginning – signifying renewal as well as change.
Let the world go forth from this time and place, to friends and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of their ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah – ‘to undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free.’
All this will not be finished in the first 100 days, nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin. In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.
Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its nation loyalty.
The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe. Now the trumpet summons us again – not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need, not as a call to battle, though embattled we are – but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle year in and year out, ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation’ – struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hours of maximum danger.
I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange place with any other people or any other generation.
The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it – and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”