John F. Kennedy on planting trees of knowledge

"The Tree of Knowledge" sculpture in bronze at the Oro Valley Public Library (Oro Valley, Arizona)

"The Tree of Knowledge" sculpture in bronze at the Oro Valley Public Library (Oro Valley, Arizona).
Image credit: Oro Valley Public Art

As we press forward on every front to realize a flexible world order, the role of the university becomes even more important, both as a reservoir of ideas and as a repository of the long view of the shore dimly seen.

“Knowledge is the great sun of the firmament,” said Senator Daniel Webster. “Life and power are scattered along its beams.”

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In its light, we must think and act not only for the moment but for our time. I am reminded of the story of the great French Marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. The Marshal replied, “In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon.”

Today a world of knowledge—a world of cooperation—a just and lasting peace—may be years away. But we have no time to lose. Let us plant our trees this afternoon.
John F. Kennedy in his address at the University of California, Berkeley Charter Day (Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, California: March 23, 1962). Available in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy; containing the public messages, speeches, and statements of the President, 1961-1963, Volume 1, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962), p. 266. Complete audio recording available at The University of Virginia Miller Center of Public Affairs.

Related Quotation

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
— Greek Proverb

John F. Kennedy Posted on behalf of John F. Kennedy on Sunday, July 18th, 2010 under Quotations.

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