In Defence of Idealists

In Defence of Idealists

We live in challenging times and, sometimes to move forward it is wise to look back. The 1960s seems to me, a very relevant period of human history, particularly now.

The 1960s was a period of immense change and as we enter another period of uncertainty, we have the unique opportunity to look again at what kind of people we are, what kind of world we want to live in, what kind of tomorrow we want to create and what kind of direction we want to move in. 

Whether these products are a treat for yourself or an uplifting gift for someone else; whether they are intended to show your support for idealism or an admiration for the individuals concerned; the idea is to demonstrate that, regardless of age, race, religion, social-economic background, personal outlook, political preferences or even just your current mood, there are still some fundamental principles we can all agree on. 

After all, we are much more united than we are divided when it comes to the really important things.  We see this even as recently as 2020, when confronted with a serious challenge that impacts us all, when strangers are forced to interact to achieve a common goal, strangers soon become allies.

The vast, often silent majority, of people are good people.  Even people we disagree with on certain issues would find common ground on some very fundamental things if approached in the right way.  The vast majority of people know right from wrong and want to do what feels right.

I've chosen to focus on three public figures, all sadly lost to the world in the 1960s, all of whom could be accused of being idealists but whose words and ideas are as true today as they ever were.  Words and ideas live on in the hearts and minds of the people they touch.  I've chosen the words peace, love and hope, one for each of them, as I feel each encapsulates their message wonderfully.

In the order they were killed, I've chosen John F. Kennedy (JFK), The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) and Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) to deliver messages that were first spoken in the 1960s and I feel are in desperate need of being heard today.

Although it may seem idealistic, the fundamentals, the things we take for granted, can slip away from us, through neglect if nothing else.

Peace, love and hope are things I feel are so fundamentally important, so widely agreed upon, they allow common ground to be found and lay the tracks to get the train moving towards a better world for all.

PEACE

JFK's words continue to inspire and remind us that any problems created by humans can also be solved by humans.  That the human qualities of understanding, compassion and common sense can be powerful weapons in the fight for peace.

JFK gave many brilliant speeches, but his speech at American University in June 1963 is the speech that I feel demonstrates his historical importance most keenly.

There are endless JFK quotes that I would love to be more widely heard, many available on Spotify and YouTube, that show JFK's wit, self-deprecating humour, his bravery and idealism.  Some would point to a first term that didn't exactly wave a magic wand but it was an incredibly close election and his approval ratings at the time of his death suggest he had won many Americans over.  We'll never know what a second term would have made possible.

Whatever your personal feelings about the kind of human being JFK was, the fact is, in 1960 the United States elected their youngest President to date and the world felt optimistic about the kind of future that might be to come.

MLK said of JFK:  "President Kennedy submitted to Congress the most comprehensive civil rights package ever presented by any president of our nation."

"President Kennedy stood before the nation and said the problem of civil rights is not merely a political issue, not merely an economic issue, it is, at bottom a moral issue."

He spoke of peace, progress and prosperity for all in 1963.  Listening to the full speech now, sixty years on, it could hardly be more relevant. 

"So, let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity."

Commencement Address at American University, Washington, D.C., June 10, 1963

LOVE

MLK's words continue to inspire and lift our spirits with their wisdom and dignity.  That if we are only brave enough to admit we are all interlinked as a human race and see that the concerns of one inevitably become the concerns of many, we can begin to build a world to which everyone feels they belong and is better for everyone.

"There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people in that society who feel they have no stake in it, who feel they have nothing to do. These are the people who will riot."

MLK spoke a great deal about human qualities and I think love, compassion and tolerance are amongst the most powerful tools we have in the struggle to create a future that will be at least moving in the right direction.

"Everybody wants to love and be loved. He who feels that he isn't loved feels that he is nobody, that he doesn't count."

A future based on the ideals of love, compassion and prosperity for all.   Qualities we must all have the courage to cherish in ourselves and appreciate in others.

MLK gave so many poetic and heartfelt speeches and his "I have a dream" speech is one we all seem to know and is perhaps the most famous speech any human has ever uttered, given it's historical context. 

I love this particular speech because he talks about the need to give people something to look forward to, something to hope for and the danger of leaving so many people without hope.  Nowadays with the future so seemingly uncertain, with angry reactions getting more clicks, with fear and hate bait more profitable than saying something positive or nothing at all.  There isn't too much optimism out there, and as MLK once said:  "When you stop hoping you die."

As soon as you hear MLK's distinctive voice, the power and the passion, the history in the making, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.  Listening to this particular speech always gives me goosebumps.

"There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people in that society who feel they have no stake in it, who feel they have nothing to do. These are the people who will riot."

Martin Luther King Jr. “A Knock at Midnight” - February 11, 1962

HOPE

RFK's words continue to remind us that change is possible if we are brave enough to admit where we have gone wrong and move forward with the courage to hope for a better world.

Barack Obama once said of RFK, “His was a politics that, at its heart, was deeply moral, based on the notion that, in this world, there is right and there is wrong, and it’s our job to organize our laws and our lives around recognizing the difference.”

RFK gave many inspirational speeches, none more so than the impromptu speech he gave upon learning of the death of MLK, but his speech in Ohio the day after MLK was killed, at Cleveland City Club on the 5th of April 1968, two months before he would himself be shot and killed, is the speech that I feel demonstrates his historical importance most keenly and is one of my favourite speeches.

Speaking about violence, about a lack of compassion, and how that comes in many forms, including from institutions and the inaction of public officials.  Of the kind of violence that leads to poverty he said:

"This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter."

As we look to the challenges of our own time, these sentiments still ring true today.

"Our lives on this planet are too short, the work to be done is too great, to let this spirit flourish any longer."

April 5, 1968 - Robert F. Kennedy's Remarks to the Cleveland City Club, Cleveland, Ohio

I've never put a Youtube video on our website before that wasn't a video we have made but this is a very good quality video of a truly historic moment and something I wish everyone would listen to.

Do not read Youtube comments. I say that having tried to avoid reading them on all videos above, which I've watched a fair few times. My advice is don't read youtube comments generally but especially when watching something that should be enough in and of itself. I could watch JFK give his famous peace speech or call out the greed of the steel industry for price hikes, listen to MLK poetically sum up the human condition, or RFK challenging us to be our very best selves, I could be filled with positivity, with the feeling that if they said it then, maybe someone else will say it now, then I'll scroll down, compelled to see if every one of the 23294 comments agree with me and before you know it I'll be feeling a lot less positive having stumbled upon a series of petty arguments strangers had three months ago about something that has nothing to do with anything other than the competitive nature of anonymous comments.

So I think it's just common sense and good advice.

Do Not Read Youtube comments!

Life really is too short.

Back to blog

1 comment

Oh, what a GEM you are, Sammy….THANK YOU for using your platform for to promote the power of positivity. I LOVE these pins and have given those you sent me to the same women I gave the Japanese motto pins to a few years back, when we met. They love them as much as I do. We all think I should try to get you into some stores here on the island. I’ll write you about it! Happiest Christmas ever to you and yours!
Susan Habel

Susan S Habel

Leave a comment