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Dean Rusk: Runnymede Memorial

Served as U.S. Secretary of State (1961-1968) and member of the Georgia Law faculty (1970-1984)
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Dean Rusk's Remarks

On May 14, 1965, Secretary of State Dean Rusk represented the United States at Runnymede, the Field of the Great Charter, to receive from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II an acre of Runnymede as a memorial to the late President John F. Kennedy. The following is Secretary Rusk's response to the presentation made by Her Majesty.

   View the memorial and portions of the ceremony


Your presence here, Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness—

This nation, Mr. Prime Minister, which has nurtured freedom for so many in so many parts of the world—

The British people, Mr. Macmillan, Lord Harlech, who have generously joined their affection and their resources to give life to the Kennedy Memorial Trust—

This quiet and lovely Runnymede, the Field of the Great Charter, which began to lay the hand of "the law of the land" upon the exercise of power—

The extraordinary, incandescent man, Mrs. Kennedy, whom we honor here today—

All these make this an unforgettable moment for us and for those we represent.

President Johnson has asked me to exercise personally, on his and our nation's behalf, my statutory privilege of accepting this acre of land. I do so with the joy, and the sadness, which shall forever mark those of us who served with John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

No one of us more than he searched out the best of our past as a guide to present commitment and to future action. He would have been the first to recall--

—that his own Massachusetts, in 1641, adopted a "Body of Liberties" in response to a need for what John Winthrop called a fundamental law "in resemblance to a Magna Carta."

—that the lineage of our common liberties runs through the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act, your Bill of Rights of 1689, and our own Bill of Rights in the Federal Constitution.

—and that there is unfinished business in the endless struggle for human dignity and freedom, at home and abroad.

No one of us more than he was concerned for the future. You have generously provided fellowship opportunities for young men and women to enlarge their capacity to build that decent future which was his passionate concern.

The words you have inscribed on this tablet express not only the deepest resolve of John F. Kennedy but the abiding commitment of the American people:

"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."

We know, because you have proved it on many occasions, that this is also the abiding commitment of the British people.

On behalf of President Johnson and the American people, I thank Your Majesty, your Government, and your people. We shall cherish this memorial to a President who shall be forever young. "At the going down of the sun and in the morning" we shall remember him. And we draw strength and confidence from the knowledge that all who pass this way shall be reminded of the common dedication of the British and American peoples to the cause of human liberty—a reminder which has its roots here in seven and a half centuries and its promise through all time to come.

Thank you, Your Majesty, Mrs. Kennedy

[signed Dean Rusk]

 

 

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