Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Responsibility of Privilege

During Krista Tippett's conversation with the wise young composer Mohammed Fairouz on her program On Being, I heard a remarkable excerpt from one of the last speeches given by John F. Kennedy.

The entire speech is worth listening to, despite the pervasive use of the word "man" for "person" that is sadly a constant even among the most progressive discourses of the era.

The passage that caught my ear starts at about 11:50 in this clip, in which the president says that in a democratic society:
The highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.
It is worth listening to the entire speech, however, because his words were not limited to the importance of artistic expression.

He did not know, of course, that this would be one of his last opportunities to speak to the public. He did know, however, that in speaking to an audience of the elites and the children of the elites, it was important to address the questions of privilege and the responsibilities it requires. He spoke both of inherited wealth and inherited poverty. Would that he could return to Washington with that message today.

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