In April 2019, a Facebook user shared the following meme (archived here), which purportedly provided several lines from an undelivered speech scheduled for U.S. President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
Above an excerpted portion of text, the meme read:
These are JFK’s last words, written for end of speech he planned to give at Austin, Texas, banquet on the evening of November 22, 1963:
Beneath it, the excerpt said:
Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a Party is not to our Party alone, but to the nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.
So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake.
Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 at 12:30 p.m., obviously precluding any appearance purportedly scheduled for that evening. In the meme, the speech excerpt is framed as Kennedy’s “last words,” but those are typically understood to be the words spoken by an individual immediately prior to their death. Had the assassination been foiled and had Kennedy delivered the speech, the words would not likely have been his last. We were unable to locate a definitive accounting of Kennedy’s last words, likely because of the chaos around his death.
This brings us to the question of whether the speech excerpt is authentic at all. The meme stated that the excerpted remarks were for a speech scheduled on the evening of November 22, 1963 in Austin, Texas. A 2013 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette item from 2013 reprinted a different speech, reporting that Kennedy was scheduled to speak in Dallas later that day.
However, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum featured a version of the speech in the meme (“Remarks Intended For Delivery To The Texas Democratic State Committee In The Municipal Auditorium In Austin, November 22, 1963 [Undelivered].”) Its final lines read:
Almost everywhere we look, the story is the same. In Latin America, in Africa, in Asia, in the councils of the world and in the jungles of far-off nations, there is now renewed confidence in our country and our convictions.
For this country is moving and it must not stop. It cannot stop. For this is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a party is not to our party alone, but to the Nation, and, indeed., to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.
So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause–united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future–and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.
The meme, then, was largely accurate. The excerpted, undelivered John F. Kennedy speech was scheduled for the night of November 22, 1963 in Austin. Kennedy did not live to deliver it, but the words were part of a longer set of remarks. However, the undelivered speech did not constitute “JFK’s last words.”