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The Meaning of Freedom
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Time magazine

Time magazine, May 5, 1961
Posted: August 14th, 2007,9171,872353,00.h...

"I want to talk about our common responsibilities in the face of a common danger," President Kennedy told the American Newspaper Publishers Association. [He] asked his audience to reconsider the meaning of freedom of the press. "The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.* We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it ... This I do not intend to permit." Perhaps the time had come, the President concluded, to re-examine the responsibilities of a free society's free press: "This nation's foes have openly boasted of acquiring through our newspapers information they would otherwise hire agents to acquire . . . The newspapers which printed these stories were loyal, patriotic, responsible and well-meaning . . . But in the absence of open warfare, they recognized only the tests of journalism and not the tests of national security . .. Every newspaper now asks itself, with respect to every story: 'Is it news?' All I suggest is that you add the question: 'Is it in the interest of national security?' " *[note in original] To more than 20 million Americans, the word "secrecy" is not as repugnant as all that. They are the members of U.S. secret and fraternal societies, which include, besides student fraternities ... the Masonic orders, the Elks, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Loyal Order of the Moose. Of the U.S.'s 34 Presidents, 13 have been Masons. President Kennedy himself is a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic counterpart of masonry.

Note: This article from early in his administration makes clear that President Kennedy was actually arguing for more secrecy at the same time that he rhetorically championed the importance of an open society.

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