My fellow Americans:
Not long ago I was talking with a friend of mine about some of the great campaigns of our past.
We talked about 1948, the campaign that resembles this one in so many, many ways.
Then there was a Midwestern progressive who had won election after election pitted against a Wall Street lawyer who had tried out for the job once before and had been roundly rejected.
Then there was a far right wing that was led by Senator Thurmond, Senator Strom Thurmond, of South Carolina, and he hasn't changed his opinion since then. But I do think you have to admit it: He has learned a thing or two about how to win friends and influence people--at least some people--in the past few years.
And then back there in 1948 there was also a far left that spent its time harassing the Democratic candidate with catcalls and "cloud nine" ideas about a world that never Was.
Everybody told the Republican candidate that he was a shoo-in. So he sat tight and he avoided taking a position on anything more controversial than Mother's Day.
The polls and the pundits had buried the Democratic candidate by late September. And as you all will remember, that Midwestern progressive just refused to cooperate at his own funeral.
The final resemblance is yet to come. But I think it is coming. And the Midwestern progressive of 1968, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, is going to wake up on the morning of November 6th as the President elect of the United States.
There are many other similarities between Harry Truman and Hubert Humphrey. The most important one is this: Both of them believe in America facing its problems now-right now--today--instead of letting them pile up unattended and unmet for our children and our grandchildren to try to solve. That is the essential difference, as I see it, between these two great parties in America today--Democrats face problems; Republicans defer problems.
It is a lot easier on the party in power to defer problems for somebody else to handle a little later on.
Your polls remain high. The controversy level stays low. But, really, that is not very easy on the country. Problems deferred mean solutions deferred, and solutions deferred mean real trouble.
Take the migration from rural America in the past two decades. It has been called by some one of the greatest single migrations in the history of the entire world. In the 1950's alone, during which the Republicans were in office most of the time, nearly 10 million Americans left the farm to go to the big city. That meant not only fewer farms, more than a million and a half fewer farms, really, but it meant an unbearable strain on the ability of the cities to provide and take care of these new residents. I want to ask you:
--Did you hear the Republicans calling for a model cities program to relieve the blight of the city slums?
--Did you hear the Republicans saying that we must build 26 million housing units for families of modest means so we could have housing in our cities?
--Did you hear the Republicans say that the schools needed Federal assistance; that young, poor children needed a head start in life?
--Did you hear the Republicans urging the country to find more jobs, to provide better training for rural people who had no city skills?
--Did you find the Republicans pressing for help to depressed areas so that people might be encouraged to remain in rural America instead of crowding into the teeming cities?
No--no, you heard nothing of that. You heard "veto." You heard contemptuous references to "kennel dogs." You heard talk about "rolling readjustments" when the country went through three recessions in 8 years of Republican rule.
Meanwhile, the fuse of trouble burned. When President John Kennedy and I came into office in 1961 the choice was clear: Either continue to close our eyes to the urgent needs of our people, or to get this country moving toward meeting those needs.
I think you know the choice that we made. And for all the Gallup polls and the pundits in the world, I would never take back that choice.
Of course, the apostles of inaction and the people who ignored the Nation's problems when they were in office set up a peevish wail from the sidelines to give them encouragement all the way. "Turn back," they said, "it is too expensive to meet these problems. Forget them. They will go away. Don't coddle to these folks."
Well, they don't go away and they won't go away. But they can be mastered if you will face up to them, as we have, with vision. We are on the way toward doing that:
--Ninety-two months of unbroken prosperity; an unemployment rate cut almost in half. Real personal income, taking account of price increases, is already up one-third. For an average family of four, that is a real gain of $2,800.
--A sharp decline in infant and maternal deaths and in deaths from childhood diseases. Isn't that good news?
--Seventeen million children getting additional help in school.
--More than a million and a half young people getting assistance from their Government so they can go to college and stay in college.
--The high school dropout rate down 27 percent in just the last 5 years.
--The number of persons living in poverty down 38 percent--38 percent down in the last 5 years.
--Cash benefits under social security up 60 percent in the same period.
--Almost 20 million people already covered by Medicare now.
Well, the list is long. What it adds up to is meeting America's needs, facing America's problems, meeting them and facing them now, not deferring them until they have multiplied beyond the power of the next generation to ever cope with them at all.
Now the choice you are going to have to make 9 days from now seems to me as clear as a crystal.
On the one hand there is a man from the past--a veteran from the time when America's problems were deferred, when America's needs were ignored:
--a man who, today, talks vaguely about ending the "wasteful" programs that this administration has begun;
--a man who harks back to the days of "peace and security" in 1960, though those were the days when he had to be rescued by the Marines from an angry mob in Latin America;
--a man who distorts the history of his time when he was in office;
--a man who even refuses and neglects to mention that Cuba was lost to communism back in his period of service in the fifties; that in 1960 an ultimatum hung over Berlin; that in Southeast Asia, Laos was disintegrating, and the situation in Vietnam--where he had recommended intervention in 1954, only to be vetoed by his own President--was then growing steadily worse; that a summit conference had to be canceled because of a U-2 flight; that the projected visit of our American President to Japan had been canceled because of the fear of demonstrators; that the Russian Premier was threatening to "bury us" economically, and many people feared that he might do just that; that the Congo was in mortal danger of being taken over by the Communists, and that Indonesia, the fifth largest nation in the world, was sliding toward the same fate; that Chinese power had threatened to overwhelm India and the rest of Asia.
Well, he doesn't mention those things in the 1960's. That is a pretty long list. But I have cited a part of it lest we forget the shape of the world the last time Richard Nixon held high public office.
Today he can make whatever promises he wants to about the future, but I don't believe you, the American people, should let him rewrite the history of his past.
Now, there is a second choice this year, a fellow whose fame until now rested on his ability to stand in college doorways defying the law. His solutions to the country's problems were pretty simple: You line up a few thousand on the sidewalks of the city to preserve order. You throw those bureaucrats' briefcases into the Potomac, including the ones--I suppose--that contain help for the people of Alabama. You turn the most difficult diplomatic and military problems that this Nation faces over to General LeMay, and you use the Presidential limousine to take care of the protest movement.
Well, there it is. There is a program to solve America's problems in 1968. It is amazing that somebody didn't think of it before. Maybe somebody did and is now consigned to the forgotten footnotes of history.
But, my friends, there is a third choice. The third choice is a man who began fighting for human rights before others began to pay even rhetorical tribute to freedom. He is a man who saw the needs of our schoolchildren and he introduced one of the earliest and most far-reaching Federal aid-to-education bills years ago. He was the author of Medicare legislation and he endured the violent abuse of all its opponents in every little town in this country. He has been a general in every effort to improve living conditions in the cities, to lift the farmers' income, to open American doors to new immigrants.
Hubert Humphrey has faced America's problems. He has faced them all of his life. He has faced up to them. He has not deferred them. He has not ignored them. He has not offered simplistic solutions that appeal to a voter's fears.
He has offered good, practical solutions that appeal to the best instincts of our own people. Without him there would be no Peace Corps today. And when John Kennedy turned to him at the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and he said, "Hubert, here is this pen; this is your treaty," that was the culmination of years of working and planning for a world without nuclear fallout.
Hubert Humphrey is fighting now for a new treaty to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, though his opponent counsels delay in adopting this most urgent of international agreements, this vital step in protecting America and the world from nuclear war. None of us know how dangerous it is to counsel delay or what results may flow from it.
I asked Hubert Humphrey to be my running mate in 1964 for one reason: because I believed that he was the best qualified man in America to be President in the event I did not finish out my term. The 4 years since then have convinced me that my judgment was right; that today, in 1968, Hubert Humphrey is beyond question the American public servant who is now best prepared by intelligence, experience, compassion, and character to succeed to this highest office in the land.
When you vote for Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie on November 5th, you will be voting not just for him but you will be voting for yourselves and your family, and for all America.
So let the message go out that the best hope for a better America now lies in facing up to our problems, facing up to them now with men who know how to face them--Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie.
You and your children in the next generation, and my grandson and new granddaughter will be mighty glad you did.