Mr. Chairman, Mr. Mayor, Members of Congress, Young Democrats and others, ladies and gentlemen:
For all I've been reading in the last 3, 4, or 5 months about the great conservative revival that's sweeping the United States, I thought that perhaps no one was going to show up today. But I'm proud to be here today, and proud to be among those of you who not only in the future but today helped make the program of the Democratic Party.
Artemus Ward once said, about 50 years ago, "I am not a politician and my other habits are good, also." We are politicians, and we believe, in this sense, that we recognize that a political party is not an end in itself but is a means of making progress for the American people.
Woodrow Wilson said, in 1913, "What use is a political party unless it serves the interests of the people?" What use is either one of the two great political parties if they really represent, to those who are active in them, only a means of expression and exercise? They are important. They are functional. They will endure only as they contribute to the well-being of the people of this country.
And although I read a good deal--as do you--about all the slogans for the solution Of our problems that sweep across the United States--and slogans are important particularly if they tell something about what is behind them--but what I think we must hear from the political leaders of our two parties is not slogans attempting to invoke old memories of self-reliance and all the rest; what we really want to know is, how can the United States maintain its strength, maintain the peace, maintain full employment, improve the life of our people, spread its influence around the world, strengthen the cause of freedom, survive, endure, and prevail?
And it is to these great questions which are today far more complicated than they were in the days, even, of Franklin Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson that we as Democrats, and those of us who are active in our Party and in our country, must address ourselves. Not merely to mouth the old slogans and the old programs.
How can the United States maintain full employment in a free economy and in a free society? A recession in 1958, a recession in 1960, a recession in 1954, a recession in 1949. Is this recovery now--which in the last 6 or 7 months has seen the economy move forward by over 10 percent--is this economy going to run out of gas again, at the end of 1962 or 1963 or 1964?
How can we find jobs for the hundreds and thousands of young people under 20 who today come into the labor market, many of whom drop out of school and can't find work? Twenty-five percent of all young Americans in their teens looking for jobs are unemployed. How can we attempt to make it possible in the next 10 years for the seven million young boys and girls--men and women--who want to find admission to our colleges when our colleges today are strained finding a place for three and a half million? How can the United States get richer and more powerful and still prevail and survive, when so much of the world is not getting richer but poorer?
How can we in this Hemisphere, north and south, hold the imagination of the people in this continent and make them feel that political freedom and economic abundance go hand in hand?
I think the problems pour upon us, and these are problems that can be met. But I think they can only be met by those who are willing to do the hard work and come up with hard solutions. And I believe that it is incumbent upon all of us who are interested in our country, all of us who are active in political life, to attempt to come forward--and most of all, you who will be the leaders of this country, who have the longest to look forward to, who will be active over the next 40 years and who therefore must live with the results of all the judgments that we make today.
What is this country and the world going to be like in 1970, 1980, and 1990 when we see atomic weapons proliferate around the world, missiles and all the rest? You are going to be living in the most hazardous period, of course, of the human race. Can the peace be maintained? Can our strength be increased? Can the chances of freedom prosper?
So I come here today, not merely to make an old-time political speech, but I come here because I believe the opportunity and the obligation upon you is great.
The Democratic Party is the oldest political party in the world, and the reason it is old is because from the time of Jefferson to the present day the Democratic Party has been realistic enough to recognize the kind of problems which are coming over the horizon in the years ahead, and has had programs and policies to meet them. The day that we have not, the day that the Democratic Party is not prepared to come forward with those programs and policies, regardless of our old memories and our old leaders, we will fade as the Whig Party faded and made way for the Republican Party.
A political party is like anything else in life; it is the survival of the fittest, and the fittest in American life today are those who look realistically at the challenges and attempt to move this country forward.
We can keep going by not merely invoking the past, but by using the past as a stimulus to the future, and all of the great leaders of the Democratic Party--Wilson's New Freedom, Roosevelt's New Deal, Truman's Fair Deal, and our New Frontier--are attempts to pick the United States up and move it.
So I come here today asking your help, not for the election of 1962, though I will then, and 1964, but in the coming months, so that this session of Congress will be fruitful, so that our country can use the coming months as the leader of the Free World to demonstrate that it is the leader in fact as well as in name, and that here in the United States there is not only a country dedicated to progress but there is a political party stretching back through the long years of our history, which in the coming days of this decade will give this country new leadership.