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John F. Kennedy: Remarks at Fitzgerald Field House, University of Pittsburgh.
John F. Kennedy
452 - Remarks at Fitzgerald Field House, University of Pittsburgh.
October 12, 1962
Public Papers of the Presidents
John F. Kennedy<br>1962
John F. Kennedy

United States
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Governor Lawrence, Mr. Mayor, Dr. McClelland, Mrs. Walgren, Edward Cooke, ladies and gentlemen:

This afternoon someone showed me a letter written by a distinguished Republican who wanted to know why I did not confine my appearances in Pennsylvania to those nonpartisan occasions when, as President of the United States, I could represent all the people. I am delighted to tell him why I'm here.

I am here because it is a responsibility of the President of the United States--and some Republicans have not always had this view of the Presidential responsibility--it is the responsibility of a President of the United States to have a program and to fight for it, and I come to Pittsburgh tonight.

I do not believe that in this most critical and dangerous period in the life of our country that Presidents, or anyone else, should confine themselves to ceremonial occasions, ornamenting an office at a time when this country and this world needs all of the energy and the action and the commitment to progress that it can possibly have, and that is what I am doing tonight in Pittsburgh. A President of the United States, as Harry Truman has said, wears many hats, as Commander in Chief, as President, holding special responsibilities in the field of foreign policy. But he is also the leader of his party, and in this country both of our parties serve a function. Both of them have a point of view, and regardless of what speeches candidates may make in November or October of 1960 or '62, or '58 or '56, the record of a party is written over the years in the bills that are passed and the bills that are defeated. And the record of the Republican Party in the past 2 years, in the Congress of the United States, is written so large that all of the speeches that candidates can make in October of this year cannot wipe out that record of blind opposition to everything we've tried to do.

Now this is not a partisan statement. I'm sure that the Republicans who are dedicated to this country, who are just as patriotic as we are, but who have a different idea of its responsibilities and the responsibilities of the National Government--I'm sure that they will be proud to run on this record, and let me describe it to you.

The Housing Act of 1961--and if there's any place in the country that should know more and recognize better how important the passage of a great housing bill should be, it's this city--urban renewal, housing for the elderly, assistance for housing for middle-income groups, the most extraordinary housing act passed since that of 1949--and 85 percent of the Republican Members of the House of Representatives voted against it. The area redevelopment bill, which was in the Congress for 6 years, and twice vetoed by the former administration, a bill especially designed, introduced, and guided through by Senator Clark from this State, especially designed to help those areas of the country, and Pennsylvania has about one-sixth of all of them, which have chronic unemployment, parts of Pennsylvania in coal and steel, parts of West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, parts of Ohio, southern Illinois, parts of Indiana.

The area redevelopment is an effort to bring in new industry. On this bill, 85 percent of the Members of the House of Representatives on the Republican side voted against it. That's the record they're running on, no matter what their speeches may be.

Our bill to provide $1.25 minimum wage, and include in it four million people who are not today covered, not a very extraordinary amount of money, $50 a week for anyone who works in interstate commerce, in a business which does an annual volume of $1 million a year or more, $50 a week--do you know what they did on that? Eighty-one percent of the Republican Members of the House of Representatives voted "no" on a $50 a week for 40 hours minimum wage. That's the record.

And I come here tonight because the 87th Congress is going into its last days, and the 88th Congress will meet in January 1963, and the question the American people have to decide is, what kind of a Congress is it going to be?

It is an historical fact that only in 1934-in every other off-year election the party in power has lost seats. We won or lost vital measures by 4 or 5 votes. A change of one Senator in the United States Senate would have given us health care for the aged, one change of one vote. And yet since 1930 the party in power has lost an average of 39 seats. That's what history is against us. And if we sit down in October and early November of 1962, the 88th Congress will meet in January and every proposal that we have, medical care for the aged, assistance to education, all of the proposals which can make a difference in rewriting our tax bills and the rest--we will be in the control of a dominant Republican-Conservative Democratic coalition that will defeat progress on every single one of these measures. And that's why I come here tonight and ask your help in electing a progressive Congress.

I submitted a bill to make it possible for those who live in our cities and suburbs to be represented in the Cabinet, this city and others like it, where 75 to 80 percent of our people live. Ninety-two percent of all the Republicans voted against it, and it was killed.

These are the issues. This is not a party or a political dispute. This is a question of what your view is of the responsibility of the United States in 1962. The fact of the matter is that unemployment in this State has dropped 30 or 35 percent in the last 20 months. But it's still much too high. It's still above the national average. Can you tell me what the Republican program is to do something about the distressed areas of this State? The first act I took on January 21st was to double the amount of food distributed to the millions of Americans who have no other means of support. That could have been done anytime. That's the difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

And we're meeting tonight in this distinguished university, all of us. I saw more children today, driving into this city--all of these children and all of those mothers and fathers will want those children to have an opportunity to attend this school or others like it. By 1970 we're going to have twice as many boys and girls trying to get into our colleges as were in 1960. That means that we have to build in the next 10 years as many college dormitories and buildings as we built in the whole 150 year history of our country. We had a bill to provide assistance in the construction of those buildings. It came to the House of Representatives 1 month ago and was killed by 28 votes, and three-fourths of the Republicans voted against it. They are joined by some Democrats, a fourth of the party, which have also opposed the party ever since Franklin Roosevelt's day, and that coalition of an almost unanimous Republican Party and one-fourth of the Democrats, they defeat progress.

So I have fought in the last 2 years, and we have passed many bills. We passed that minimum wage, and we passed area redevelopment, and we passed a good drug bill, and we passed a good housing bill, and we came close in medical care, and we came close in higher education, and we came close in a good farm bill, but we lost some of them and won some of them--and now the question is, what is the 88th Congress going to be like?

This country had a recession in 1958; it had a recession in '60. Are we going to drift from recession to recession, or is this country going to commit itself to those programs in our time, as Franklin Roosevelt committed himself and the country to his programs in the thirties?

Elmer Holland, Congressman from this area, who was the author of one of the most important pieces of legislation, the manpower retraining, to make it possible to retrain workers who can't find jobs, he is tonight in the House of Representatives in Washington fighting for the passage of a public works bill which will make it possible for us to build in those areas where people are out of work. He and Bill Moorhead are both on the job working for this district and State, and I'm confident that the people of this State will elect Democratic Congressmen and elect Joe Clark again to speak for Pennsylvania and the country in the United States Senate.

This is a great and strong country. In the last 2 years we have strengthened the military forces to the highest point they've ever been in the peacetime United States. We have formed a Disarmament Agency. We have built the Alliance for Progress. We have built the Peace Corps. But all these efforts to strengthen the United States abroad finally depend upon the strength of the United States here at home. If we move with high unemployment from recession to recession, without educating our children anti giving opportunity to our workers, and security for our aged, what is our boast around the world?

This job of building freedom around the world begins here in this State and in this country, and I think the Democrats and the people of the State of Pennsylvania are fortunate in a candidate for the Governorship who understands the needs of this State, Dick Dilworth. This State, this country, I think must be committed to progress, and we can only do it by Members of the House, Members of the Senate, leaders in the States, who also comprehend our great needs. I'm proud to be a Democrat. I'm proud of the record that we have tried to make. I'm proud to be in the long line of succession as a leader of the oldest political party on earth, from Jefferson to Jackson to Truman and Roosevelt and Wilson.

And all those speeches, all those speeches that we hear about the Federal Government being too busy, they were the same speeches made in the 1930's, when they opposed social security and minimum wage, and the right of labor to organize, and all the rest. The things we now take for granted, the things which make it possible for us to maintain our position, all were more controversial in the thirties than the things we're talking about. Are we going to say in 1962 that Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman did their job and we're not going to do ours? I come to Pennsylvania and I ask you for your support in electing Democratic Congressmen who believe in progress, and Senators, and electing a great Governor.
The other day--this morning, as a matter of fact--I read in the New York Times that during the world's series there were received by the New York Telephone Company about the world's series 365,000 telephone calls, and during that same period of time we registered in New York 110,000 people. Well, baseball is important, and I would not come to this city and question that. But I do think also that the right to vote, the necessity for registration, the commitment of yourselves and your families and your country to the forward movement of us all--that is the great issue of this election of 1962, and we want your help in it.

Dick Dilworth, Joe Clark, Elmer Holland, Bill Moorhead, Mrs. Walgren, Edward Cooke, Frank Clark and all the others-they're the ones who recognize where Pennsylvania must go.

During the Constitutional Convention there was, behind the picture of George Washington, a painting of a sun low on the horizon. At the conclusion Benjamin Franklin stood up and said, "Many of us wondered whether this was a rising or a setting sun. At the end of this Convention we now know that this is a rising sun, and the beginning of a great new day."

November 7th, the day after election, can be, in this State and in this country, a rising sun, and the beginning of a great new day.
Thank you.

Note: The President's opening words referred to David L. Lawrence, Governor of Pennsylvania; Joseph M. Barr, Mayor of Pittsburgh; Dr. William D. McClelland, Chairman, Allegheny County (Pa.) Board of Commissioners; and to Mrs. Margaret Walgren and Edward Cooke, Democratic candidates for U.S. Representative for the 27th and 18th Districts, respectively, of Pennsylvania. Later he referred to U.S. Senator Joseph S. Clark; U.S. Representatives Elmer J. Holland and William S. Moorhead; Richardson Dilworth, Democratic candidate for Governor; and U.S. Representative Frank M. Clark--all of Pennsylvania.
Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Remarks at Fitzgerald Field House, University of Pittsburgh.," October 12, 1962. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=8950.
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