The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• John F. Kennedy
Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Auditorium (Coliseum), Indianapolis, IN
October 4, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Thank you, Senator Welsh, Senator Hartke, Governor Schricker, Congressman Madden, and Congressman Barr, Members of the Congress, national committee men and women, Mrs. Price, ladies, and gentlemen:

I am grateful for the introduction by Matt Welsh, who I am confident is going to restore to this State honest and progressive government next November. [Applause.] And I think as Governor he will serve in the tradition established in this State by Governor Schricker. I think he will show what can be done in Indiana. [Applause.] And just as we hope to show them what can be done in the country. I think the test in Indiana and the country is just the same: whether they want an administration which says "No" to the sixties, whether they want an administration which will stand still, or whether they want an administration in this State and in the United States that will move ahead. I think we are going to win this election. [Applause.]

The choice before us was very clearly put, and the standard of the Democratic Party was clearly raised away back in 1936, when Franklin Roosevelt made his acceptance speech before 100,000 people in Philadelphia, Pa. In that speech he said:

Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that Divine Justice weighs the sins of the coldblooded and the sins of the warmhearted in a different scale. Better the occasional faults of a government living in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.
I think that is the test for the sixties. [Applause.] Where Franklin Roosevelt set before our country its unfinished business, the agenda of our nation, the things that we must do if we are going to realize our potential, this administration has set ceilings and limitations, and we now move from stage to stage in the most difficult time in the history of our country, when the challenge is clearly laid upon the United States. We move into 1960 not with vigor and energy and foresight, but instead being dragged along, year after year, without any recognition of how serious are the problems that face us at home and abroad.

I think the issues are clear, and I believe that the American people on November 8, faced with the most serious challenges at home and abroad, are going to return the leadership of this country to the party which in this 20th century has produced Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman. [Applause.]

Mr. Nixon has traveled about the United States and said that party labels don't matter; what counts are the men. I think what counts are tho men that the political parties put up, and I think party labels mean a good deal. [Applause.] I am not impressed by this leap-year progressivism which comes upon the Republican Party every 4 years, when they support and sustain programs which they fight against year after year in the Congress. The Democratic Party in this century has produced Wilson and Roosevelt and Truman. There is not any doubt that none of those men would have been nominated by the Republicans, and I don't think there is any chance at all that the Democratic Party in this century would have nominated McKinley or Taft or Coolidge or Harding or Landon or Dewey or Nixon. [Applause.]

No Democrat ever "Stood pat with McKinley" or "Kept cool with Coolidge" or "Returned to normalcy with Harding," or ran on a program in 1936 of repealing the Social Security Act, which Alf Landon did, or ran like Thomas E. Dewey.

Mr. Nixon in Boston the other day said I was another Truman, and I returned the compliment and said he was another Dewey. [Laughter and applause.] And he has not said I was another Truman since, but I wish he would. I regard it as a compliment. [Applause.]

I am reminded of the poem that Robert E. Sherwood wrote in 1933, hailing Franklin Roosevelt's administration.

"Plodding feet tramp, tramp,
The Grand Oid Party's breaking camp,
Blare of bugles, din, din,
The New Deal is moving"
Today, on every major crisis that threatens our country - Berlin, Formosa, the plight of our cities, the plight of our schools, the problems of unemployment - we hear no blare of bugles, din, din; we see only plodding feet, tramp, tramp, and the Grand Old Party breaking camp. I think we can do better. [Applause.]

I do not say that they have been silent on all these issues. In fact, I am reminded of the exhortation from King Lear that goes, "I will do such things; what they are yet I know not, but they shall be the terrors of earth." I think the Democrats can do better, I think they must do better if the United States is going to maintain its position at home and abroad. What we are now doing might have been good enough for another day and another time. But I believe in the next 10 years the world will begin to move either in the direction that we have set out, or in the direction of the Communists, and during these next 10 years I think it is time the United States began to stir itself again. You cannot possibly be satisfied [applause] to move from a recession in 1954 to a serious recession in 1958, to a slowdown in 1960, which promises a hard winter in 1961, and feel that the United States is living up to its capacity. You cannot be satisfied when there are 15 million American homes which, according to the last census, are substandard, 5 million American homes in the cities of the United States which lack plumbing of any kind. You cannot be satisfied as an American when the average wage for laundrywomen in five cities of the United States is 65 cents an hour for a 48-hour week, and most of them are Negroes. You cannot be satisfied to see our steel capacity at 50 percent, to know that last week the Soviet Union produced more steel than the United States with one-half of our capacity, because our machines and men are not being used to the fullest. I think this is a somber time for us all.

I have the greatest confidence in the United States. Mr. Nixon says I downgrade this country. I do not downgrade it. After 14 years in the Congress, and after traveling to every State in the Union in the last 2 years, I have the greatest confidence in it. What I downgrade is its leadership. I downgrade the prospect of Mr. Nixon leading the United States in the most difficult and somber time in the life of our country. I believe the Democratic Party has, as it has all through our history, an opportunity to contribute to the United States, to break new ground, to move the United States ahead in the 1960's. [Applause.] And those Americans who agree with the Republican slogan "You never had it so good," who believe that what we are doing now is as good as we can do, who believe that everything that has to be done at home and abroad is being done in full measure, then they should support the Republicans. But any American who has unlimited confidence in this country's capacity to lead, who believes that the ouly way that we are going to be a good neighbor abroad is by being a good neighbor at home, who believes that the economy of this country must move if we are going to maintain full employment and secure sufficient revenues to maintain our defenses, then I hope they will come with us.

One of the issues that Mr. Nixon has mentioned has been efficiency in government. He has stated that he is going to save the taxpayers money. I want to describe to you what I consider to be the most wasteful administration in this century. The harsh facts of the matter are that in the last 8 years this administration has operated at an $18 billion deficit. In 1958, the Republicans, because of the recession, induced in part by fiscal and monetary policies which they follow, had the largest peacetime deficit in the history of the United States; 1958, $12 billion. The national debt ceiling has been increased five times in the last 8 years. The total Federal expenditures have far exceeded any in the history of the United States, and in fiscal 1959 we have this high deficit, and what have we achieved with all of this?

Most of it has gone for foreign aid and for agriculture and defense. Our foreign aid programs, emphasizing as they do the military in their distribution of surplus military equipment, have not secured us friends, have not won us allies. The United States today is not stronger than it was, in relationship to the Communist world, than it was 8 years ago, after all the programs have been carried out and after a the money has been spent. As Secretary Wickard knows, our farm budget in the last 3 years has spent more money than in the 20 years before. This administration has spent on agriculture more money than all the administrations since tbe Department of Agriculture was begun, nearly a century ago.

You talk about waste in government and about inefficiency. Can you imagine an administration which has brought farm income to the lowest point in 20 years, which has $9 billion of surplus food stored away and hundreds of millions more coming in crops this year, being regarded as an efficient government?

I was chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Reorganization that put through over 30 Hoover Commission recommendations, and I can tell you that this administration has not mastered the bureaucracy. The Department of Defense has more employees and spends more money than it spent in any peacetime year, and yet we do not have a defense second to none, and we are not in the lead in missiles, and we are not in the lead in outer space. These are all important because a free government has only so much resources. We have only so much energy that we can devote to the purposes of national security.

I believe as a Democrat, in a responsible fiscal and monetary policy. But I want to point out what I consider to be the real waste of this administration. Mr. Nixon has purported to figure out the cost of the Democratic platform. His figures are wholly fictitious and untrue. But how can anyone figure out the cost of the Republican platform? How much have they cost the taxpayer for the dams and the highways that cost more now and in the early sixties than they would have 5 years ago? How do you measure the cost of a flood which a dam could have protected? How can you measure the cost of juvenile delinquency in the slums which have not been torn down by an effective urban renewal program? How can you measure the cost to families for medical care for their aged parents because this administration has refused to support medical care for the aged financed under social security, and instead they gave their support to a bill which will cost the taxpayers, if fully used, $1 billion a year from the National Treasury, and $1 billion from the States and before anyone gets any assistance they must take a pauper's oath that they are medically indigent, instead of financing it as Governor Rockefeller and most of the Governors recommended, under social security, which would have added no burdens on the general revenue of the taxpayers, they financed it under the general revenue, a program which does not meet the need and which is wasteful and which must, in my opinion, be changed by a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President. [Applause.]

How much waste is there in the fact that 35 percent of our brightest students do not go to college? How wasteful is that of a great human resource in a country that needs all of the brains that we can get? They cannot afford it, most of them, and this administration has not been willing to stimulate those programs for building our schools and colleges that would permit them to afford it; $9 billion worth of food stored away in surpluses, and yet I spent a month in West Virginia and I saw over 100,000 families waiting every month, a family of 4, for a food package of $6.25 of surplus food. It includes for each person 5 cents a day of rice, corn meal, dried eggs, skim milk, and they are going to add lard at the end of the summer. The food and fiber is being wasted in a country which has people who depend upon it and in a world which looks to us for relief.

Last week, as I said, approximately 50 percent of our steel mill capacity was unused. What a waste that is. And over 100,000 steelworkers out of work. What a waste that is. If the Soviet Union's economy is growing at twice or three times as fast as ours is, if they are using their resources to the maximum and we are not, then quite obviously this race that we are now engaged in can have only one end. These are all difficult and somber questions.

I don't run for the office of Presidency saying if I am elected life will be easy, but I do believe that a new administration composed of new people inheriting a great tradition of intellectual vitality, can move this country further ahead. Can you belleve that this administration has shown vigor in its foreign policy when we offer to the Congo at the time of the crisis early this summer over 300 scholarships, which was more than we had offered to all of Africa the year before, and only 6 of those students are now in the United States studying? How long does this administration think it takes to train a leader, to send him through school and college and give him experience? It takes, 10, 15, or 20 years. And yet this administration has been totally indifferent to the needs of Africa which will control, by 1962, one-quarter of all the nations of the General Assembly. What is true of Africa is true of Latin America. No program for aid for Latin America of any substantive importance was suggested until we broke off the sugar quota with Castro in June. And then we went to the Bogota Conference with an authorization. Eight years - we gave more aid to Yugoslavia in the last 15 years than we have given to all of Latin America in the same period of time. I do not believe that this administration has demonstrated sufficient foresight, I don't believe that its experience in foreign policy or its experience in domestic policy jutifies a renewal of its lease.

I share the view that its experience is like that, that Oscar Wilde described as "Experience is the name that you give to your mistakes," and I must say in the field of foreign and domestic policy, I don't believe that this administration has demonstrated its awareness of how swiftly the world is changing around us, of how hazardous is our present position.

Lincoln said 100 years ago, "This Nation cannot exist half slave and half free." Now the question is whether the world will exist half slave and half free, and if it does not, which way it will go. Will they come with us or with them. [Applause.]

I believe that they can come with us, but I believe to have an effective policy toward them we have to be moving here in the United States. Franklin Roosevelt and Wilson and Truman's foreign policy was a direct counterpart of their domestic policy. It was because Franklin Roosevelt was moving this country with progressive and humane legislation, that the people of Latin America and Africa regarded him as a good neighbor. If you are solving our problems here at home, if we are using our resources, if we are providing a more honest and fair life to all of our citizens, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, if we are making this country a shining example of what freedom can do, then I think the world will begin to move in our direction. But if they get the idea that our high noon is in the that the brightest future is possessed by those countries in the that our day was years ago, and that the secret of organizing their society is to duplicate the Chinese and the Russian example rather than ours, then quite obviously those countries to the south of us will begin to move in the direction of the Communists.

That is why I believe that this is the most difficult of all of our times. It is the best of the days and the worst of the days, and I think the responsibility upon the next President, and upon the citizens of the United States in the next 4 or 5 years will be as heavy as it has been in our long history. But I have confidence in this country. I really believe that if the leadership sets before us the unfinished business of America, if we set before ourselves 0ur goals that we must achieve, if we are going to maintain our society free from being vulnerable, then I am confident that the power of this country can be unmatched.

This election is an important one. It involves not merely Mr. Nixon and myself. It involves us all. We are all committed. We all participate. We are all affected by its result. I come here tonight and ask your help in this campaign. I ask you to join us in this effort. [Applause.]

Here in this State of Indiana it is not an easy job. This is a long, tough, uphill fight, even though I am confident that you are going to elect Matt Welsh as Governor. But I am under no illusions that this election on my part is easy in the State of Indiana. It is uphill. But I am confident that the tide is moving in our direction. [Applause.] I am confident that the people of this State recognize that there are serious issues which affect the two parties, that the history of the two parties is entirely different. My judgment is that a majority of the citizens of this State are going to choose the Democratic Party and choose to move again, choose to go ahead again, rather than standing on dead center. [Applause.]

One hundred years ago, Lincoln wrote to a friend, "I know there is a God and that He hates injustice. I see the storm coming and I know His hand is in it. But if He has a place and a part for me, I believe that I am ready." Now, 100 years later, we know there is a God and we know He hates injustice and we see the storm coming, but if He has a place and a part for us, I believe that we are ready. Thank you. [Standing ovation.]

Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Auditorium (Coliseum), Indianapolis, IN", October 4, 1960. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
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