The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• John F. Kennedy
Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Grand Rapids, MI
October 14, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. John Swainson, who I believe will be the next Governor of the State of Michigan, Mennen Williams, your distinguished and progressive Governor, Pat McNamara, with whom I served in the U.S. Senate for many years and who has rendered valuable service not only for Michigan but for the United States [applause], my friend and comrade in the U.S. Navy, Bill Liebenow, members of the State legislature, ladies and gentlemen, I want to express my appreciation to you for being kind enough to come out here and welcome us. I think you do so because you realize that this is an important election, and that the decisions that the American people must make on November 8 go to the life, the fortunes, and the future of every man and woman in this square, every man and woman in the State of Michigan, every man and woman in the United States. This is one of the great critical election periods of American history, because we have two parties and two candidates with different historical views of the United States, and different views of our present peril, and different views of the problems that we must face in the United States in the future.

I come here in 1960 as a candidate for the Presidency in the most difficult and dangerous time in the life of our country. I come here to Grand Rapids, which was the home of Senator Arthur Vandenburg, who was the father of the bipartisan foreign policy which secured the United States at the end of World War II. Let me make it clear that I regard bipartisanship not as a means of stifling debate, not as a means of preventing discussion of the problems that face us, but I regard bipartisanship as putting the interest of our country first. And I can assure you that in this campaign when we discuss the foreign and domestic opportunities and responsibilities which are facing our country, we do so from the best interest not of our party but of our country, which is the obligation of all of us. [Applause.]

I want to make it clear that I think this State and country will face entirely different problems in the next few years than it has ever faced before. We are going to have to find 25,000 new jobs a week every week for the next 10 years if every man and woman in this country who wants a job can find one, and we are going to have to do that at a time when machines are taking the jobs of men, when one machine can take the job of 10 men. What is going to happen to those 10 men?

I am running for the office of the Presidency during a period of time when the whole balance of power in the world is shifting today. Why do you think Mr. Khrushchev spent a month at the U.N.? The reason he stayed at the U.N. was not because he thought that today he had the votes, because he wanted to impress on every country there that he is on the march, that he is confident of the future, that he is determined it shall be Communist, and that any country and any people and any system that stands in his way will be crushed.

Why do you think it was a week ago Saturday that only two countries in Africa voted with us on the admission of Red China? And all those other countries either voted against us or abstained. Why did those countries vote against us on the resolution 3 days before that? Only two countries voted with us. What impression did Mr. Khrushchev make at the United Nations? The only way I think that we can record present history is to study the history of the 1930's. I was in England and saw Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Chamberlain. They were fine Englishmen, but Hitler was on the move. He was mobilizing the resources of his country. He was indicating to all powers that if they stood in his way they would be crushed.

Now, that is the problem that we face as Americans. We have only ourselves to depend on for our security. We have to build in this country a strong enough society so that we can protect our own people and so that those who stand today in Latin America and Africa and Asia and Western Europe and Eastern Europe, who stand today on the razor edge of decision, wondering which way they should go, wondering which side represents the way of the future, they will be persuaded that we do, we are on the march, that Mr. Khrushchev is wrong when he says we are a sick society that is about to collapse.

He said before the Foreign Relations Committee a year ago, on which I serve, "You people are not Communists, but your children will be." Are we as confident that his children will be freemen, as he is that ours will be Communist? I believe we can be, but we cannot possibly do that, we cannot possibly meet our obligations, we cannot possibly build a strong society, we cannot possibly find jobs for our people, we cannot possibly impress the world that we are a society on the march, unless we recognize where we stand and what we must do in order to prevail, and that is the dispute between Mr. Nixon and myself. [Applause.]

He runs on the slogan, "You have never had it so good." I run on the slogan that this is a great Country but it must be greater, and it is a powerful country but it must be more powerful. [Applause.] And I am not, as a citizen of the United States, after 18 years, in the service of this country, I am not about to take anyone's word that we are going to be "first, if," "first, but," "first, when." I want us to be first, period, strong, powerful, moving, going ahead. [Applause.]

Mr. Nixon says our prestige has never been higher. Cuba, Ghana, Guinea, Laos - the tide rises against us, and anyone who does not recognize, any one who does not realize that a greater effort is now required from us all, regardless of our party, anyone who does not believe it is time we moved again, I believe should not lead the United States in the sixties, and that is the issue and you must decide it. [Applause.]

If you feel that everything that must be done is being done in good time, that in outer space, in education, in jobs, in industrial growth, in our influence around the world, in our prestige, we are on the tide, the tide is coming in, we are moving ahead, then vote for Mr. Nixon. [Response from the audience.] But if you think -if you recall the sober lessons of history, if you realize with some perspective that in these difficult days only the best is good enough, then under those conditions I ask your help. I ask you to join us.

I can assure you that if we are given the responsibility of leadership, this country will move again. Thank you. [Applause.]

Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Grand Rapids, MI", October 14, 1960. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=74018.
 
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