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, Levittown, NJ, Shopping Center
October 16, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Congressman Thompson, ladies, and gentlemen, I want to express my thanks to all of you for coming down here and greeting all of us. I particularly want to express my appreciation to Thorn Lord, who I hope you are going to elect as Senator from the State of New Jersey. [Applause.] We need a good Democratic Senator from this State, and I think Thorn can do the job. [Applause.] And Frank Thompson, our Congressman, who has been in charge of our registration drive in this campaign, who has registered 10 million new Democrats, I think, in the last 2 months. Stand up, please. [Applause.]

I come here today as the standard bearer for the Democratic Party in this most important election. Actually, there have been many significant elections in the history of this country, and it is my hope that as a result of this campaign, as a result of our efforts, that the people of this country, all of them, Republicans and Democrats, will come as a result of our effort of the last few months to some definite conclusions about what our country must do. I believe if this election is to serve a national purpose, the best purpose it can serve is to inform our people, not of all the things that are good about our country, because we know there are many things that are good about our country but the things that we must do if we are going to maintain our country's freedom. That is the purpose of this election. That is the purpose of our campaign, and I must say on this great issue which goes to the freedom of our country, the peace of the world, the success of freedom around the globe, I believe on this great issue Mr. Nixon and I have sharp disagreements, and they involve very definitely [applause] - Mr. Nixon's views are subject to change frequently, so I think we disagree on this question. [Laughter and applause.]

Yesterday in Arizona he made a speech to a group that Senator Goldwater had gathered together, saying he is all for the Republican Party and all of its candidates, and then he spoke about an hour later and said "Well, the party does not make much difference; it is the man." [Applause.] Well, I think it is the man who the party selects that makes the difference. [Applause.]

Grover Cleveland said about 70 years ago, "What good is a politician unless he stands for something?" And I say what good is a political party unless it stands for something. And I want to make very clear where we stand in 1960. We say that this is a great country that must be greater. It is a powerful country that must be more powerful, and as an American citizen of this country, as well as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party, I want to make it clear that what we are doing now is not good enough. Mr. Nixon runs on a slogan "We've Never Had It So Good." He says that our prestige in the world has never been as high. I don't agree with that. I don't agree with that. [Applause.]

As long as we are using only 50 percent of our capacity in the production of steel, as long as our economic growth is only one-third that of the Soviet Union, as long as 35 percent of our brightest boys and girls who graduate from high school never get to see the inside of a college, as long as the votes in the United Nations are beginning to move against us, as long as Castro is strong not only in Cuba but is spreading his influence throughout Latin America, I cannot say we have never had it so good. [Applause.]

Mr. Nixon debates Quemoy and Matsu, and I am delighted to debate them with him, because I believe in strength and I believe in peace. But I also would like to hear him debate Cuba, Africa, Latin America, economic growth [applause] - I saw in the paper that he is going to discuss those two islands 4 miles from the coast of China for the next 3 weeks. I am delighted to discuss those islands and our responsibilities toward them an a toward peace and toward strength. But I would like to also hear his plans to prevent the communization of other areas of the world. What are his plans to prevent Africa from slipping, an area of poverty and disease, what is his plan? And what is the administration's plan to prevent Communist influence from growing in Africa? What is the program of this administration toward Latin America?

Last June we offered 300 scholarships to the Congo. You know that was more scholarships than we had offered to all of Africa the year before? We had more people stationed in West Germany in our Foreign Service in 1957 than in all of Africa? There are four countries in Africa now members of the United Nations, and we don't even have an American representative in any of the four. In the vote on the admission of Red China into the United Nations, do you know how many African nations voted with us? Two - one, Liberia which we helped found, and the other the Union of South Africa. Every other country of Africa either voted against us or abstained. Do you know more countries voted against us on that issue from Asia than voted with us? Do you know why a candidate for the Presidency of Brazil took a trip to see Castro? Because he realized the popularity that Castro has been gaining in Latin America; because the United States is indifferent. We gave more aid in the last 10 years to Yugoslavia than we gave to all of Latin America combined.

These are the problems that we must discuss, because they go to the security of every person here. Everyone here knows that unless the balance of power in the world is moving in the direction of freedom, then the United States is in peril. As long as countries in Africa, and leaders, begin to feel that the future belongs to the Communists and not to us, as long as they begin to fear the Russians more than they trust us, as long as those people in Latin America think that we are uninterested in their fight against poverty and disease and ignorance, as long as they think we regard them merely as pawns in the cold war, then they begin to wonder whether they should do what Castro has done.

These are the struggles which we are going to face in the next 10 years. How could a free society increase its economic growth? There are a good many people here who work, whose children will be trying to get a job in the next 12 months. We are going to have to find in the next 10 years, 25,000 new jobs a week for the next 10 years, to provide jobs for all the people in our country who want them, and we are going to have to do that at times when automation is taking the jobs of men, when 1 machine can do the jobs of 10 men, and yet we are going to have to provide full employment. We have 16 million Americans over the age of 65 who live on an average social security check of less than $78 a month. How are they going to get by and find homes, shelter, and medical care? These are the problems that the United States must face.

I am delighted to discuss any problems that anyone wants to raise in this campaign, but I want to turn Mr. Nixon's attention not only to the coast of China but to the United States and New Jersey and the problems it faces and our people face. [Applause.]

In different times in our history the American people have chosen the Republicans and at other times they have chosen the Democrats. I believe in 1960 that when we analyze our perils and our opportunities, because our opportunities are greater than our perils, I believe the American people are going to come to the conclusion that it is time this country started moving again. And that is the issue. [Applause.]

In 1912, Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey ran for the Presidency, and he ran on the slogan, "The New Freedom." I run in 1960 not saying that if I am elected life will be easy but saying that this is a great country which deserves the best from us all. This is a great country which deserves the best that all of us can do. It is a country which is the chief defender of freedom, and upon us and upon our willingness to meet our responsibilities rests not only our own security, but rests the hope of freedom all around the globe.

Abraham Lincoln said 100 years ago, "This Nation cannot exist half slave and half free." The question is whether the world can exist in 1960 half slave and half free, whether it will move in the direction of freedom or whether it will move in the direction of slavery, and upon us, upon our willingness to meet our responsibilities, hinges this great question. I come to New Jersey and ask your help in this campaign. [Applause.] And I can assure you that if we are successful we will set before this country its unfinished business, and this country will move again. Thank you. [Applause.]

Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Levittown, NJ, Shopping Center", October 16, 1960. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
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