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, New Castle County Airport, Wilmington, DE
October 16, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Thank you very much, girls.

Senator Allen Frear, Congressman McDowell, Governor-to-be Carvell, Mr. Potter, State chairman, national committeewoman, ladies and gentlemen, I want to apologize for keeping you waiting. I was not playing golf. We were over in New Jersey campaigning. [Laughter.] But I have come here for several reasons, first because I think the important thing that the citizens of Delaware return to the U.S. Senate Allen Frear who has been a responsible Senator, and who I know will fight for this State and country once he returns to Washington as a member of important committees in the Senate. So I join with him today and hope that you will support him at election time, November 8, and reelect him to the U.S. Senate. [Applause.]

And my friend and colleague in the House of Representatives, your Congressman from this State, who has served, as I did, on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who has brought to foreign policy a recognition that this country must begin to move forward, must extend its influence around the world with greater vigor, and I am confident that Delaware will reelect to the House of Representatives Harris McDowell. [Applause.]

And also reelect as Governor, the biggest Governor in the country and also from a small State of Delaware send a Governor who will speak for this State and fight for it. I know you will elect again as you did in 1948 your next Governor, Governor Carvell. [Applause.]

And when you have done all that - Kennedy is the name. [Applause.] I come here today, and I must confess that I am finding greater difficulty running against Mr. Nixon than I had imagined. The reason is not because he is such a magnificent debater and it is not because he is using new lighting, but because his positions change so fast that it is very difficult to know where he stands and, therefore, it is very difficult to know what policy he is advocating for our country in the future.

For example, for 10 days he took on the islands of Quemoy and Matsu an entirely different position than the President of the United States has taken since 1955. He attempted to involve us in a commitment of those islands as a matter of principle, when the fact of the matter is that the President of the United States and Mr. Dulles and Secretary Herter has never taken that position.

Now, if he agrees with the President and his view on Quemoy and Matsu, I agree with him, and have agreed with it for several years, and I am glad to have Mr. Nixon come back home. [Applause.] Mr. Nixon has campaigned around the country that parties don't mean very much; what counts is the man. And yet yesterday he went to Arizona and in the heartland of Senator Goldwater he said he is supporting the Republican ticket from top to bottom, and if there was a single Republican he could not support he would get out of the party. He is in the party. He is in the party and so is Mundt, Curtis, Dirksen, and Goldwater, and they are the people with whom we have a very sharp disagreement, a disagreement about the problems of our country, about what must be done if this country is going to remain secure.

I do not run for the office of the Presidency, and I don't come to this community or State and tell you that if I am elected life will be easy. I think to be a citizen of the United States in the next 10 years will require us to assume great responsibilities and great burdens. But I do believe that we have an obligation, not only to ourselves but to all those who wish to live their lives in freedom around the globe. During the American Revolution Thomas Paine said that the cause of America is the cause of all mankind. Now in 1960, in a very real sense, the cause of all mankind is the cause of America. If we remain strong here in the country, if we are building a more vigorous society, if we are meeting our responsibilities in this country and around the world, then we strengthen not only ourselves but we strengthen the cause of freedom. The reason that Franklin Roosevelt was a good neighbor in Latin America was because he was a good neighbor in the United States, because he believed that this society must not stand still, it must move, that we must provide greater opportunity for our people, that we must build our strength, and in building our strength, we strengthen the cause of freedom all around the globe wherever it hangs in doubt.

Now the issue which separates Mr. Nixon and myself, and on this issue the people of Delaware must make their own sober judgment, and I believe the issue is quite clear, whether the United States now is at the peak of its power. Mr. Nixon says and runs on the slogan "We've never had it so good." He says our prestige in the world has never been so high, that our strength relative to the Communists is increasing. I hold a different view, and I believe it incumbent upon all of us who bear any position of responsibility that we state the facts. I do not believe our position is at a high, I do not believe our prestige is steadily growing. I do not believe that our strength is, relative to the Communists, steadily increasing. I believe we have to do better. It is that great question which you must decide yourselves, after looking here in this State and country, and making our own judgment of the stream of events around the world, you must decide. Do you think we are secure? Do you think we are doing enough? Do you think our prestige is higher than it has even been? Do you feel the balance of power in the world is shifting in our direction? Do you feel that the Communist threat is disappearing? Do you feel our position in Latin America is stronger than a decade ago, or that the balance of power in Africa is moving with us, or that we are meeting the problems of people all around the globe in expressing ourselves with vigor? Are we meeting the problems that we face in this country when we have 50 percent of our steel capacity unused? When nearly 35 percent of our brightest boys and girls who graduate from high school never see the inside of a college? When the Soviet Union which, in 1950, was producing half as many scientists and engineers as we are now, produces twice as many, and its economic growth is three times ours? And ours is less not only than the Soviet Union, but of France, Germany, Italy. I believe the United States moves through a difficult time. I believe we can move through it successfully, but I certainly do not believe we can do so if we have leaders who do not tell us the facts, who say, as Demosthenes said 2,000 years ago, to the Athenians, "Our peril comes from those who seek to please us, rather than serve us."

I believe on this occasion we serve the people. [Applause.] Can you possibly say that our power is increasing when you know that next winter and next spring the United States will face a most serious crisis over Berlin at a time when our strength is not rising in relation to that of the Communists? Do you feel that this administration has solved the problem of unemployment, when we have more people out of work now, this fall, than any time except for the three postwar recessions? Do you feel that your children are going to get jobs when you realize that we have to find 25,000 new jobs a week for the next 10 years in order to provide employment for our people?

I believe this country can meet its responsibilities, to its own citizens and those around the world, but I think we have to do better than we are doing and that is the issue. Do you agree? I think you do. I think as Americans you do agree. [Applause.]

This country is, as I said, the hope of freedom, but unless we show vigor, unless we show foresight, unless we are able to develop in the minds of people around the globe an image of ourselves as a society which is on the move, then it seems to me we have lost a most important struggle. Do you realize that the United States has not had a program in the "Voice of America" in Spanish to Latin America any time in the last 8 years except for the 3 months of the Hungarian crisis? Do you realize that we brought more foreign students to study in the United States 10 years ago that we do today?

Do you realize that we got less votes at the United Nations on the admission of Red China than ever before in our history and that in all of Africa only two countries voted with us 10 days ago? Mr. Nixon points to the votes at the U.N. as evidence of our high prestige. Two countries voted with us on the question of the admission of Red China: Liberia and the Union of South Africa. Every other country either voted against us or abstained.

Yesterday the New York Herald Tribune said we had given up hope that Laos would remain an independent country out of the Communist orbit. Mr. Nixon says he is going to spend the next 3 weeks talking about Quemoy and Matsu. I am delighted to engage him in discussion if it serves a national purpose. But I want him to address himself to the problems in this country, to our problems in Cuba, to our problems in Latin America, to our problems around the world and tell us how he is going. [Applause.] I am not interested in engaging in foreign policy debates in order to gain a partisan advantage. But as I said a week ago, I say today, those islands are not worth the bones, and I quote Admiral Yarnell, of a single American soldier. [Applause.]

The United States will meet its treaty commitments. I support the position of the President. Mr. Nixon says he does, too. Now, Mr. Nixon, let us talk about some of the real problems that this country faces. How are you going to move this economy ahead and provide employment for our people? How are you going to build the homes which need to be built? How are you going to provide for the implementation of the Supreme Court decision of 1954?

Mr. Nixon sent Senator Goldwater through the South saying he does not mean anything he says on civil rights, and Senator Scott of Pennsylvania through the North assuring the Negroes that he is with them all the way. He gives a commitment to the repeal of the Connally amendment and then when Senator Goldwater objects he puts forward new reservations. I stand where the Democratic Party has always stood, and I stand to make it very clear that I stand with pride as a Democrat in 1690. [Applause.]

I stand where Franklin Roosevelt stood in 1932, and where Woodrow Wilson stood in 1912, and where Harry Truman stood in 1948. [Applause.] I stand there because I believe that after 8 years, after the last 8 years, the United States is preparing, I believe, another great movement forward in our history, and I believe as we release our energy as a nation, the Democratic Party, with all of its vitality, with all recognition that it is an old party, I believe in 1960, the Democratic Party fits the needs of our time. We need progress, and I believe that progress is our most important commodity. I think we stood for progress and we stand for it in 1960. [Applause.]

So I come here today and ask your help. The Democrats have a majority in the State of Delaware but we have not always carried Delaware. Now, this year, I come up here and ask your assistance in this campaign. I do it not merely because I am the candidate, but because I really believe that this country is worthy of our best efforts. I really believe that we have a chance to serve the United States. I really believe that it is possible for us in the next 4 years to so indicate our vitality and strength to set before the American people our unfinished business, so that people around the world will once more feel that we are on the move again.

They stand today on the razor edge of decision, trying to decide whether the future belongs to us or to the Communists. I believe it belongs to us. But if it is going to belong to us, if people around the world are going to decide to follow our leadership, we must lead, we must set an example, we must meet our own problems, we must hold out a helping hand to them. That is our opportunity. I cannot believe that given that free choice the American people are going to decide to stand still. I think they are going to move. And I can assure you that if we are successful in this campaign, we will give leadership to the country and the United States will move forward again. Thank you. [Applause.]

Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, New Castle County Airport, Wilmington, DE", October 16, 1960. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
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