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, Fulton Lane Parking Lot, Fairborn, Ohio
October 17, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Di Salle, Congressman-to-be Mr. Sullivan, local candidates, ladies and gentlemen, I want to express my thanks to all of you for coming today. This election is important and I think your presence today indicates that you recognize that upon your decision of November 8, upon the decision that you render as to which political party and which candidates and which political philosophy will lead this country, rests in good measure the position of the United States in the 1960's.

I come here today as the Democratic candidate for the Presidency, and I divide the problems which our country will face in the 1960's into two parts. in the first place, we have our responsibilities toward our people in this country, toward the 15 million Americans over the age of 65 who live on an average social security check of less than $78 a month. And yet this administration has refused to provide medical care for the aged tied to social security in the same way as they opposed social security itself 25 years ago.

But in this area, and in minimum wage and in housing and in social justice, we move in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt. [Applause.] I want to emphasize that that is only one phase of our problems in the 1960's. The other phase deals with the problem that you and this community face every day, every day at this airbase, and it deals with what I consider to be a most important policy for the next President of the United States.

In 1941 Albert Einstein and several other people came to see Franklin Roosevelt and told him that an investment of over $2 billion would make the United States the strongest military power in the history of the world by cracking the atom. Franklin Roosevelt could have dismissed it, but the same man who saw in the Tennessee Valley an opportunity for harnessing the resources of that valley for the service of our country was the same man who said "Yes" to that long gamble and provided security for the United States in the last 20 years.

Now the same situation faced the United States in 1954 and 1955, and that was the question of how important it was to be first in outer space, and what answer did this administration give. It regarded it as a scientific experiment. Mr. Wilson, the Secretary of Defense said he was not interested to know what was on the other side of the moon. He said money spent on basic research was unimportant because he was not interested to find out why fried potatoes turned brown.

The result is that the Soviet Union today is No.1 in outer space. The difference between Franklin Roosevelt's response at the beginning of World War II and this administration's response to this question in the middle fifties, in my opinion, indicates a basic difference between the two political philosophies that are now contending. I could not possibly say what the problems will be in the 1960's that are going to face the United States, that are going to be new. No one knows. Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson did not run on the question of outer space in 1952, nor did Wendell Willkie and Franklin Roosevelt run on harnessing the atom in 1940. There are going to be problems entirely new in space, in the air, in the water, under ground, in men's minds. In 1957 we had more people in West Germany in U.S. Embassies than we did in all of Africa, because no one imagined in 1953, 1954, and 1955, and 1956 that Africa would come to be one of the most important continents of the world. We have in the whole Foreign Service today 26 Negroes, out of 6,000 people. And yet a majority of the world is colored, and Africa will hold one-fourth of all the votes in the General Assembly.

Mr. Nixon went to Cuba in 1955. He praised the competence, and I quote him, "and stability of the Batista regime." Three years later Mr. Castro was to dominate Cuba. With all of the effects it has on our own security, the problem that you have to decide - you cannot tell what is going to happen in this country in the next 4 or 8 years. You have to make a judgment as to which candidates in discussing the problems that we now face, the problems that we now see, the responsibilities which the President and the Government and the people must meet, which candidate in your judgment and which party comes closest to being prepared to move into the 1960's. And on that basis I stand here as the descendant, politically, of Thomas Jefferson, who made the Louisiana Purchase, of Woodrow Wilson's new freedom, of Franklin Roosevelt, who extended the boundaries of our influence around the globe.

There are in Africa today children called Roosevelt, Washington, Jefferson. There are none called Mr. Nixon. [Laughter.] I do not say these problems are easy. The problem of full employment, of automation, of increasing educational opportunities, of providing for constitutional rights for all Americans so that every American can realize his talents, of providing an image around the world to Africa and Asia and Latin America of a vital and vigorous and revolutionary society - all that is incumbent upon us as citizens.

The question is which party, which candidate can best move this country, can best strengthen the cause of freedom, can best assemble the talent that is in our country to move to the far horizons of human experience and knowledge.

I come from the oldest political party on earth, the Democratic Party, but I come with a party which is young, which is willing, in my opinion, to move out,to move beyond, that does not run in 1960 on the platform of "We've never had it so good." I run on a program that we must do better, that we owe it to ourselves and our country and our system to give it the best we have. I come here to Ohio today, as we move into the last 3 weeks of a great presidential campaign which involves a very basic decision by each of you: What do you see for yourselves? What responsibility would you like our country to bear? Do you feel the tide of history is moving with us? Do you feel we are riding the crest? Or do you feel that there is around the world a sense that America's high noon is past? I don't believe it. I hold the view that the tide and history can move with us, that those people who desire to be free outnumber those who are willing to sell their lives to the Communist system, but we have to give leadership. Therefore, I ask your support in this campaign, not saying that life will be easier, but promising that if we are successful this country and freedom will move again. Thank you. [Applause.]

Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Fulton Lane Parking Lot, Fairborn, Ohio", October 17, 1960. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
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