John F. Kennedy photo

Address in Los Angeles at a Dinner of the Democratic Party of California

November 18, 1961

Governor Brown, Attorney General Mosk, Ed Pauley, Members of the Congress, distinguished public officials, and ladies and gentlemen:

After campaigning in New York last month, it's a pleasure to come to a State where the Democrats are all united. I am confident there will be a candidate in this State in 1962 who will unite the Democratic Party, and I refer to Pat Brown. Pat Brown Said that I would carry this State by a million votes. He did carry the State by a million votes--and I prophesy that he is going to run--I prophesy that he is going to win.

And I think he's going to win because of some of the reasons that the Attorney General gave. Being a Governor is not an easy job, and being the Governor of California is a particularly difficult job. I think the efforts which Governor Brown has made since he was elected to be Governor of this great State way back in 1958, I think that record which represents the culmination of years of working in this State, which represents the acquired knowledge, year after year, as a dedicated and effective Attorney General of California, I think the people of California know that Governor Brown knows this State and can lead it during the difficult years which are to come.

He is going to be elected Governor of the State because this State, above all others in the Union, must continue to move forward--and Governor Brown and the Democratic Party are committed to progress.

The efforts which he has made in this State alone in the field of education, I believe deserve the wholehearted endorsement of the people of California, and of the country. From the time that the first Colony was established in Massachusetts, the people of this country have recognized that the primary responsibility of local government is to educate our children. And I think California is doing this, and doing a job in this area which I think serves as a good guide to what the Federal Government must do in its own area in the field of education.

You are going to have more than twice as many young men and women applying for admission to these schools in California in 10 years as you do today. And I believe that Governor Brown and the efforts that he has made in junior colleges and universities, and secondary education across this entire State, I believe that he recognizes that this country will be as strong and as free in direct proportion to how well educated and motivated our children are.

And I believe that the evidence that he has given of the fight to provide water for California, which I think must be the basis for the development of the whole West, I believe this effort alone, which has represented one of the most difficult political challenges which this or any other State has faced, I believe this is another reason why he will receive the endorsement of the people of California in 1962.

And thirdly, because of his efforts in the field to provide equality of opportunity for all Americans. I see no reason why it was necessary for California to wait till 1959 before it wrote on the statute books of this State legislation providing for equality of opportunity for every young man and woman in this State--and I hope in the country--regardless of their race or creed.

We met last week in the White House with Doctor Conant and others. Onefourth of all our boys and girls looking for jobs in their teens are unemployed in the United States--and this is concentrated among the Negroes and the Puerto Ricans and those of Mexican extraction in this and other States.

We cannot be satisfied until, first, everyone who wants a job can find it, and also everyone who wants a job will find that job based on their own native ability and desire for work, and not because of their racial or religious extraction.

So Governor Brown will be elected Governor of this State--and that is a prophecy which I believe will come true. He will be elected to your State because of his record, and because he deserves it.

And what he has been attempting to do in the State, we have been attempting to do in the Nation's Capital. We have passed, as we promised we would, the minimum wage of $1.25 an hour, which is little enough. We have provided for the largest extension of housing since the 1949 Act-particularly for those who are old. We have attempted to provide better protection for those who are older. And I can assure you that in January of 1962 this Administration will recommend wholeheartedly that we finally pass a medical care for the aged, which provides them and gives them an opportunity to pay for it themselves under Social Security.

We have made a concentrated effort, and I believe that we are on the brink of a major breakthrough in the coming years, to secure fresh water from salt water at a competitive price, to cleanse our rivers, to develop our resources, to provide jobs for our people, to educate our children, and to provide security for our aged. And we have also attempted to develop the strength of the United States abroad.

When we came into office, of the 14 divisions of the United States, three of them were training divisions, and we have turned them into combat divisions, and we have called up two of our National Guard. We have developed five additional combat divisions, therefore, for the United States in the last 9 months. Now 50 percent of the strategic Air Force in the United States is on a 15-minute alert--we will have a substantially increased number of Polaris submarines by 1963 and 1964 than we would have had.

We have attempted in the field of space, and there is no area--and I say this with complete conviction, there is no area where the United States received a greater setback to its prestige as the number one industrial country in the world than in being second in the field of space in the fifties. And while many may think that it is foolish to go to the moon, I do not believe that a powerful country like the United States, which wishes to demonstrate to a watching world that it is first in the field of technology and science, which represents so basic an aspiration of so many people, I do not believe that we want to permit the Soviet Union to dominate space, with all that it might mean to our peace and security in the coming years.

So in the field of national defense, in the field of space, in the field of our economic growth here at home, which has been over 10 percent in the last 9 months, we have attempted to do in Washington what the Democratic Party has always attempted to do there, and in California, and that is to move the United States forward.

In recent months I have spoken many times about how difficult and dangerous a period it is through which we now move. I would like to take this opportunity to say a word about the American spirit in this time of trial.

In the most critical periods of our Nation's history, there have always been those on the fringes of our society who have sought to escape their own responsibility by finding a simple solution, an appealing slogan or a convenient scapegoat. Financial crises could be explained by the presence of too many immigrants or too few greenbacks.

War could be attributed to munitions makers or international bankers. Peace conferences failed because we were duped by the British, or tricked by the French, or deceived by the Russians. It was not the presence of Soviet troops in Eastern Europe that drove it to communism, it was the sellout at Yalta. It was not a civil war that removed China from the Free World, it was treason in high places. At times these fanatics have achieved a temporary success among those who lack the will or the wisdom to face unpleasant facts or unsolved problems. But in time the basic good sense and stability of the great American consensus has always prevailed.

Now we are face to face once again with a period of heightened peril. The risks are great, the burdens heavy, the problems incapable of swift or lasting solution. And under the strains and frustrations imposed by constant tension and harassment, the discordant voices of extremism are once again heard in the land. Men who are unwilling to face up to the danger from without are convinced that the real danger is from within.

They look suspiciously at their neighbors and their leaders. They call for "a man on horseback" because they do not trust the people. They find treason in our churches, in our highest court, in our treatment of water. They equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, socialism with communism. They object quite rightly to politics intruding on the military--but they are very anxious for the military to engage in their kind of politics.

But you and I--most Americans, soldiers and civilians--take a different view of our peril. We know it comes from without, not within. It must be met by quiet preparedness, not provocative speeches. And the steps taken this year to bolster our defenses--to increase our missile forces, to put more planes on alert, to provide more airlift and sealift and ready divisions--to make more certain than ever before that this nation has all the power that it will need to deter any attack of any kind--these steps constitute the most effective answer that can be made to those who would sow the seeds of doubt and of hate.

So let us not heed these counsels of fear and suspicion. Let us concentrate more on keeping enemy bombers and missiles away from our shores, and concentrate less on keeping neighbors away from our shelters. Let us devote more energy to organizing the free and friendly nations of the world, with common trade and strategic goals, and devote less energy to organizing armed bands of civilian guerrillas that are more likely to supply local vigilantes than national vigilance.

Let our patriotism be reflected in the creation of confidence in one another, rather than in crusades of suspicion. Let us prove we think our country great, by striving to make it greater. And, above all, let us remember, however serious the outlook, however harsh the task, the one great irreversible trend in the history of the world is on the side of liberty--and we, for all time to come, are on the same side.

Note: The President spoke at the Hollywood Palladium. In his opening words he referred to Edmund G. Brown, Governor of California, Stanley Mosk, Attorney General for California, and Edwin Pauley. Later in his remarks he referred to Dr. James B. Conant, vice chairman of the President's Committee on Youth Employment, which met with the President on November 15.

John F. Kennedy, Address in Los Angeles at a Dinner of the Democratic Party of California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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