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Address at Miami Beach at a Fundraising Dinner in Honor of Senator Smathers

March 10, 1962

Senator Smathers, Mr. Chairman, Governor Bryant, Senator Holland, members of the Florida delegation, Secretary Ribicoff, Senator Jennings Randolph, ladies and gentlemen:

I had never heard until tonight Senator Holland's nominating speech for Senator Smathers, but it is one of the most moving speeches that I have ever heard. The question is, George, were you really serious out there in Los Angeles?

I actually came down here tonight to pay a debt of obligation to an old friend and faithful adviser. He and I came to the 80th Congress together, and have been associated for many years, and I regard him as one of my most valuable counselors in moments of great personal and public difficulty.

In 1952, when I was thinking about running for the United States Senate, I went to the then Senator Smathers, and said, "George, what do you think?" He said, "Don't do it. Can't win. Bad year."

In 1956 I was at the Democratic Convention, and I said--I didn't know whether I would run for Vice President or not, so I said, "George, what do you think? This is it. They need a young man." "It's your chance." So I ran--and lost.

And in 1960 I was wondering whether I ought to run in the West Virginia primary. "Don't do it. That State you can't possibly carry."

And actually, the only time I really got nervous about the whole matter at Los Angeles, was just before the balloting, and George came up and he said, "I think it looks pretty good for you."

It will encourage you to know that every Tuesday morning we have breakfast together and he advises with me--Cuba, anything else, Laos, Berlin--anything-George comes right out there and gives his views and I listen very carefully. It is a great honor to be here. And I think that you are fortunate, I had heard in Washington that Senator Smathers had a tough fight, I wanted to come down here--I have been asking all day who he's running against--nobody knows his name--$300,000 has been raised for this fight, but we're all glad to pitch in, in a hard battle. George, it's a bad year!

All of you, however, have a downpayment on his candidacy, and I know that you are going to support him wholeheartedly. I think the best test of any man is the opinion of those who serve with him. He is a member of what has been called the most exclusive club in the world--it is the only club that it is safe to be a member of in Washington today. And in that dub he is one of the leaders of the majority party. He was Chairman of the Senate Campaign Committee. When I was running for the Presidency, he was the chairman of our campaign in the South. When I stood up to be married, he was my usher. And therefore I am delighted to come here to join with a friend-which is the most important thing--and also a distinguished Member of the United States Senate.

I think George Smathers--in fact I know this--in the 1950's when Latin America was a matter of, I think, comparative indifference, when our eyes were concentrated on problems all over the world, to the best of my recollection--and I think Senator Holland pointed this out very wisely--Senator Smathers was the only Member of the United States Senate who time and time again indicated to the Members of the Senate, and to the people of the United States, that this is our backyard.

From 1945 to 1960 the United States gave as much aid to Yugoslavia as it did to all of Latin America, and it is a source of satisfaction to me, with all of the problems that we now face in Latin America, and all of the challenges, that this country has a program in the Alliance for Progress which I believe can successfully counter the Communist onslaught in this hemisphere.

And your Senator, Senator Smathers-reaching as this State does into the South-I believe was the first Member of the Senate, really, in the fifties who pointed out how ignored we had been and how uncertain we had been in our policy toward this area. I am confident that Senator Smathers will be reelected.

This is a great State. I am not sure that the people of Florida realize yet what is happening to this State and what will happen in the next 10 years. The space age which we all take such satisfaction in, in the person of Colonel Glenn, is going to make the most profound difference to this State.

In the next year we will have five times as many people working in the Canaveral area as we do today. We will spend four times-in the space program--as much as we do today. But that is only the beginning. As Governor Bryant said, with that emphasis on space will come the scientists and engineers, will come the improvement in your universities and colleges, will come the emphasis on technical accomplishments, which can make Florida one of the most vigorous and vital areas of the United States.

California--we have seen that in that State, with the great emphasis which its universities and colleges have made upon technical accomplishment. As you know, Berkeley, the University of California, has nearly three times as many Nobel prize winners in its campus alone as the whole Soviet Union, and what has happened there with their emphasis on technology, is going to happen in this State--if the people of Florida recognize the opportunity that is before them.

And I believe that your distinguished Governor recognizes that, and Senator Holland, a Member of the Space Committee, and Senator Smathers and the members of your congressional delegation, and the people of this State, who will put emphasis on improving your colleges and universities and schools, can make Florida one of the most vital, vigorous sections not only of this country but of the world.

I believe the New frontier can be captured here in Florida as almost no other State of the Union, and I am confident that the people of this State will recognize that space is not merely a brave individual, Colonel Glenn, but means all of the changes of technology and science and engineering, which can move this State up to being a vigorous and vital place.

In one of the most amazing prophecies in history a hundred years ago, Jules Verne prophesied that there would be a competition between Florida and Texas as to which State would be the source of vitality in the space age. He thought that Florida might fail because there was no city large enough, and he wondered whether Florida was stable enough, linked to the United States, to stand the blast which would come when we finally put a man in space. One hundred years ago!

Well, I prophesy in the next 10 years that this State is going to have the greatest period of development of any State in the United States--and you, the people of Florida, must be part of it.

And I think your Governor, and Senator Smathers, and Senator Holland, and the members of your delegation, recognize it. Those who say why should we go to the moon, it's not the moon that we are interested in; it's the ability of the United States as the leader of the free world to be second to none in a vital sea and ocean--which I believe space to be. And what it means here and around the world I believe can be the most important part of our rise in the 1960's.

In looking back over the last year, I take some satisfaction in some events, and I take disappointment in others. We have, I believe, got a policy towards Latin America-though we must implement it. We have attempted to rebuild the economy of the United States, and it is a fact that employment and profits and the whole source of the economy has moved ahead. And we are attempting in a trade policy to revitalize our economy and tie us closer together in Europe.

But I want to emphasize the jobs that are still undone. Woodrow Wilson in 1913 said "What good is the success of a party unless it serves a great national purpose?" And I want to emphasize how essential are our great national purposes in the next decade.

The United States--and this becomes more and more obvious every day--is the source of strength of the entire free world. We are criticized and denounced regularly, day by day, in every section of the free world. But the fact of the matter is that in this hemisphere, in Western Europe and the defense of Western Europe, in Berlin, in Africa, in Asia, in the far reaches of South Korea, all the way stretching in a great half-circle from Berlin, the United States is the sentinel at the gate.

I said a year ago that I do not think that any of us should regret this role--and I do not. It is burdensome. I am sure that you get fatigued from it. I am sure you regard it as a heavy burden on you. But the fact of the matter is that if we fail the whole cause of freedom fails. And I believe as a citizen of the United States that we should be prepared to carry that burden, regardless of whether others are willing to do so or not.

And I know that you get tired of assisting countries far away. The fact of the matter is, I am sure there's no one who gets more tired of it than your Senior Senator, Senator Holland. But it is a fact last summer, when this program was under attack, Senator Holland and a few other Senators-as a matter of fact, in both parties--made it possible for us to carry on a program which makes the United States contribute to the defense of NATO--Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, the Republic of China, the Philippines, South Korea, as well as Latin America and Africa. That is a role which I believe, when the history of this age is written and all of us who bear positions of responsibility have passed from the scene, I believe that that is a record--however tired and burdensome it may now seem--that is the record for which we will be remembered.

So I come to this city and this State which has a most promising future, as a part of a country which has a most promising future as a part of the free world which I believe has a most promising future. The fact of the matter is that in the last 12 months we have seen more clearly than ever before the contrast between our system and that of those who make themselves our adversaries.

The wall in Berlin, to lock people in, I believe is the obvious manifestation, which can be demonstrated all over the world, of the superiority of our system. And the question now is: Are we willing to stand the cost? Are we willing to carry the burdens through the next 10 or 15 or 20 years? I believe we are.

And I come to this southern part of the United States to speak on behalf of your Junior Senator, Senator Smathers, who I am confident will come back. And Dante Fascell, the Congressman from this city. Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. He does not, and that is why I am confident that he will be re-elected, too, to the United States Congress.

The history of the United States was not written at Jamestown, or in Massachusetts. It began here in your State--St. Augustine, 400 years old. And I believe that here in the oldest part of the United States we have a potential of being the most vital and vigorous.

So I join you tonight in a salute to your Junior Senator--a salute to your State--and also a salute to our country.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at the Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami Beach, Fla. In his opening words he referred to Senator George A. Smathers, Representative Dante B. Fascell, who served as chairman of the dinner, Governor Farris Bryant, and Senator Spessard L. Holland, all of Florida; Abraham Ribicoff, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare; and Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia.

John F. Kennedy, Address at Miami Beach at a Fundraising Dinner in Honor of Senator Smathers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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