John F. Kennedy photo

Excerpts from Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy, Valley Forge Country Club, Valley Forge, PA - (Advance Release Text)

October 29, 1960

I speak tonight in a historic spot, in an area which will be forever associated with the qualities of courage and conviction. Here, on a cold and bitter frontier, men who believed that these States were and ought to be independent, dedicated their lives to the cause of freedom.

I have said in this campaign that we stand today on a new frontier, a frontier that will demand of us all, in each individual home as well as the White House those same qualities of courage and conviction.

For we are moving into the most challenging, the most dynamic, the most revolutionary period of our existence - the 1960's. The next 10 years will be years of incredible growth and change - years of unprecedented tasks for the next President of the United States.

But they can be rewarding years as well. In the Chinese language, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity. In that deadly winter at Valley Forge, men knew the dread meaning of danger, but they also preserved the bright hope of opportunity. And the new frontiers of the 1960's will present us with both dangers and opportunities. Our task is to overcome those dangers and seize those opportunities.

What are the new frontiers of the 1960's? We can foresee earth-shaking revolutions abroad - new nations, new weapons, new shifts in the balance of power and new members of the nuclear club. But equally earthshaking, equally fraught with both danger and opportunity, are the new frontiers we face here at home.

(1) First is the new frontier of population. Nineteen hundred and sixty will conclude the largest 10-year growth in the history of our country, a growth which equals the entire population of Poland or Spain. By 1970, our population will have grown to 208 million people and to maintain an advancing standard of living for that many people, we will have to increase our gross national product to three-quarters of a trillion dollars. That requires a rate of growth no less than 5 percent a year, and we are not growing at that rate today. To secure full employment to that growing labor force, we will have to find 25,000 new jobs a week. We are not finding those jobs today. To adequately house that tremendous population, we will have to build double the homes we are building today. The new frontier of population holds out the promise of a greater country, greater markets, and greater prosperity but to meet those opportunities we will have to do better than we have been doing in the past 8 years.

(2) Second is the new frontier of longevity. Already nearly 10 percent of our population is over the age of 65. And medical research, if properly encouraged, is on the verge of new breakthroughs in learning the cause and cure of cancer, hardening of the arteries, and other diseases that take their toll in the later years of life. But will these extra years be a blessing or a curse? Will they be years of loneliness, poverty, high doctor bills, and low income? Or will they be years of dignity and security and recognition? Forcing a retired worker to get by on an average social security check of $72 a month or forcing him to take a pauper's oath before he can receive assistance on his medical bills is not the way to meet this challenge. I think we can do better.

(3) Third is the new frontier of education. Pouring into our schools in the next 10 years will be the nearly 51 million children who were born in this country between 1946 and 1958 - a number greater than our entire population in 1880. They are already creating the most critical classroom shortage in the history of our public schools. In the 1960's, as that problem grows even more acute, and as this wave grows older, it will spread into our colleges and universities as well. We will need, in this period immediately ahead, to recruit more new teachers for our public schools than all those presently in service combined. We will need to build more college classrooms and dormitories than we have built in the last 200 years. We will need to spend, as a nation, nearly twice as much on education as we are spending today. There is hardly a family in America that does not look forward to a son or daughter in college. But already our colleges are being overcrowded, their costs are rising, and some 50 percent of our top students do not receive a higher education. There is an old saying that civilization is a constant race between education and catastrophe. In a democracy such as ours, in an age such as this, we must make sure that education wins that race.

(4) Fourth is the new frontier of suburbia, the fastest growing sector of the American population. Most suburban areas have gained more residents in the last 10 years than in the previous century, and that growth will be increased in the sixties. But they are not prepared. Their property tax can ill afford more schools and community facilities. Their transportation network into the city is overloaded already. Their patchwork growth cuts across the jurisdiction and ability of outmoded local governmental units to meet these problems. But as this urban sprawl continues to consume surrounding lands at a voracious rate, our older cities are already witnessing a tragic phenomenon: suburban slums. The next administration must meet these problems head on.

(5) Fifth are the new frontiers in science and space. We are already racing from the jet age to the space age before meeting the safety, airport development, and other problems of the former. Space exploration that unravels the secrets of our universe, reconnaissance satellites that can replace a hundred U-2 planes watching over all the world, civilian travel in space vehicles, and the rule of law and disarmament in space itself, all these lie ahead of this generation. But we need not look only to the skies for new horizons. The wonders of atomic energy, if properly pursued, promise new miracles in medicine, refrigeration, communication, and power for our homes and factories. The conversion of salt water to fresh water - a project widely neglected in recent years - could end forever the domestic squabbles between the States of this Nation and the peoples of this earth and, if we develop it first, mean more to our prestige than all the Soviet moon-rockets combined in those underdeveloped nations where great deserts border great oceans. We must find ways in the sixties of obtaining an endless supply of food and power from the ocean depths themselves and of replacing our dwindling resources of energy from the granite that lies beneath every continent. And, if we can fulfill our hopes for peace, instead of beating our swords into plowshares, and our spears into pruning hooks, we can convert our bombs into power reactors that will electrify the frontier and the jungle.

(6) Sixth is the new frontier of automation. In every kind of endeavor, in office work as well as industry, in skilled labor as well as common tasks, machines are replacing men, and men are looking for work. And this same revolution of technology is taking place on our farms, where the smallest number of farmers on the smallest acreage in our time has produced the largest crop, and the largest surplus, in our history. Our task is to harness the wonders of automation, to make it a blessing instead of a curse, to use its abundance wisely and generously. We cannot reverse the tide of technology, but lest we become its slave, let us make certain it serves the people.

(7) Seventh and finally is the new frontier of leisure time. The coming of automation, the expansion of the labor force, the extension of the lifeline, and the speed of modern transportation, all contribute to the amount of time available to Americans outside of work. What will we do with that time? If we continue to ignore the polluting of our streams, the littering of our national parks, and the waste of our national forests, we will be denying to ourselves and our children a part of their rightful heritage. If more and more cars on more and more superhighways, requiring more and more parking places replace parks and playgrounds and scenic routes, if we permit the great medium of television to occupy more and more of our time with poorer and poorer programs appealing to the lowest common denominator, then we will be failing the public interest on this frontier in the same way that the quality of the old frontier was hurt by those who selfishly seized public lands or razed our great forests.

Twenty-four years ago, Franklin Roosevelt told the Nation: "I, for one, do not believe that the era of the pioneer is at an end; I only believe that the area for pioneering has changed." The new frontiers of which I speak call out for pioneers from every walk of life - in the White House in Washington, but in the country at large as well. Their challenge can be concealed for a little while, but it cannot be ignored, and it cannot be met by a soft complacency, a satisfaction with things as they are, or a commitment to the past. For as the Old Testament tells us, this challenge "is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off * * * neither is it beyond the sea that thou shouldst say: 'Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us * * * that we may do it?' (for) the word is very near unto thee - in thy mouth - and in thy heart. * * *"

The new frontier of which I speak is not too hard for us, neither is it far off. No one need bring it to us, it is here, both its dangers and its opportunities, and we must meet its challenges here, in our hearts.

John F. Kennedy, Excerpts from Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy, Valley Forge Country Club, Valley Forge, PA - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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