John F. Kennedy photo

Excerpts of Remarks by Senator John F. Kennedy, City Hall, Springfield, MA - (Advance Release Text)

November 07, 1960

* * * When I began my campaign for the Presidency I said that just as the issue of the campaign 100 years ago was whether the United States would continue half slave and half free, the issue of this campaign was whether the world would continue half slave and half free, or whether it would move in the direction of freedom or the direction of slavery.

And that, I firmly believe, is the great issue on which America will speak tomorrow.

For the basic assumption of my campaign has been that the American people were uneasy at the course the world seemed to be taking, that they were alarmed at the steady growth in the relative power of those who would drive the world toward slavery, that, faced with a clear choice, they would choose that party and that candidate who told them the truth about our responsibilities and our opportunities, and called for vigorous and arduous effort to revive the vitality of the great Republic.

The rightness or error of that assumption will soon be a matter of history.

But regardless of the coarse this election may take, whether Mr. Nixon or myself is chosen, I believe that what happens in the coming months and ears will prove that we of the Democratic Party were right, that the perils were real, the challenges were hazardous, the tasks were great. For already, once the start of this campaign, events and facts have given ominous portent of what is to come. And no reassurances, no glib optimism, or attempts to conceal the truth can explain away these events and facts.

At the beginning of this campaign Mr. Nixon and I joined issue on three basic assumptions about the vitality of America and its position in the world.

First, while I said that the American economy was failing to move ahead fast enough to meet the needs of the Nation or the people, Mr. Nixon said that "We'd never had it so good," that the Nation was enjoying "unexampled prosperity."

Since that time unemployment has risen to more than 6 percent, the highest since the great recession of 1958. In the past 5 months we have lost almost $1 billion of our dwindling gold reserves to foreign banks. In the past 3 months our economy has not only failed to move ahead, but it has actually gone backwards as our gross national product declined by $4 billion. In the past few months Treasury estimates as to the amount of revenue we could expect went down $2 to $3 billion, due not to declining taxes but to declining income. Industrial production is down. Average weekly earnings are down. And almost every other economic indicator has declined so sharply that many economists have declared that we may be moving toward the third recession in 6 years.

This is the first issue between myself and Mr. Nixon which events have begun to settle.

Second, while I said that our position and prestige in the world were declining dangerously, Mr. Nixon said that our prestige was "at an alltime high."

Since that time our influence in the United Nations dropped until not one of the new African nations voted with us on the question of the admission of Red China. In the past few months the Cuban dictator has become increasingly brazen in his challenges to our position in Latin America. In the past few months the African nation of Ghana, according to our own Secretary of State, has moved closer to the Communist bloc. And in the past few weeks secret polls, which the Republicans refused to release before election, were leaked to the press, proving that our prestige has dropped sharply in the past year; that in 9 out of 10 nations a majority of the people thought that Russia already was, or soon would be, first in the world in military power and silence.

This is the second issue between Mr. Nixon and myself which events have began to settle.

Third, while I said that the decline in our relative military power meant that the danger of Soviet military supremacy would increase in the early sixties, Mr. Nixon said that our relative military strength was increasing, that we were in no danger at all.

To support my statements I cited the fact that every independent survey, and most of our retired military leaders, had concluded that our present military effort was inadequate, that the Russians were gaining. Mr. Nixon offered only Republican reassurances that all was well. And yesterday morning the New York Times published an independent survey made by the Operations Research Office of the Johns Hopkins University, a survey which the Republicans have also refused to release before election, a survey which concluded that unless we act immediately "The United States may become a world power inferior to the U.S.S.R" in the next decade.

This is the third issue between Mr. Nixon and myself which events have begun to settle.

I believe that Mr. Nixon's failure to tell the truth to the American people, or, perhaps, his failure to understand the truth himself, is a clear demonstration of his incapacity to lead this Nation through the troubling and hazardous years which lie ahead. And for that reason I believe that tomorrow the American people will look to the leader of a party pledged to act with boldness and imagination in moving America forward - they will look to the leadership of the Democratic Party.

If the Democratic Party is chosen, if I am elected President, then I do not promise an easy life in the sixties. We will call for increased concern and effort on the part of every American. But, in a very real sense, it is not I or my party that demand effort. Events demand it. Facts demand it. The realities of our danger demand it. And we have no choice but to respond or decline, whoever our next President may be.

But if we do respond, if we release the great untapped vitality and strength of our society, if we revive the American spirit that conquered the old frontiers, then we will cross the New Frontier to realize the unparalleled opportunities for freedom that lies ahead.

John F. Kennedy, Excerpts of Remarks by Senator John F. Kennedy, City Hall, Springfield, MA - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives