John F. Kennedy photo

Excerpts of Speech by Senator John F Kennedy, East Los Angeles College Stadium, Los Angeles, CA - (Advance Release Text)

November 01, 1960

* * * One week from tonight it will be over. The ballots will be counted. The shouting will die down. One candidate will concede, one will accept, and either Mr. Nixon or myself will turn to the task of governing the great Republic.

Whoever wins, that task will not be easy. The next President's desk will not be clear, waiting for new plans and problems. It will be piled high with old problems, inherited problems, chronic problems, old bills demanding payment, Ambassadors and negotiators demanding instructions, agencies disappointed by the budget demanding relief, legislation previously submitted demanding new orders. But as the new President tries to clean out this pile, new problems and new pressures will rush in upon new areas of crisis around the world - new decisions on weapons and strategy and economic policy and a thousand other items.

There, on that one desk, on his shoulders will converge all the hopes and fears of every American, and indeed all the hopes and fears of all who believe in peace and freedom anywhere in the world. Whatever the issue, however critical the problem may be, the President will sit alone at the apex. He will have his advisers, his Cabinet, his own sources of information and ideas. But the responsibility, the burden, the final decision must be his and his alone. As the legend on President Truman's desk puts it: "The buck stops here."

For 4 years, the reins of the Nation will be in his hands and the burdens of the world will be on his back. For 4 years, no other decision you make will be so fateful to your country. No other act in your daily life will entrust so much of your future to one man, his party and his honor.

Fully aware of this grave responsibility, I am asking the people of California, and the people of this Nation, to place their trust and confidence in me.

But I do not ask you to choose merely between two men. I ask you to choose what kind of State you want, what kind of Nation you want, what kind of effort you want made to sustain the cause of freedom around the world.

Mr. Nixon and I represent two wholly different parties with wholly different records in the past and wholly different view of the future. We disagree, and our parties disagree, on where we stand today and where we are headed tomorrow. During the past 2 months, and in the 14 years that preceded, we have made known our views on these matters. We have made speeches, we have issued statements. But only one of us, in the years to come, will make the actual decisions, and there is no one in this State or Nation whose life will not be altered by those decisions.

Some may feel that their life is unaffected, that their job is secure, their rent is paid, their taxes and tensions are likely to be about the same whoever is elected. The speeches all seem to be directed to one special-interest group or another, to which most Americans do not belong.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

(1) Our prestige abroad, what other peoples think of us, is not of importance only to those Americans who work or travel abroad. The sign "Yankee go home" does not apply only to our diplomats, foreign-aid specialists, and military personnel who are stationed overseas. The great struggle in the world today is not one of popularity but one of power, and our power depends in considerable measure upon our ability to influence other nations, upon their willingness to associate themselves with our efforts, upon the strength of our stature and leadership. When Mr. Nixon says our prestige has never been higher, when this administration refuses to disclose surveys revealing how doubtful the world is about our capacity to lead the next generation, they remind me of Stanley Baldwin in the British election of 1936 telling the voters that all was well, and the Nazi menace was no cause for alarm. Many Americans would like to shrug off these surveys and the riots in Tokyo, the mobs in Venezuela, Mr. Castro's frenzied attacks on our reputation as the inevitable consequence of world leadership. But this deterioration in our prestige abroad threatens our bases, our alliances, our security and the peace itself and it is time we were respected once again throughout the would as the good neighbor.

(2) Federal aid to education is not merely of importance to those with children in school. Mr. Nixon's tie-breaking vote defeating higher teachers' salaries was not only harmful to our teachers. We live under majority rule and if that majority is not well educated in its responsibilities, the whole Nation suffers. We live in an era of growth and change, and if our educational system is not producing enough doctors or enough engineers or enough teachers, the whole Nation suffers. And finally, we live in a world of shifting tides and opinion and if we cannot outstrip the Russians in space and science, in technicians to underdeveloped countries, in the language training of our Foreign Service officers, then our prestige suffers, our influence suffers, and the whole Nation suffers. Ten years ago our colleges were producing twice as many scientists and engineers as the Russians; now they produce twice as many as we do. It is not because our colleges are empty - they are already overcrowded. And those who are counting on sending their children to college in 1970 may find that decision was already made in 1959-60 when the Republicans blocked Federal help on scholarships, loans, classrooms, and dormitories. I say a better educated America is a stronger America.

(3) Full employment is not merely of importance to the working man and woman. When a layoff hits a plant in southern California, every business and professional man in town feels the effect. A worker on an unemployment check of less than $35 a week cannot buy the same goods for his family that his paycheck bought and he cannot even pay all his bills. But what should shock every citizen was the Republican decision to cut national defense and defense employment, without regard for either our national security or the needs of our workers. In order to make good on arbitrary budget promises, they cut back aircraft and missile programs essential to deter a surprise attack and then partially reinstate them when election day nears. This is false economy at its worst, but it is no more false than the detestable charge that I would shift defense jobs from this State to some other area of unemployment. What Mr. Nixon doesn't understand is that the President of the United States represents all the people in all the States. He cannot run on a platform setting one State against another. I want full employment in California and New York and across the Nation; it is Mr. Nixon who calls unemployment inevitable.

(4) Civil rights are not merely of importance to minority groups. If the full rights of our Constitution, the full values of human dignity, are not available to every American, then they no longer have the same meaning for any American. They no longer have the same appeal to those in other lands of other races and religions, and they are a majority whose respect we seek. And they no longer guarantee us a nation that draws upon the full talents of every citizen. We do not want a Negro who could be a doctor, in a city short of doctors, working as a messenger. If Mr. Nixon and the Republicans had not consistently opposed fair employment practices, if Mr. Nixon had only done something with his Committee on Government Contracts, then there would be hundreds of thousands more Negroes in skilled, professional, and Government jobs today - there would be more than 26 Negro Foreign Service officers out of 3,632 - and there would be more than 1 Negro Federal judge in the entire 50 States. I want a Government and a Nation in which every citizen can obtain any position his qualifications deserve.

(5) Natural resource development is not of importance merely to those in our great river valleys. Its importance is not limited to the West. If we cannot obtain enough water for our farms, our cities, and our industry - if we cannot develop enough low-cost power to meet the growing demand - if our rivers are all polluted, our forests depredated, our parks all replaced by pavement - then the whole national economy is held back, our standard of living declines, and our children are denied their rightful inheritance of America, the beautiful. Almost every great dam in this country is a monument to the resource policies of the Democratic Party. The Republicans have only one monument: three words added to our history - "No new starts."

(6) Monetary and fiscal policies are not merely of importance to bankers, businessmen, and gold speculators. When tight money policies force into bankruptcy a small businessman who cannot get credit, someone else must be found to hire his employees and buy from his suppliers, and someone else must pay his taxes. When interest rates soar, the family buying a home pays out thousands more on the mortgage. The cost of a new car, a washing machine, anything bought on time goes higher and higher, and even food prices rise despite a disastrous drop in farm income. Those who are out of work, those who receive only the minimum wage of $1 an hour, obviously cannot meet the rising cost of living. But this squeeze is also felt by almost every family - the cost of new drugs, the cost of a college education, the cost of broken Republican campaign promises.

(7) Finally, medical care for the aged is not merely of importance to those past 65. The heartless inadequacies of the Republican program, the humiliating "pauper's oath" which many retired workers simply refuse to take, should be of concern to every young family who may some day need to support an aged parent. When chronic illness strikes and stays, and drags on and on, savings are not enough, loans are not enough, the family must help. And I have seen families with comfortable incomes who found their budgets drained by their own medical bills and those of their parents. How much more responsible it would be to put aside a few cents each day under social security. Mr. Nixon, as the Republican candidate, necessarily calls this extreme - I call it extremely necessary.

These are critical differences between the parties, and these are critical times. I stood here in Los Angeles last July, as the sun went down on the Democratic convention, and asked your help. I ask it now. I ask it next Tuesday. Give me your help, your hand, your heart, your voice, and, with God's help, we shall build a better America.

John F. Kennedy, Excerpts of Speech by Senator John F Kennedy, East Los Angeles College Stadium, Los Angeles, CA - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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