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Excerpts of Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy, Michigan State Fair, Detroit Coliseum, Detroit, MI - (Advance Release Text)

October 26, 1960

* * * We know enough about the USIA survey of our prestige overseas to know that one of the key questions related not to how we stood in 1960 compared to the Soviets, but who would be ahead in 1970. While the decline in our prestige caused more of those interviewed to give the Soviet Union an edge in power today, they agreed with disturbing unanimity that the Soviet Union would be the most powerful nation on earth in 1970.

The rest of the world is thinking in terms of the future. The underdeveloped world, looking ahead to the dawning of a happier day, is thinking in terms of the future. Mr. Khrushchev, when he boasts that his grandchildren will rule our grandchildren, is thinking in terms of the future. He is prepared to sacrifice present comfort for future glory, for he knows that, if the rest of the world believes the tide is going with the Communists, if they believe that Moscow can meet their needs better than Washington, if they find that Russia is growing stronger than we are economically and militarily, then the world balance of power will shift decisively his way.

The question is: Is America thinking in terms of the future? Are we willing to match the Russian sacrifice of the present for the future, or must we sacrifice our future in order to enjoy the present?

In the last hectic weeks of the campaign, it is understandable perhaps that our attention would be centered on where we stand in 1960. The Republican candidate tells us repeatedly that in 1960 all is well, that our prestige is at an alltime high, that our prosperity is unprecedented, that we are ahead militarily, scientifically, economically, educationally. Perhaps that fulfills his obligation in this election. But I say we also have an obligation to the next generation, and we are not meeting that obligation today.

We cannot meet that obligation unless we think now in terms of 1970. For this will be a wholly different nation in 1970 with wholly different needs, and we must begin now to meet those needs.

In 1970, our population will have grown to 208 million people. The children now overcrowding our schools will be coming onto the labor market looking for jobs at the rate of 3 million a year. Automation will be a reality in almost every industry, with machines replacing men all over the country and bringing more goods to more people all over the world.

The next 10 years, in short, will be a decade of opportunity. But they will also be a decade of challenge and effort. For if we are to maintain an advancing standard of living for this growing population, we will have to increase our gross national product by 1970 to three-fourths of a trillion dollars, and that requires a rate of growth no less than 5 percent a year. We are not growing at that rate today.

If we are to secure full employment for this growing labor force, we will have to find 20,000 new jobs a week. We are not finding those jobs today.

To house our growing population, we will have to build double the homes we are now building. To educate a growing number of children for a growing number of professional and technical specialties, we will need to recruit more new teachers for our public schools than are presently in service, build more college classrooms and dormitories than we have built in the last 200 years, and spend nearly twice as much on education as we are spending today.

These are only the minimum requirements - our minimum responsibility. But it is made all the more difficult by the hard fact that, under the spell of Republican complacency, we have been failing that responsibility to the next generation for the last 8 years, and it is time we got on with the job.

We are not meeting that responsibility when our economy is slipping into its third recession in 6 years. We are not meeting the needs of the future when 20 percent of our industrial capacity is idle. We are not meeting them when over 5 percent of the labor force is unemployed, and when the rate is even higher in every major industrial city - here in Detroit, and in Pittsburgh, and in Fort Worth, and in San Diego, and Seattle.

Mr. Nixon does not mention these present facts. Neither does he mention our future responsibilities. For his is the party of the past, the party of memory, the party of the status quo. His is the party that wanted to stand pat with McKinley, return to normalcy with Harding, keep cool with Coolidge, repeal social security with Landon - and says you never had it so good with Richard M. Nixon.

But the Democratic Party never says: You never had it so good. Woodrow Wilson said we could do better with the New Freedom, and he looked to the future. Franklin Roosevelt said we could do better with the New Deal, and he looked to the future. Harry Truman said we could do better with the Fair Deal, and he looked to the future.

And today, when Mr. Nixon tells us all is well, when he tells us we never had it so good, when he wants us to be satisfied with the record of the last 8 years, you and I look to the future - we look at 1970, when the rest of the world thinks we will be far behind - and we are not satisfied.

I'm not satisfied to have steel less than 60 percent of capacity, and autos around 60 percent of capacity. I'm not satisfied to have half a million more people on unemployment insurance than a year ago. I'm not satisfied to see bankruptcies at the highest rate since World War II. I'm not satisfied to see freight-car loadings at a postwar low. I'm not satisfied to see housing starts down 28 percent since last year. I'm not satisfied to see the gross national product off at an annual rate of $2 billion in the last quarter.

For all this means we are not doing the job; we are not meeting our responsibilities to the future; we are not assuring American leadership in the decade ahead.

I think the time has come to start doing the job, and doing it full time. Twenty years ago this city was known as the arsenal of democracy. That name spread to the whole country. I think the time has come to make this city, and the whole country, the workshop of freedom - freedom today, freedom tomorrow, and freedom in 1970 and for all generations to come.

John F. Kennedy, Excerpts of Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy, Michigan State Fair, Detroit Coliseum, Detroit, MI - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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