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It's Up To You: by Senator John F Kennedy, Democratic Digest, November-December, 1960

November 01, 1960

Fellow Democrats:

November 8th, a few days hence, will settle a question of profound moment - whether we are to continue an 8-year era of quietude or whether we are to move forward once again as a Nation with the determination and majesty to meet the challenges of the 20th century

That day marks the end of a long campaign, but with your help it will mark a new beginning. The choice is yours and your own personal effort to get out the vote will be crucial. To all of you who will pitch in on election day, may I offer my warmest thanks.

And to all those who have been laboring so strenuously in the campaign on behalf of myself and the Democratic Party, I also wish to express my deepest appreciation.

Working with you has been an experience I shall not forget, for I have seen a dedication and spirit that gives me hope for the years ahead.

I have seen a response to the challenge of the New Frontier that I dared not hope for - a renewed sense of this country's historic purpose, a willingness to sacrifice one's time and energy for a better future with a cheerfulness that has always animated purposeful men and women in adverse times.

And these are adverse times, though the Republican Party has striven hard to obscure the fact to spare itself the heavy task of leading our country to greatness. Nor has the Republican candidate shown any sign that he can or will point the way.

Five months ago, a prominent governor declared that the Republican Party could not "march to meet the future with a banner aloft whose only emblem is a question mark." But no new flag has since arisen in the Nixon camp.

The American people know this and your response to the Democratic Party's call for a nation awakened and rededicated is evidence to me that the tide is turning.

It is turning away from the self-satisfied delusion that time is always on the side of the righteous.

It is turning away from the counsels of complacency that would have us believe that our prestige was never higher.

It is turning away from the dangerous theory that bigger talk can substitute for a bigger stick.

It is turning away from the kind of mentality that suggests freedom can best be preserved by suppressing dissent while an unfriendly visitor is on our shores.

It is turning away from the official lethargy that merely reacts and rarely initiates.

It is turning away from the entrenched and the timid who have a 19th century excuse for avoiding every 20th century need and from the slogan makers who put bold new names on empty policies.

It is turning away from the shallow sincerity that shares every worthwhile goal, but rejects all the worthwhile methods or means.

I am confident that America is ready to lay aside this lackluster record and move ahead again with realistic determination, hard work and dedication to something larger than personal comfort.

The American people want a government and a nation that faces the world with strength and confidence, with an unwavering attachment to the principles that made the founding of this country an inspiration to all mankind.

They want a country strong enough that it need not be petulant and provocative, strong enough that it need not fear sitting down in true negotiation.

They want a government and a nation that greets the aspirations of mankind as a rewarding challenge and not a worrisome disturbance.

They want a nation making genuine progress in meeting its unsolved problems, not only because they want it invulnerable to the accusations of a watching world, but also because they want a nation that does what should be done.

They want a nation inspired by a government whose voice is principled and clear, whose servants are motivated by a sense of creative purpose and not a painful sense of duty to be discharged as rapidly as possible.

I believe there is a hunger in the land for an infusion of new spirit, new courage, new idealism into our national life.

It can be done and will be - with your help on election day.

We cannot let it go by default, for history is replete with elections that were won by that "one extra vote" - beginning with President Truman, who gained majority of electorial votes by approximately one extra vote in each of the precincts of California and Ohio, and going back to Rutherford B. Hayes, Thomas Jefferson, and John Quincy Adams, each of whom was elected by the margin on one electoral vote.

Franklin Roosevelt might never have become President had he not had the benefit of two extra votes a precinct when he ran for Governor of New York in 1928.

Charles E. Hughes would have been our President had Woodrow Wilson not won in California by 3,800 votes in 1916.

Such are the slim margins by which our history is shaped. Once again, this election and the Nation's course for the next four years is up to you. Will you help?

John F. Kennedy, It's Up To You: by Senator John F Kennedy, Democratic Digest, November-December, 1960 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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