Question and Answer Period Following Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Bean Feed, Minneapolis, MN
Mr. WINKLE. These questions are questions which were written on the cards distributed among you during the course of the evening, submitted to a group of citizens of six people, screened by them, and the questions which will be asked of Senator Kennedy were selected from the questions so submitted. Senator Kcnnedy has not seen the questions. They will be submitted to him. Do you have the questions?
QUESTION. I am Mrs. Emily Ruggles. Why are Catholic Presidents so opposed?
Senator KENNEDY. I did not hear the question.
QUESTION. Why is a Catholic opposed to being the President?
Senator KENNEDY. Would you repeat it?
Mr. WINKLE. The question was, Why are Catholics opposed to being President?
Senator KENNEDY. I don't think they are being opposed to being President. The question was: Why are Catholics opposed to being President? They are not opposed to being President. I don't know if anyone else is, but I would hope, in fact, I am quite confident that in 1960, the United States is faced with so many serious problems which involve the security of everyone in this State and country, involve really the whole fight for freedom, that I would think that everyone would consider that much more important than whether I go to church tomorrow morning. [Applause.]
QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, can you please tell me how a 12-year-old girl can campaign best?
Senator KENNEDY. The question was how a 12-year-old girl can campaign best? I must say I would rather have three 12-year-old girls campaigning than I would Hubert or Orville or Gene McCarthy, because actually the things which have to be done in a campaign can be done when you are 12 years old or when you are 80, which is to come down to headquarters, to be given a list of telephone numbers, places to call, literature to distribute, envelopes to address, stamps to put on, to be willing to walk and work, and unfortunately most of us when we are in politics are much more allergic to doing all of these things, so we would rather have you in headquarters than anybody else. Come on down. [Applause.]
QUESTION. What do you think of Castro and what would you do with the situation? What do you think of Castro and what do you think of the situation?
Senator KENNEDY. The question was what I thought of Castro and what I think we ought to do about the situation. I must say that I think the most serious errors were made in the years 1955, 1957, and 1958. It is rather interesting that Mr. Nixon in Havana, Cuba, in 1955, gave an interview in which he spoke rather glowingly of the stability of the Batista regime. It seems to me it would have been far more valuable for us to be striking a blow for freedom, to stand for freedom, to use our great influence, which we had in Cuba at that time to persuade Batista to hold free elections, so that the people of Cuba could have a free choice. The fact of the matter is that when I was in Cuba 4 years ago, the American Ambassador said to me he was the second most powerful man in Cuba. Today the Soviet Ambassador is, and the reason is because the United States did not use its influence. The administration was not concerned about the problem of providing for free elections and democracy in all of Latin America and sooner or later dictatorships lead to control of the national movement by the Communists. It happened in Iraq, it happened in Cuba, it will happen any place. Anyone who feels that you can do business with a dictator year after year because he is going to vote with you in the United Nations, sooner or later the Communists will gather control of the opposition movement and when he goes they will seize control. [Applause.]
Now, as to the future, any action which we take should be taken through the Organization of American States, what I think should have been maximum concern in 1960 and 1961 should be that Castroism does not spread through other countries of Latin America, that we hold out the hand of friendship. It was not until our relations with Castro became soured to the breaking point that the United States came forward with a program of economic assistance to Latin America. They know what we know. They are not completely blind. They know that we turned a deaf ear, that we gave more aid to Yugoslavia than we did to all of Latin America for the last 10 years, and, therefore, suddenly when we offer assistance it is at the point of Castro's pistol. We did the same thing in Africa, we gave 300 scholarships to the Congo. That is more scholarships than we gave to all of Africa in the preceding 2 years. Isn't it possible to make a judgment on these matters some time ahead and not wait until we are forced to do a generous act? [Applause.]
QUESTION. What must we do, Senator Kennedy, to get a really effective Federal aid to education hill through the Congress and into law?
Senator KENNEDY. The Federal aid to education bill has been passed in the Senate, it has passed the House, it has never passed the Senate and the House. I must say that I do believe that in this area a Democratic administration working with clear Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, I think could do the job. The problem is now that there are some members of the Democratic Party who oppose it. Every bill we put forward has been threatened with a veto by the President, and, therefore it is tied up in parliamentary procedures and hangs under the threat of veto, and we never can get a clearcut vote in the House and the Senate and a signature by the President.
I must say I think the next Congress should pass a Federal aid to education bill and teachers salaries. If we control the Congress it will pass. If we have a Democratic President. I am confident that he will sign it. [Applause.]
QUESTION. What legislation do you have in preparation on the civil rights issue?
Senator KENNEDY. I think I will say two or three things. First, there is a good deal that can be done by the executive branch without legislation. For example, the President could sign an Executive order ending discrimination in housing tomorrow. Second, the President could compel all companies which do business with the Government, and after all that is nearly every American company, to practice open, fair hiring of personnel without regard to race, creed, or color. So there are two or three things that Federal Government can do in the executive branch without congressional action. In addition, the Department of Justice can pursue the right to vote with far more vigor. The Vice President's Commission on Contracts has been completely ineffective. It has not instituted one suit outside of the District of Columbia. So I would say that the greater opportunity is in the executive branch without congressional action. The things I would ask the Congress to do are really two-fold. First, to pass title 3, which gives the Attorney General additional powers to institute suits to provide for constitutional rights.
Secondly, some assistance to school districts that are trying to desegregate, and third, provide technical assistance to school districts, that are trying to desegregate. I would say the change in title 3 plus vigorous Executive action will provide for more protection for Constitutional rights. I think that the failure of the President to indicate his endorsement of the Supreme Court decisions has cost us heavily. I hope the next President of the United States, states that he stands for equal rights, that he stands for a fair chance for all Americans to have a decent education, to get a job and to hold it. I think the Democratic Party stands for that principle, and win or lose, I think we are going to continue to fight for it as Hubert and Gene and others have done in the State.
May I express my thanks to all of you. I feel that this election, as I said at the beginning, can be won. I think it is a close election. It may be decided by a few percentages. Harry Truman carried Ohio by 7,000 votes in 1948 and Illinois by 17,000. He won that election. We can begin this election and it may be won in the State of Minnesota. I can assure you that if we do win it [applause] can assure you if we do win it, we are going to give the green light and say "Yes" to the 1960's. Thank you. [Standing ovation.]
John F. Kennedy, Question and Answer Period Following Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Bean Feed, Minneapolis, MN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274046