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Question and Answer Period Following Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Armory, Springfield, IL

October 03, 1960

QUESTION. I am from Stoneton, Ill. Senator Kennedy, what do you plan to do to help the farmers if you are elected? We farm about 300 acres and we fall behind about every year.

Senator KENNEDY. The question was, What we would do for the farmers? I did attempt to indicate in my speech that we would try to bring by controls that are put on with a clear majority of the farmers in that commodity, to try to bring supply and demand into balance.

Secondly, that the support price will be tied to a parity price which would bear the relationship between what the farmer would earn, with comparable resources, and comparable managerial skill. May I say that one area that I did not mention is I think we can make better use of this food in this country and abroad. There are over 4 million Americans who depend on surplus food packages, and that is things that are distributed under the name of surplus foods, which don't feed our people at all. And I think we can do a better job abroad. If Mr. Khrushchev had our food resources, he would be using them to spread the doctrine of communism. I want to use them to spread the doctrine of freedom. [Applause.]

QUESTION. My name is Minnie Demars, from Mantoon. Would you let your religion affect your influence if you were elected President on some matters?

(Response from the audience.)

Senator KENNEDY. I must say that I don't mind the question because, after all, there are a good many Americans who have spent - who are concerned about the question of religious liberty in this country, and anybody who seeks the office of the Presidency, I think should be willing to answer any question which disturbs any citizen or group of citizens. [Applause.]

Let me say that if the question is would I permit my religions affiliation to interfere with my devotion to the Constitution and my responsibilities under the Constitution, I would not. I would hope that anyone who believes in the moral law, who believes in the precepts of Christianity or Judaism, would carry out their constitutional responsibilities with a conscience. But I must say if the question means would I permit unconstitutional or improper interference by anyone in this country or abroad in carrying out my responsibilities, then I would not permit it. Let me say that it would be unconstitutional. [Applause.] And any President who did permit any such action would be subject to impeachment by the Congress for a breach of the Constitution. [Applause.]

So my hope is that in 1960, after 14 years in the Congress, and 4 years in the Navy, taking the same oath that the President takes, I hope that with all the serious problems facing the United States in 1960, I hope that we make our decision based on the candidate's competence in those areas and not where he goes to church. [Applause.]

QUESTION. My name is Elizabeth Booth, [*] from Springfield.

Mr. Kennedy, if you were to be elected to the Presidency for two terms, what would you do when you got out of the White House at the age of 51? [Laughter and applause.]

Senator KENNEDY. Well, President Truman has shown how interesting life can be for a fallen President [laughter and applause] and I must say that President Hoover has performed valuable services to this country in the last 15 years, so I must say that I really have not taken myself to 1969 yet, but I appreciate your happy compliment and thought. I will remind you that John Quincy Adams from my own State after being defeated for the Presidency in his second term, the people of Plymouth, Mass., wrote to him and asked if he would serve them in Congress, and he said yes, he would, on two conditions; first, that he would not have to run for office and campaign, and second, that he could vote the way he wanted. They accepted on both of those conditions. He served for over 20 years in the House of Representatives, carried on the fight against slavery and wrote the most brilliant chapter of his life, so I can't say that at 51 there would not be something left to do. [Applause.]

QUESTION. I am Murray Ellis, from Lincoln, Ill. Senator Kennedy, I would like to know after you are elected in office, what will you do about Jimmy Hoffa and men like him?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I must say that Mr. Hoffa has been campaigning the country and making speeches and saying that he is very much opposed to my election, which I consider to be a strong endorsement for my candidacy. [Applause.] I hope the members of his union will support us. But I want to make it very clear that I don't believe that the Department of Justice has carried out the laws in the case of Mr. Hoffa with vigor. I investigated him in the "Rackets" Committee for over 3 years. I am confident that he serves not the interests of his members, not labor in general and not the public, and I feel that as labor people and working men and women and honest union officials, who try to do a decent job, who represent their members, who bargain collectively and responsibly, I feel their efforts are stained by Mr. Hoffa. I hope that Mr. Hoffa is removed from the head of the teamsters by either Government action or by the work of its members. I am confident he will be. [Applause.]

QUESTION. I am Daniel Faulkner of Springfield, Ill. Senator, do you believe that Castro will last much longer as dictator of Cuba? [Laughter.]

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I think it is hard to make any - of course, you can't predict a future. The future is extremely uncertain. The events of the last 5 years have shown us how difficult it is to make a long range judgment. What we should do, however, is move ahead on the basis that he will stay in power for some time, that he will continue to try to spread his revolution throughout all of Latin America, and, therefore, we must take action on two fronts.

First, we must sustain and strengthen those democratic forces in Latin America. And it is an unfortunate fact that this administration has been indifferent to Latin America until the last few months. The fact of the matter is that the United States has given more aid to Yugoslavia than to all of Latin America combined in the last decade. And suddenly, when our relations with Castro become bad, we begin to put forward a program of aid and loans to Latin America. I think we should do it because if Latin America should fail under the grip of the Communists, if they should be unable to sustain democracy in Latin America, our security would be directly imperiled. So the fight against Castro takes place in other countries.

Secondly, in regard to Cuba, itself, I feel that the United States should sustain the cause of freedom, that we should indicate that we do not believe that Castro believes in freedom, that until he is willing to submit his case to the people in a free election, that we will hold out the hand of friendship to those who have been driven out of Cuba by Castro, that there are undoubtedly those in the mountains now who are growing beards in preparation for undoing Mr. Castro. I think we should observe with at least some interest their progress. Castro may come or go, but the problem he represents continues. The problem is twofold. First, the poverty of the people in Latin America, which are subject always to seizure by a Communist or by a nationalist who may turn in the direction of Communists. As long as people live on the margin of existence, as long as they see us rich and prosperous, as long as they see us indifferent, then Castro has an attraction.

Secondly, we have to recognize that Castro and others will move in and out of countries over the next 10 years. I think the next 10 years are going to be the most difficult in our history, will require qualities of self-discipline, restraint and perseverance as we have never needed them before. But my judgment is that sooner or later people want to be free. The whole Castro movement was based on the desire of the people in Cuba to be free from Batista. Castro betrayed the revolution. That does not mean that the revolution did not have legitimate force in the beginning. This desire of people to be free has shown itself in Africa, has shown itself in Eastern Europe, is showing itself in Asia, and in my judgment that force is the strongest force in the world against the Communists. We should associate ourselves with it. We should hold out the hand to those people before the moment of desperation comes, and then accompany them on the road to freedom. [Applause.]

You have been very generous tonight. This is the 15th speech we made today, which is the alltime record of this campaign, and I am sure it must be enough. I want to thank you all very much for your hospitality. [Standing ovation.]

[APP Note: We believe that this questioner's name was in fact "Elizabeth Huth." Consistent with our practice, we have tried to reproduce accurately the original published source.]

John F. Kennedy, Question and Answer Period Following Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Armory, Springfield, IL Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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