John F. Kennedy photo

Question and Answer Period Following Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Civic Center, Charleston, WV

September 19, 1960

Senator RANDOLPH. May we have the quiet which I am sure you would desire that the next President of the United States will have the opportunity to answer the questions, the 10 best questions, which have been chosen by a committee for answering here tonight.

I want to emphasize what Hewlitt Smith said. These questions are to be asked of Jack Kennedy, and Jack Kennedy has no knowledge whatsoever of the questions which shall be asked him. All of those persons who ask the questions will receive personal answers by Senator Kennedy, but those 10 questions which have been chosen for tonight will be answered by Senator Kennedy at this time.

May we have the first question?

QUESTION. My question to Senator Kennedy was, Do you think our defense system has been adequate?

Senator KENNEDY. The question was whether our defenses have been adequate. I would say that the United States today is in a position of equality with the Soviet Union. What I think is of concern is that the relative rate of growth, the relative rate of increase in strength in the Soviet Union in comparison to that of the United States, or rather the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communists, may be greater in the early sixties, not only in missiles, but also in conventional forces. I think we should particularly strengthen our missiles, our conventional forces, and our airlift. I would say that the next President of the United States in early 1961 should send a message to the Congress recommending that.

Senator RANDOLPH. And the next question.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, I am for you, but what can I say when people say they will not vote for you because of your religion?

Senator KENNEDY. I would say to them that I think that West Virginia gave a good answer in the primary. I would say that there are many serious problems facing the United States. I have given every assurance which a man could give that I am as interested in maintaining religious liberty in the United States, and in fact around the world, as I could possibly give. I take an oath to sustain the Constitution, which I would do if I am elected. If I am not elected, I will continue to do it in the U.S. Senate. [Applause.] But I would hate to think after 14 years in the Congress, and after 18 years of service to this country, that all the problems which are before the State of West Virginia and all the problems which are before the United States in the most crucial time in the life of our country - I do not believe that anyone should be so unwise as to vote for me or against me because of my religion. [Applause.]

Senator RANDOLPH. And the third question.

QUESTION. I am for Mr. Kennedy. And may I visit you when you are the President of the United States in the White House? I have tried three times and cannot get in. [Laughter.]

Senator KENNEDY. Let's meet outside and we will get it all set. [Laughter].

Senator RANDOLPH. The next question.

QUESTION. Hon. Senator Kennedy - Charles Rowe, Nicholas County, Summerville - I would like to ask this question: What is your viewpoint on organized labor?

Senator KENNEDY. I served on the Labor Committee for 14 years by choice. I am chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor. I have been endorsed by the AFL-CIO nationally. I am against the racketeers wherever they may live. But I do believe that organized labor has permitted men and women to raise their standard of living to consume what we produce in this country, and I think that the labor unions of this country contribute to the general welfare and I am proud to have their endorsement. [Applause.]

Senator RANDOLPH. And the next question.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, I would would like to know are you going to change West Virginia's diet from beans to strawberries?

Senator RANDOLPH. Would you speak slowly?

Senator KENNEDY. You are talking to a Yankee now. I suppose that is what my accent sounds like down here. But what was that again?

QUESTION. Are you going to change West Virginia's diet from beans to strawberries. [Laughter.]

Senator KENNEDY. Well, the question is whether we are going to [laughter and applause] - I am told you raise the finest strawberries in the world, so I am for it. We will send a few cranberries down from Massachusetts.

QUESTION. My name is John Alieo. I live at Smithers, W. Va. I would like to know why the minimum wage bill was not passed, your bill?

Senator KENNEDY. The bill for $1.25 passed the Senate by a vote of 2 to 1. It failed in the House of Representatives by 12 votes. We went to conference in the House and Senate to try to get an adjustment. We were informed in the conference that if we passed $1.25 an hour, it would be vetoed. When we tried to pass, and Jennings Randolph was on the conference, the very program that President Eisenhower had recommended to the conference of $1.15 an hour, and the coverage was 3 million, 6 out of 7 voted against it. Anyone that thinks you ought not receive in a business that has $1 million worth of income, and that was our standard, that somebody should not receive $1.25 an hour for a 40-hour week, if you think that paying 65 cents an hour for a 48-hour week is sufficient, I would vote Republican. I don't think it is enough. [Applause.]

Senator RANDOLPH. Senator Kennedy, the next President of the United States, do you favor the old international policy of Teddy Roosevelt, "Walk lightly but carry a big stick"?

Senator KENNEDY. I would certainly say that it ought to be our prescription in the sixties. What I object to about some of the fifties has been that we have talked louder and louder and our stick is getting smaller and smaller compared to our commitments. I think Theodore Roosevelt was right. [Applause.]

Well, let me just express my thanks to all of you. I guess we are off television. What I said in my speech I meant. I would not have gotten nominated if I had not won in West Virginia. Everybody in West Virginia was being polled, and we thought we were going to maybe not win. But we won by a large margin, and there isn't any doubt in my mind that West Virginia really nominated the Democratic Presidential candidate. So I am most indebted to you. [Applause.]

May I say that the donkey has a long memory as well as the elephant. So I take the commitments which I have made in this State very seriously. You have been extremely generous to me and I hope, if we are successful, that it will be possible, because I think it is in the national interest. We will concern ourselves immediately about the opportunities which are in this State, which is a rich State in resources and rich in people. Thank you very much. [Applause; standing ovation.]

John F. Kennedy, Question and Answer Period Following Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Civic Center, Charleston, WV Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives