John F. Kennedy photo

Question and Answer Period Following Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Mormon Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Utah

September 23, 1960

Senator MOSS. Senator Kennedy, we were all inspired by that lifting address, and we do pledge to you our hearts and our help. [Applause.]

Senator Kennedy has agreed to respond to questions. Young ladies have passed through the audience earlier with cards, and questions will be propounded to the Senator which he will answer. He has not seen any of these questions. They will come direct from the floor, and he will respond at this podium.

Senator Kennedy, I see we have a question ready. Will you take the podium?

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, I am Richard Avena. Will you tell us what steps you will take to raise American prestige in Latin America, as President of the United States. [Applause.]

Senator KENNEDY. In the first place, I think there is a vital inter-relationship between what we are doing here in the United States and a successful foreign policy. In other words, I think the 14 points of Wilson were related to his new freedom here in the United States, and I think the good neighbor policy of Franklin Roosevelt succeeded in Latin America [applause] because he was a good neighbor here in this country. So that I think that we should concern ourselves in the coining months and years not only with our relations abroad, not only with the face that we present to the world, but also with the kind of society that we are developing here. "What we are speaks louder than what we say," as Emerson said. [Applause.]

Secondly, in regard to Latin America, itself, I am critical of this administration's failure to concern itself with the needs of Latin America. [Applause.] Actually, the United States has given more assistance to Yugoslavia since the end of World War II than it has to all of Latin America combined. It is an unfortunate fact that the assistance which was proposed at the time of the Bogota Conference really represented assistance which the United States was determined to give Latin America only when our relations with Cuba soured to the point where we broke off the sugar quota. I think it would have been far wiser for the United States to have held out the hand of friendship 6, 7, or 8 years, to help to provide a long-term loan [applause] to help provide specifically long-term loans for their capital improvements. I support the Bank of America, which was passed a year ago. I think that we can provide for a common market within Latin America, itself, based on the experience now of Western Europe. I think that we have to give some assurances to the producers of raw commodities that they will not he subject to the extremely sharp whiplash of 50 percent in commodity prices which they experienced in 1958 but can have longer guarantees.

Fifth, I hope that the United States will attempt, and I hope that the President of the United States, whoever he will be - that the first act he will take in the field of foreign policy will be to announce that he wishes to reassume the close and harmonious relationship which existed between us in the thirties, and which must exist between us in the sixties.

Franklin Roosevelt still serves the United States, because his name is the greatest asset we are going to have in the sixties.

As the Democratic nominee for the Presidency, I hope to tread that same path. [Applause.]

Senator MOSS. Do we have another question? We have another question.

QUESTION. Mr. Kennedy, my name is Herwood M. Hembrick. My question: How would you, Mr. Kennedy, as a candidate, try to solve problems resulting from discrepancies between American politics and Rome?

Senator MOSS. I didn't get it. Between American politics and what?

QUESTION. And the Vatican.

Senator KENNEDY. I did not address myself directly to that question tonight, but I hope I did make some indirect reference to it. I support the U.S. Constitution. [Applause.] I am concerned as a public official with the maintenance of that Constitution. I take the same oath of office as the President of the United States takes and have taken it for 14 years in the Senate and the House, and 4 years before that in the service. The Constitution provides very happily under article 1 of the first amendment, a provision for the separation of church and state, and I consider that to be the most admirable organization of society that we could possibly devise. [Applause.]

And I would feel that any group existing outside the United States, whether it is the Vatican or anyone else, respects our basic conviction that church and state must be separate and that my obligation is to the Constitution and to uphold my duty.

I also suggest that there is another part of the Constitution also relevant which is article 6, which says there shall be no religious test for office. That protects all of us. [Applause.]

And lastly, may I say we have had two Chief Justices of the Supreme Court who have been of the same faith that I have been. We have had three Prime Ministers of Canada in this century. Both General de Gaulle and Adenauer I think speak for the interests of freedom and the interests of their country, as I hope I will, whether I am President or continue as U.S. Senator. [Applause.]

Senator MOSS. Thank you very much. We have another question. Give your name, please.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, my name is Danny Robacheck, and I would like to know what you think of being elected for a third term?

Senator MOSS. A third term? [Laughter.] all right. [Applause.]

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I must say that I voted for the constitutional amendment when I was first in the House in 1947 which put a two-term limitation on the Presidency. I am beginning to wonder - I still think that is the wisest thing, and I think whoever is the next President of the United States would, not only because of the Constitution, and I support that amendment and will continue to do so, but I think wisdom indicates that 8 years is sufficient. I consider it enough. [Applause.] Especially now 8 years is enough.

QUESTION. My name is Dick Boss. I would like to ask you, if you would, to state your position on water reclamation for the Western States. [Applause.]

Senator KENNEDY. I spoke on that subject last night. I come from a section of the United States whose problems are different. But I do believe that it is vitally important that the United States recognize that by the year 2000 we are going to have 300 million people living in this country, and our natural resources - water, land, air - constitute the assets which the United States has in order to preserve a happy life on this continent. It is a source of satisfaction to me that the two Americans in this century who have done more to develop the resources of the West both came from New York, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt. [Applause.]

I know Senator Moss put out a statement in contradiction to another statement put out in regard to my record. Let me make it very clear that I have supported all projects which I considered to be soundly financed for reclamation, conservation, and power resources, from Hells Canyon to the project in this State. I supported the upper Colorado project as it came from the House of Representatives. My judgment is that the next administration, and this is certainly going to be true if I am elected President, will reverse the policy of no new starts, which has kept this western part of the United States on dead center for the last 8 years. [Applause.] And we will move ahead on irrigation, conservation, hydro and power resources, to secure fresh water from salt water and an end to polluted rivers. As I live on the most polluted river in the United States, the Potomac River, unfortunately, it reminds me of it every day. I think we can do better by what the Lord has given us in this part of the United States. [Applause.]

Senator MOSS. We have another question.

QUESTION. My name is R. D. Peters. A writer in the forum in the local newspaper calls you a captive of Mr. Hoffa and Mr. Bridges. He also mentions Mr. Reuther, but he did not mention Mr. Hutcheson of the carpenters. Would you care to set the audience and everybody straight on that?

Senator KENNEDY. It is a great pleasure. The New York Times this morning announced that Mr. Hoffa is beginning a tour of the United States that will take him to the major cities by October 3 in order to inform the members of his union of how disastrous it would be to elect me President of the United States. In a story on page 12, I think, of the New York Times this morning, they quote a Teamsters official as saying it is either the Teamsters leadership or Kennedy and it can't be Kennedy and I assure him he is perfectly right. [Applause.] In my judgment, an effective Attorney General with the present laws that we now have on the books can remove Mr. Hoffa from office. [Applause.] And I can assure you that both my brother and myself share a very deep conviction on the subject of Mr. Hoffa. I share the same view on the subject of Mr. Bridges. It is an interesting fact that neither the Teamsters Union nor the Longshoremen's Union dominated by Mr. Bridges is supporting me in this campaign and that both unions are opposing me, both unions. Mr. Bridges, particularly, his union, in the island of Hawaii, as the paper said today, was opposing me. And Mr. Hoffa's views are well known. So I think we can have a very clear choice on this matter.

Now, in regard to Mr. Reuther and in regard to others, I consider Mr. Reuther an honest union leader. I have no quarrel with his efforts to secure better economic rights for his union, and I don't quarrel with any honest businessman or union man who is responsible to his members who practices democratic procedures (applause) because I believe in the union movement. I have served on the Labor Committees of the Congress for 14 years. I want to get the crooks out and I want to get the Communists out of it, like Mr. Bridges, some of the group that he surrounded himself with. But I do believe that honest unions are a great source of strength for the United States, and I want to make it very clear that I support them. [Applause.]

Senator MOSS. We have time for one more question. The Senator still has a schedule to keep and be in the air on his way to Chicago. We will have one more question. Will you state your name, please?

QUESTION. My name is Raymond Alexander, and my question is: If you are elected President, Senator Kennedy, what would you do to stop the advance of world communism?

Senator KENNEDY. Obviously that is the key, how can we stop the advance of world communism, how can we maintain the peace, how can we maintain our security, how can we live on the same globe as the Communists, both of us having a hydrogen capacity, and survive?

I would say that is the great problem that is going to be before the next President of the United States. In addition, the problem before him is how a free society can successfully compete with a totalitarian society.

Briefly, I would suggest the next President of the United States should consider doing the following things, maybe not in the order of their importance, but all of them should be done soon.

In the first place, I would request the Congress to appropriate additional funds, particularly for strengthening our conventional forces, for speeding up the Minuteman and several other of our missile programs in order that we may not move through a missile gap period in the years 1961,1962, and 1963. [Applause.]

I think it is possible, by a reunification, by a more effective unification of our Armed Forces. And Senator Symington, of Missouri, has been appointed chairman of a committee which is making a study now of the Pentagon, to see if we can provide a more effective organization within the Pentagon, more effective purchasing programs and all the rest. It may be possible for us to save some money. I hope it is. But I would strengthen the Armed Forces of the United States. We deal not only with the Soviet Union, but we deal with the Chinese Communists, and the whole debate is whether the Chinese Communists will be successful in their viewpoint which is that Communist conquest of the world can only come by war. We have to look forward to the day when the Chinese Communists will have a missile capacity and a hydrogen capacity dedicated to the proposition that war is the solution and that they could survive it and we could not. So I think we better make a better effort there.

Secondly, I think we are to parley. If we are strong, if we maintain our defenses, if we are second to none, we are in a better position to negotiate. Winston Churchill said 11 years ago, "You cannot negotiate successfully with the Communists unless you do so from a position of equality." One of the reasons we have been unable to secure an effective disarmament policy in outer space was because the Soviet Union was ahead of us and they said they would not agree to any disarmament of outer space unless we also abandoned our bases overseas, because they said they would be giving up their lead. In other words, maintaining a position of equality permits you to negotiate more successfully. It is a source of concern to me that this Government has had less than 100 people scattered through the entire Federal Government working on the subject of disarmament. I would put more people into it. I would indicate our desire not only to maintain our strength, but also to provide for orderly disarmament.

Thirdly, I would hope that the United States could make for effective judgments of the events that are going to occur. I mentioned our aid to Latin America being a result of our difficulties with Castro. I am chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa. We talk now of what we are going to do about Africa but the problems have been there for many years. I said earlier at dinner tonight that the United States offered 300 scholarships to the Congo. They never talked about the Congo before June. There are only 12 or 15 college people in all of the Congo. Is it any wonder that they have difficulty running a free society? Did we ever concern ourselves with the educational need of Africa in the last 10 years? We give less than 200 scholarships for all of Africa, by the Federal Government, to study here in the United States, and yet the need for Africa is not only economic development funds, but to educate its men and women if they are going to maintain their societies.

So I would have thought it would have been possible for us to make some judgments some years ago. [Applause.]

Third, I would say also that the United States is going to face a severer crisis and a serious problem for us in the case of India in the winter of 1961. The Indian 5-year plan is coming forward. I think India represents the best chance we have in the underdeveloped world. Thirty-five percent of the people of the underdeveloped world live in India. It has a distinguished head of government. It has an excellent civil service. It has good economic planning and staggering problems. If India fails to solve her economic problems, if her economic growth increases marginally year by year and the Chinese Communists starting at the same level as the Indians did in 1950 move ahead 10, 12 percent in their economic growth, then of course the battle for supremacy in Asia will have been lost.

I think long-term loans of the kind that made the United States so rich - we built the economy of the West, the railroads and all the West, mostly on the funds that were loans to us for private purposes from Europe at the beginning of this century. I think that the United States, from the point of view of public loans and I have supported the strengthening of the development loan funds, should provide assistance with other rich Western European countries, particularly the Germans and I hope the Japanese, who will join with us in assisting India to make an economic breakthrough. [Applause.]

There are many other areas, but just let me say that I have had a strong conviction for many years, and I spoke of the matter in the case of Indochina and later in Algeria, that the greatest asset we have is the desire of all these people to be free and independent. Therefore, if the United States would associate itself with that drive, if the United States would be known as we used to be known, as the friend of freedom, not only for ourselves, but also for people all around the world - and one of our difficulties has been that we have talked about the enslavement of Eastern Europe and never said a word about Africa for the last 10 years - unless we stand for the principle as it affects our friends as well as our enemies, then we really lose our moral standing and we lose identification with what is the most powerful force in the world today, and the force that represents the greatest source of strength for us.

We want to be independent. We want others to be independent, and they want to be independent. Therefore, I have felt that the United States for some years should speak strongly for independence for all people, Eastern Europe and Africa and Latin America, antidictators, whether it is Castro or some other dictator who may be friendly to us, because these people are going to be independent, and when they finally are, I want them to say, "The United States are our friends. They believe what we believe, that the Communists are our enemies." [Applause.]

May I say in closing that you have been extremely generous tonight and I am most honored to have had a chance to come tonight. I am grateful for the courtesy and attention which you have given. Running for the Presidency is a very sobering responsibility. President Moyle said today, "You are not as gay as you used to be." [Laughter.] Well, I think it is a very difficult and somber time. In many ways, this election is more important than the election of 1932, because in 1932, what was at stake was the preservation of freedom in the United States, and now what is at stake is the preservation of freedom around the world. [Applause.]

I really believe that the United States is the great hope for freedom. If we meet our responsibilities, if we meet our obligations, if we maintain our strength, if we build our educational systems, if our economic growth is increasing each year, if we develop our resources, if we build a strong and vital society here in the United States, then I think we can lead the free world. So I come here tonight as a candidate for the oldest party in the world that is successfully operating today, the Democratic Party, and I come with some pride in a party which has produced at critical times men like Jefferson, Jackson, Wilson, Roosevelt, and Truman. [Applause.] I hope that the Democratic Party - I hope that our party can play a useful role today. I hope this election will not sink to be a name-calling contest between my opponent and myself. I hope we serve a great national purpose of presenting to the American people alternative courses of action, and I think if we do that, and that requires the effort of all of us - not merely the candidate on one level or another, but all of us - I think the Democratic Party can serve once again.

I will close by reminding you of the election of 1860, when, as Lincoln said, the question was whether the Nation would exist half slave and half free. Now the question is whether the world will exist half slave and half free. And in that campaign of 1860, Lincoln wrote to a friend, "I know there is a God and that He hates injustice. I see the storm coming. But if He has a place and a part for me, I believe that I am ready."

Now, 100 years later, we know there is a God and we know He hates injustice, and we see the storm coming, but if He has a place and a part for us, I believe that we are ready. Thank you. [Standing applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Question and Answer Period Following Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Mormon Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Utah Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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