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Rear Platform Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Fresno, CA - "Pathways to Peace" - (Advance Release Text)

September 09, 1960

One hundred and ten years ago today, President Millard Fillmore signed the historic document that admitted California to the Union. There was very little celebration here on that day - for those early Californians had not yet heard the news. It was several weeks before the good ship Oregon came around the Horn to bring word that California had become the 31st State.

But the people of California in 1850 were too busy to celebrate anything. They were busy subduing stubborn earth, wild rivers and rugged mountains. They conquered forests and deserts and hazards of every kind to build a peaceful and prosperous State, on what was then regarded to be the last frontier.

But now we stand on the edge of a New Frontier. We are faced with a range of challenges and a host of burdens no less dangerous and no less difficult than those of 1850. And the New Frontier will require of every American the same kind of courage and dedication, the same kind of hard work and sacrifice, that gave this State of California its start 110 years ago today.

The problems of that New Frontier are felt around the world - and they are felt right here in this valley. Some of the problems are old - the problems of old age and sickness and unemployment. Some of the problems are new - the problems of automation, expanding populations and the missile gap - problems of fair treatment for our farmers and fair distribution of our water.

But there is one challenge on the New Frontier which cuts across all other challenges - one problem which overshadows all other problems - and that challenge is the challenge of peace.

We are not satisfied with a so-called peace that is merely an interval between two wars. And we are unwilling to accept a peace of slavery, imposed upon us by foreign rulers. Neither do we want the peace of the prison or the grave.

We want a peace in which the world is not teetering constantly on the brink of war. We want a peace in which the funds now poured into the destructive forces of armaments may be channeled into the constructive results of disarmament - into great multi-Nation efforts to eradicate disease, harness rivers, eliminate illiteracy, and exploit the frontiers of space. We want a peace in which we can truly beat our swords into plowshares, our bombs into reactors, and our rockets into vehicles for exploring outer space.

Surely peace is man's deepest aspiration. Surely peace is the underlying issue of 1960. But not in the sense that any one political party has a monopoly on the desire for peace. There is no one "party of peace" in this country - just as there is no "war party" or "party of appeasement." The sooner we get these artificial labels out of the way, the sooner we can get down to discussing the real issues.

For, while both parties talk about peace, peace is not going to be won by merely talking about it. It requires action - and the Democratic Party believes in action.

First, peace requires an American defense posture strong enough to convince any potential aggressor that war would be a mistake - his mistake. This means we must have a military force which is second to none - now and in the future - and which is invulnerable to a surprise attack. It is not enough to say that we are more powerful than we were in 1952 - it is not enough to say that we have the power to destroy any enemy - it is not even enough to say that we are militarily the strongest nation on earth today. For this Nation will never be an aggressor. And our task therefore is to make certain that every would - be aggressor is convinced that - even after he has attacked us - we would still retain a retaliatory power capable of penetrating his defenses, and making his venture a losing one.

The most constant threat to the peace, moreover is not one great atomic war - but a series of little brush-fire wars. And unless we can modernize our conventional forces, and give them the mobility and firepower they need, we are in danger of seeing our strength and security gradually nibbled away, by wars too limited to justify atomic retaliation.

The peace requires that we have these adequate defenses - I know this Nation can afford them - and you know this Nation cannot afford to be without them.

Secondly, peace requires an America that is planning, preparing, and striving for disarmament and other steps toward peace. Disarmament today is just as complicated as armaments - involving complex problems of surveillance, reconnaissance, seismography, atmospheric sampling and testing stations. A successful blueprint for a safe disarmament is as difficult to devise as a successful blueprint for modern war.

But the hard facts of the matter are that we have fewer than 100 people in the entire Federal Government working on these problems. And the result has been that this country has not been prepared for any disarmament, arms control or atomic testing conference that has taken place since the end of the Korean war. I have proposed in the Congress the establishment of a National Peace Agency - an Arms Control Research Institute - and the next President of the United States must take this step to pave the way for peace.

Third, the peace requires an America standing shoulder to shoulder with other free nations, united by close ties of friendship, commerce, and mutual respect. In the last 7 1/2 years, the uncertainty of our NATO alliance, the collapse of the Baghdad Pact and the limited value of our other pacts have all demonstrated that a common fear of communism is not a sufficient base for unity. If we are to have peace, America cannot stand alone in a hostile world - without friends and allies, without sources of supply and markets, without an international effort to stem aggression from any source. But if we want others to stand with us, we must earn their friendship and respect. We must consider their problems as well as ours. And we must promote those ties of trade, travel and student exchange which bring peoples as well as governments closer together.

Fourth, peace requires a massive American effort, joined by other free nations of the West, to strengthen the political and economic independence of those nations newly emerging on the bottom half of the globe - to prevent in those countries the chaos and despair on which Communist expansion feeds. I know that to many Americans the troubles of India, the Congo and even Cuba seem remote and none of our affair. We would rather devote our attention and our resources to rebuilding our own Nation. But if communism should obtain a permanent foothold in Latin America - if a new Soviet satellite should be successfully established in Africa - if Communist China should win her race with India for the political and economic leadership of Asia - then the balance of power would move heavily against us - and peace would be even more insecure.

Fifth, peace requires positive American leadership in a more effective United Nations, working toward the establishment of a worldwide peace under law, enforced by worldwide sanctions of justice. The United Nations has demonstrated in the Congo as elsewhere that it can move alertly and effectively - and in a manner far preferable to unilateral action by this or any other country - to stem disorder and disruptions of the peace in areas of potential danger. But the United Nations can be no stronger and no more imaginative than the nations which make it up - and of these, the United States is one of the most important.

Unless we are willing to exercise initiative in that body, rather than awaiting its thoughts and decisions - unless we are willing to channel our positive programs through the United Nations as well as giving it all of our negative problems - and unless we are willing, as a nation proud of its sovereign power, to join with other unions, large and small, in delegating to the United Nations enough power to make it a truly effective body - then we may expect to see that one last hope for peace swallowed up in the oceans of hate.

Sixth and finally, peace requires an America that stands as a model of harmonious relations to all the world - a nation whose leadership is convincing be cause we practice what we preach. We can better arouse world opinion against Soviet exploitation of the satellites when we have eliminated unconscionable exploitation of human beings in this country. We can better urge a settlement of those disputes surrounding the great rivers and waterways of the earth when we have success fully settled our own disputes over the distribution of water and other resources. And we can better unite the free world in an aggressive battle against poverty and disease and illiteracy when we have successfully eliminated those same features from our own system - when we have demonstrated that we are on the move in this country - when we have demonstrated that we are capable of leadership at home as well as abroad.

These are six pathways to peace. Not one of them is easy. Not one of them can be done overnight. Not one of them can be accomplished without a break with the past, without a change in attitudes and a change in administration.

I am a candidate for the office of the Presidency. And I realize that this means I am asking you to place primarily in my hands this arduous responsibility. I cannot guarantee success. I cannot flatly promise the attainment of these goals. But I can promise to conduct that office in pursuit of the example set by another great son of Massachusetts - John Adams, who kept this infant Nation alive by keeping the peace with France, clearing the way for the Louisiana Purchase but leading to his own defeat at the poll - and later writing in his declining years: "I desire no other inscription over my gravestone than this: 'Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of peace with France."'

I am willing to take upon myself, in the coming years, the hazardous responsibility of peace with all the world - and I ask your help in that endeavor.

John F. Kennedy, Rear Platform Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Fresno, CA - "Pathways to Peace" - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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