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Rear Platform Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, "Pathways to Peace," Fresno, CA

September 09, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Thank you, Governor. Governor Brown, my friend and colleague from the Congress, Bernie Sisk, your assemblyman, Bert DeLotto, Senator Burns, ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful to you all for coming to this station and giving us a great Democratic welcome. This State can go Democratic in November [Applause.] This is the State to win this election. I am delighted to be here today. This train is headed toward Los Angeles, but it is also headed toward Washington, D.C. [Applause.]

This valley and this State have many problems. We traveled today from Sacramento, down through the rain. If that rain continues, there is a chance that the farmers of this valley who grow raisins could lose in 1 day $50 million. It indicates as nothing else does why I think it is important that this country concern itself with what I conceive to be the No.1 domestic problem that the United States faces, and that is the decline in agricultural income. But whether we are farmers or whether we live in the cities or whether we live in Massachusetts or whether we live in California, there is one problem that faces us all. That is the question of whether it is going to be possible in the 1960's for this country to live at peace, whether we can live in the same world as the Soviet Union and live in peace, whether we can both possess a hydrogen capacity and live in peace.

I want to say that I think there are some things that we can do I don't think that there is a war party and a peace party, a party appeasement and a party that desires to be tough with the Russians. I think all Americans, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, share a common desire, to live at peace and protect the security of the United States. [Applause.]

There are several things that I think we can do. First, if we desire to live at peace, with the Russians and the Chinese, the United States must be strong; not "Strong, if," not "Strong, when," not "Strong enough, but," but "Strong first," first in the fight for survival, first in building our defenses. [Applause.]

Secondly, I think if we can achieve a level of parity with the Communists, then we will be able to talk about disarmament. Winston Churchill said 10 years ago, "We arm to parley." It is impossible for us to provide for the disarmament of outer space, the disarmament of nuclear weapons, unless we are in a position of parity with the Soviet Union.

This administration has less than 100 people working in the entire Federal Government on the subject of disarmament. I think we can do a better job than that. [Applause.]

Third, I think it is essential on the pathway to peace that the United States associate itself with other countries who also desire to live in peace. We cannot protect the security of the free world by ourselves. We have to join with others in NATO, in SEATO, in Latin America, in Africa and Asia, as leaders of the free world, not dominating it but joining it together in a common interest in a desire to be free and independent and live in peace. [Applause.]

Fourth, the great struggle in foreign policy in the next decade will not take place in Western Europe, and will not be directly between the Soviet Union and the United States. The great test will be which system travels better, which system solves the problems of the people of Latin America and Africa and Asia. Does our system have freedom or does the Communist system? It is only if the United States demonstrates that it is ready to hold out a helping hand to the countries of Latin America, to Africa and Asia, it is only by that means that we can persuade those people to travel the same road that we are traveling. They stand today on the razoredge of decision. They look to Moscow and Peking and they look to us. I think we must demonstrate sufficient vigor, sufficient friendship for them, that they will follow the road that we follow, the road of peace. [Applause.]

And finally, I want to emphasize, and I say this as chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa of the Foreign Relations Committee, that the great hope for peace I think in the 1960's is going to be not only our own strength but also the United Nations. This is a great forum which if given the attention and prestige and support that it needs can serve as a great clearinghouse for peace, not just summit meetings where the Soviet Union and the United States sit down, but the General Assembly of the United Nations, where all nations sit, and will all speak their will, where they share a common aspiration to be free and independent.

This is a great country, but I think we can make it a greater country. The great struggle of 1960 is not merely between the Republicans and Democrats. The great struggle, I think, is between those Americans who think we can do better than we are doing, who desire that the United States shall stand as it stood in other years, in the days of Roosevelt and Wilson, as a hope for people around the world, and not as a matter of indifference to them.

A Gallup poll taken some months ago in 10 countries around the world, when they were asked which country they thought would be first, militarily and scientifically in 1970, the United States or the Soviet Union, a majority in all those countries said the Soviet Union.

What has happened to this country that we have lost our image? They don't quote Lincoln or Jefferson or Roosevelt or Stevenson today. They look to the East. I think they should look to us again. [Applause]

I ask your help in this campaign [applause] so that here in this country we can move ahead. They were successful, Roosevelt, Truman, and Wilson, because they were successful here in this country. If we are successful here, if we are moving ahead here, if we are building a better society here, then we will stand strongly around the world. If we sit still here, then we sit still around the world.

I ask your help, and I remind you that 100 years ago in the election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln said, "There is a God and He hates injustice. I see a storm coming but if He has a place and a part for me I am ready."

Now, 100 years later we believe in 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. [Applause.]

My wife is home in Massachusetts having a boy in November. [Laughter.] I would like to have you meet my sister, Pat Lawford, who comes from California. [Applause.] And I would like to have you meet a Senator from Washington who is chairman of the National Democratic Committee, the most eligible bachelor in Washington, Senator "Scoop" Jackson. [Applause.]

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

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