John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks in Boston at the "New England's Salute to the President" Dinner

October 19, 1963

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Speaker, Governor Peabody, Governor Dempsey, Governor King, Governor Hoff, Members of the Congress:

Standing here tonight, Tom White and Howard Fitzpatrick were looking over the crowd. Tom White was saying, "Look at all of them paying a hundred dollars each; isn't it wonderful?" And Howard was saying, "Imagine, they have all paid $7 each for that dinner." And they both look happy!

I learned long ago, about 16 years ago, that these Democratic functions are tremendous but the thing is not to make a speech, so I am going to be very brief.

I first of all want to express my appreciation to my brother Teddy for his offering me his coattail. Teddy has been down in Washington and he came to see me the other day, and he said he was really tired of being referred to as the younger brother of the President, and being another Kennedy, and it is crowded in Washington, and that he was going to break loose and change his name. He was going out on his own. Instead of being Teddy Kennedy now, he is changing his name to Teddy Roosevelt. He is running!

I want to express also my thanks to Howard Fitzpatrick and Tom White. This is, I guess, about the fourth or fifth time all of us have gathered together. I know you are all wounded somewhat, but I don't know any group in the United States that does more for the Democratic Party, does more for those of us who run than all of you in this State. I must say it is a constant source of pride to me that I come from this State, that I represented Massachusetts, that I am identified with this State. It has the longest and, I think, most distinguished history. But I think in 1963 as well as the last 30 years, as well as the last 150 years, this State and the people in it have been willing to meet their responsibilities, and particularly those who are Democrats. And I want to express my thanks to all of you tonight who come here.

Walking around this room, I have seen veterans of '46, '48, '50, '52, '58, '60. My last campaign, I suppose, may be coming up very shortly--but Teddy is around and, therefore, these dinners can go on indefinitely.

I want to express my thanks to all of you, to Tom White, to Howard Fitzpatrick, Jerry Doherty, who heads our party, and to just tell you that we are appreciative to you all. And I hope that what we do here in this State--the Governor--what our fellow Governors do, what the Members of Congress do from other States of New England--that this part of the United States is identified at home and abroad with a strong United States, occupying a position of great responsibility all around the globe.

I have heard some reference to a function that was held here Wednesday night, and I noticed that the principal speaker was introduced by the senior Senator from Massachusetts, Senator Saltonstall, with these words: "He and I have differed on many problems, but we like and respect one another." Why, I used to get a better introduction from Senator Saltonstall when I was in the Senate than that!

Well, we want to wait--we want to wait. But this campaign may be among the most interesting as well as pleasurable campaigns that have taken place in a long time, and I know we are all looking forward to it.

I want to express my thanks to the Speaker. The fact is, before this Congress gets out--and it may stay until Christmas or it may stay until the New Year, but it will stay there--this Congress is going to do more, I think, in economic lift from repairs to our tax bill, for a better break for all of our citizens when we pass our civil rights bill. It has already done more on mental retardation for children--and this State has a particular interest and history and identification with this cause going back to the days of Governor Dever--it has done more already for this great problem than any Congress in the history of the United States. It has done more to build medical colleges and to help young men and women who do not have the means to go to those colleges; in raising the minimum wage, in making it possible for young children whose parents are unemployed to have the benefit of social security; to make it possible for those who are older--and I am confident that this is coming-to get the advantages, if they are sick, of social security.

In my judgment, when the record is written, when this Congress goes out next summer after having been in session probably for 18 or 19 straight months, it will have written the most progressive and effective program of any modern Congress, and the result will be that the Speaker of the House can feel that the American people are better off.

Woodrow Wilson once said that a political party is of no use unless it serves a great cause. And I think that our objective today is simple. The means of achieving it are difficult, but our objective is simple, and that is to provide for our people a rising rate of well-being, to make it possible for all of our people to develop all of their talents in a growing and fruitful society, and for us around the world to continue to bear, as we have for 18 years, the great burdens of maintaining the security and peace of the world.

There are one million Americans today, tonight, serving the United States overseas. No country in the history of the world has had so many of its sons serving outside of its borders--not for the purpose of conquest but for the maintenance of freedom. And because of the effort of the American people stretching back to all of the days since 1945, under three different administrations, of different political parties--because of that great effort, there are dozens of countries, which would long ago have been overrun, which are now free and independent. And if we in 1963 and 1964 and in this decade are willing to maintain this burden-and I do not regard it altogether as a burden but as an opportunity--if we are willing to maintain this responsibility, I see no reason why the strength of freedom should not increase.

This is the chance that we have, and it depends on two things: first, that this country move steadily ahead economically, that we do not limp from recession to recession, denying so many of our people an equal chance, a fair chance, a job, an opportunity. So what we need, in the first place, is to make sure that the United States does what other free countries have done for a decade, and which we did not do in the late fifties, and that is, enjoy a steadily rising economy, a steadily increasing standard of living, a steadier, richer, and wealthier country. That is within our grasp.

If the Congress of the United States, if the Executive, if the people of the United States make that affirmative choice, then I see no reason why this cannot be the most prosperous decade in the history of the Great Republic. And, building on that rich base, I see no reason why we cannot fulfill our obligations abroad. I think the United States today, while it moves in danger, and has, it is more secure than it was several years ago. It can be more secure even in the future.

So I do not look to the future with gloom. I do not regard the efforts of the National Government, which represents the wishes of all of the people, as a failure. I think the United States here and abroad is moving into its brightest period, and I hope the people of the United States make that choice and continue to make that choice as they have in the past--that they will continue to fulfill their responsibilities.

And I am proud that the Democratic Party, as it has in the administration of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman--I am proud that we are identified in 1963, both at home and abroad, with those great currents of history which can make all the difference to us and those who depend upon us.

So, I express my thanks to all of you tonight. I appreciate the effort that you are making to sustain and support that party. I am proud to be a member of it. We are the oldest political party in the world, stretching back our roots to Thomas Jefferson, and I hope in our day and time that we can see the future as he did 150 years ago. That is why we are here tonight, and that is why we are proud to be Democrats.

So, we express our thanks to you, all of you who have come from a good deal of distance, from all parts of the State, all parts of New England, to be with us tonight. This is the night which I hope we can commit this State and area to the future.

Some years ago, Marshal Lyautey, who was the great French commander in Morocco, said to his gardener to plant a tree, and the gardener said, "Well, there is no use planting it. It won't bear fruit for a hundred years." He said, "In that case, plant it this afternoon." That is the way I feel about the Democratic Party. Tonight, tomorrow, and all the rest of the time, let us work for it.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke in the Boston Armory. In his opening remarks he referred to John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives, to Governors Endicott Peabody of Massachusetts, John N. Dempsey of Connecticut, John W. King of New Hampshire, and Philip H. Hoff of Vermont, and to Tom White, of Boston, and Howard Fitzpatrick, sheriff of Middlesex County, cochairmen of the dinner. Later the President referred to Gerard F. Doherty, chairman of the State Democratic Committee, former Governor Paul A. Dever, who served from 1949 to 1953, and U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy and Leverett Saltonstall, all of Massachusetts. At a Republican fundraising dinner held in Boston on October 16 Senator Saltonstall had introduced the principal speaker, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks in Boston at the "New England's Salute to the President" Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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