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Remarks of John F. Kennedy, Cheltenham Shopping Center, Philadelphia, PA

October 29, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Congressman Green, Congressman Toll, Congressman-to-be, I hope, Ballard, from the nearby district - we need another Democratic Congressman from out there; if you will, elect him - Governor Lawrence, Senator Clark, candidates for the assembly and State senate, ladies and gentlemen, I want to express our thanks for your coming here today. We are both here for the same purpose, and that is to participate in the election of a President of the United States in a time of danger, hazard, and opportunity, and I want to make it very clear, though I keep reading about all the undecided voters that there still are in the United States, I think that anyone who listens to the speeches of the two candidates, who studies the record of the two parties, who studies our position in the world and our position in this country, cannot possibly be any longer undecided. You have to decide [applause] - Mr. Nixon said - and I have given our views and they are very different. You have to decide what you yourself want. You have to decide what you want to do, what you consider the country to be, what you regard our position in the world to be. The decision is now yours, and will be on November 8, a decision which involves your own conception of your responsibilities as an American, whether you look to the future or the present, whether you are concerned or confident, whether you are satisfied or feel, as I do, that the United States is going to have to do a great deal better, and I don't believe that Mr. Nixon, based on the record that he has made in this campaign, feels a similar urgency and concern about the future, or, if he does, he has not expressed it. [Applause.]

I believe the sixties will be difficult for the United States. I do not believe that there is any doubt that we can maintain our freedom, but I think it is going to be a hard, close struggle to maintain the balance of freedom in the world today. Every advantage is not on our side. We are faced by dedicated adversaries who are confident of their ultimate success, who are able to mobilize their resources in order to serve their cause, and who are now on the offensive all around the globe. Anyone who feels that under these conditions, the conditions which face the United States here and throughout the globe, that we can carry on business as usual, or that we can entrust the leadership of the free world and the United States to an administration and a leader who runs in 1960 on the platform of peace, prosperity, "We've never had it so good," "Our prestige has never been higher," "Look how well we have done in the United Nations," and other similar statements which, in my opinion, bear increasing distance from reality, it seems to me the choice is very clear, and that is whether this country will meet its responsibilities to itself and to those who look to us for leadership, or whether they will entrust the leadership of this country to the Republican Party, which has not been noted in the past for its commitment to progress, to a leader who has not been known in the past or in the present for his commitment to the future, to a party which represents a narrow segment of the political philosophy of this country, which has opposed progress in nearly every great crisis in the history of this country in this century.

Woodrow Wilson and his efforts to commit us to the League of Nations, Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, Harry Truman and much of his program of mutual security [applause] - the undecided voter has to make his decision not about the candidates but himself what he wants, what he believes, what he feels. There is certainly sufficient difference in this campaign, there is certainly sufficient difference in our approach to the future and in our past records and that of our parties so that no voter should be left undecided by November 8.

The decision involves your own conceptions. It does not need a release of documents from the U.S. State Department to tell you of our position in the world. Any American who can run for the Presidency on the statement that our position has never been more secure, that we are the strongest country economically, scientifically, educationally, and productively, without suggesting that the ratio of power is not moving in our direction but in that of our adversaries, it does not seem to me serves the entire truth. [Applause.]

All of us are involved heavily in this engagement together. There is no separation between the problems that the next President of the United States will face and the problems that the people will face. There are common problems. There is no such thing as the President being in trouble without the people being in trouble. There is no such thing as the President being committed to progress unless the people are committed to progress, and in my judgment, on November 8, 1960, the United States is going to commit itself to progress, is going to commit itself to responsibility, is going to commit itself to assuming the obligations which go with leading the free world, and in my judgment this is an election which represents a watershed in the history of the 20th century in the same way that 1932 did and in the same way that 1912 did.

I ask your support in this election. I ask your support as we face a difficult and troublesome and promising time. I ask your support in picking this State of Pennsylvania and the United States up and moving it forward. [Applause.]

Every problem that we now have in the world has its direct counterpart here in the United States. The economic growth of the United States and the economic growth of underdeveloped countries, the distribution of food in underdeveloped countries, the distribution of our surplus here, the education of citizens for responsibility in the underdeveloped world, the education of all young men and women of talent here in the United States, the pursuit of science and outer space, the pursuit of securing at an economical price fresh water from salt, the control of arms, the control of nuclear weapons, the strengthening of free societies, welding them together into a great common force - all of that rests with us. If the United States fails, all this fails. If the United States succeeds, all this succeeds. Has any people ever had the responsibility and the opportunity which has been placed upon us by our own free choice as well as by the exigencies of history I I welcome the chance for the United States to be the great defender of freedom at a time when freedom is meeting its most serious test. [Applause.]

I come here, to this shopping center, which is a symbol of our material progress, and ask you to join in committing the United States to the defense of freedom all over the globe. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of John F. Kennedy, Cheltenham Shopping Center, Philadelphia, PA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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