John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks in Philadelphia at a Dinner Sponsored by the Democratic County Executive Committee

October 30, 1963

Congressman Green, Mayor Tate, ladies and gentlemen:

I am proud to come here to Philadelphia and join my fellow Democrats.

In 1960, the Democrats of this city produced a margin in the presidential race that was in this city three times as large as it was in the whole United States. So I am proud to be back here again, and I am very happy to be introduced by your distinguished chairman, Bill Green. When he became chairman of this city committee, there were 300,000 more Republicans registered in the city of Philadelphia than Democrats, and it is a source of satisfaction to me that tonight there are 260,000 more Democrats registered.

I can understand why some Republicans may not like it, but, as a Democrat, as one who believes in the Democratic Party, as one who believes that the Democratic Party has meant progress for this city, this State, and this country, I am proud to be here in Philadelphia.

And I am proud to be here with your mayor. I do not come from Philadelphia, and I would not interfere, but I am hopeful and confident that when we come to the Army-Navy game in a month from now, we will be greeted by the new mayor of Philadelphia, Mayor Tale.

I haven't given a political speech for about 3 years, so I am a little out of practice, but I am gradually getting back into it.

And I am glad to be here with a mayor who follows two other distinguished mayors of this city, who carries on their tradition-Joe Clark, your United States Senator who was a great mayor of Philadelphia, and Dick Dilworth, who followed him, who was a great mayor of Philadelphia. That is the tradition of honest, progressive democratic government that Mayor Tate carries on.

And I am glad to be here with Judge Hoffman and Senator Mahady who also run this fall in the State of Pennsylvania.

Everyone expects things of Presidents, but I am not sure that they realize how much depends upon the Members of the House and the Members of the Senate who must make the final judgment on what kind of laws a President must execute.

The Congressmen from this city as well as the Senator from this State--Bill Barrett and Bob Nix and Herman Toll and Jim Byrne and Chairman Green--have, with Joe Clark, supported legislation month in and month out that benefited this city and this State and this country and, what is more, has helped make the United States meet its responsibilities around the globe. So what you do in this city counts all across the country, and Philadelphia has sent the right men to the House of Representatives and to the Senate of the United States.

And I am also proud to be here with your former Governor who is now working for us in Washington as our adviser on fair housing, Governor Dave Lawrence, of the State of Pennsylvania.

Three years ago tomorrow night, I spoke in this hall in the closing days of the 1960 campaign, and I asked the people of this city to give us their support to help this country move again. The people of Philadelphia gave that support, and the support I received from this city and this State was, as it was in the 1960 convention, the key to our victory across the country.

I am back in Philadelphia to express my thanks for that support and also to express appreciation for the help we received from those Democrats in this city and State, and to report to you on the progress that this country has made on the goals that were outlined 3 years ago. I did not promise on that October night that life would be easy in the Great Republic. I did not say we would not have new pressures and new problems. Nor did I speak of swift solutions in 100 days in office. I talked instead about the kind of America that I wanted for my family and for your family and all those who are citizens of this country in these difficult and changing years--the kind of America in which I believed, not as a Democrat or as a candidate, but as a citizen.

Today, in many ways, the world looks very different, and the revolutionary change of pace is even more rapid than it has been in the past. But there has been no change in my concept of the goals which this country must strive for if it is to meet its responsibilities to its people and those who depend upon it.

I still believe in the kind of America which I described in this hall 3 years ago, and I am still determined that this Nation shall continue to strive to meet those goals. And I am gratified to be able to report some progress in the last 33 1/2 months.

I said, first of all, that I believed in America where work was available to those who were willing and able to work, where the waste of idle men and machines could be avoided, and where greater economic growth could provide the new jobs and the new markets that our growing Nation needed. That goal has not been fully achieved. There are still too many men and women, particularly young men and women, unable to find work. And our high wartime tax rates still prevent our economy from growing as fully and as freely as it must. But one fact is that 2 1/2 million people more are working in the United States than were working 33 months ago. The rate of unemployment and idle capacity has been cut, and our economy of the United States will shortly pass the $600 billion mark, for a record rise--for a record rise in 3 years of $100 billion--the largest peacetime rise in the history of the United States.

And if we can obtain the early passage of an effective tax cut which the House of Representatives has already passed--and which the Ways and Means Committee, on which Bill Green serves, wrote--we shall be sailing this country next year on the longest and strongest peacetime expansion of our economy in the history of the United States. It is well within our reach.

Secondly, I said in this hall that I believe in an America which provided the maximum amount of education to the maximum number of our children, an America no longer denying a college education to one-third of our brightest students. This also is a continuing battle, and until the Congress has helped make it possible for every child of every State and station to attend a wellequipped school under well-trained and well-paid teachers, that battle must go on.

But, if the pending legislation which, for the most part, has passed either one house or the other in the Congress can finally be enacted by this Congress--and there is every indication that it can be--this Congress, the 88th Congress, will have done more for education than any Congress since that which passed the Land Grant College Act 100 years ago.

If the bills before the Congress now are successfully enacted--and I believe they must be--this one Congress alone will include action aimed at construction of new classrooms for our overcrowded colleges; action increasing financial assistance to talented but needy students who otherwise would drop out; action on vocational education which is more needed now than ever before in our history, if we are not going to have 8 million children who are going to drop out of our schools completely unequipped for the labor market; action increasing--which has already passed--the number of physicians and dentists to take care of an increasing population; action financing the establishment of new graduate training centers on which the advancement of learning so much depends; action improving the opportunities for every family in America to have a contact with a library; action stepping up job retraining for young people in the face of automation; action initiating the first program in the history of the United States providing for Federal grants for educational TV; and action finally to sparkplug a nationwide campaign against school dropouts. This is a record of which this Nation can be proud, an investment from which we will reap more than any other thing we do. Investing in the talented children we have will reap dividends for the rest of this century.

Third, I said here that I believe that every American family should live in a decent home, in a decent neighborhood. And this effort to improve our cities is not over. The three-quarters of our population who live in our urban centers are entitled to modern, economical mass transit, and that bill has already passed the Senate. They are entitled to a voice in the Cabinet, and we must find better ways of taking care of those whose homes are torn down to make way for slum clearance and urban renewal.

But we can take pride in the fact that more than 31/2 million homes have been built since January, 1961. We can take pride in the most comprehensive housing and urban renewal legislation passed by the Congress in the history of the United States--in a new program of low-interest, long-term loans for families whose income is too high to enter public housing and too low to purchase decent private housing.

We can take pride in the first Federal program to preserve parks and play areas and other places when urban renewal and slum clearance takes place, and in making available to the hard-pressed homeowner a source of loans for modernization and repair.

And we shall do still more next year, for when we improve the American home, whether it is owned or rented, we are improving the quality of life in the United States.

Fourth, I spoke here of those not enjoying the security and dignity which goes with life in the greatest country on earth. I spoke of those who were denied a minimum wage of $1.25 an hour, and today millions of workers are benefiting from that legislation, though it is still not high enough. I spoke of those who lived in depressed areas or on public welfare or on surplus food packages, and today the quality and quantity in those packages has been doubled. A food stamp plan is helping thousands of others. Our public welfare laws have been broadened so that an unemployed father need no longer desert his children in order for them to receive assistance.

An accelerated public works program is bringing jobs to hard-hit areas, including those in this State, and the Area Redevelopment program--which Senator Clark sponsored in the Senate, which had previously been vetoed and voted and vetoed and voted--is now a reality, bringing some hope to those who live in chronically depressed areas.

Much more needs to be done, including the inclusion of hospital insurance for our older citizens under Social Security. But we have done some things.

We have reduced the retirement age for men to 62 under Social Security. We have begun a program of nursing-home construction, providing housing for our older citizens through loans and mortgage insurance, and public housing at a rate several times higher than ever before in our history. "Cast me not off in the time of old age," says the Psalmist in the Bible, and we intend to see to it that in modern times no American is forgotten or ill-treated or cast off by this country in his time of old age.

Finally, I said 3 years ago that I believe in an America where the rights that I have described are enjoyed by all regardless of their race or their creed or their national origin. While our gains in this area have been considerable--in education, in employment, in voting, in transportation, in housing, and public accommodations--that issue is still very much with us, and it will continue to be with us until all Americans of every race can regard one another with the quality for which this city is noted-brotherly love.

This is not a partisan issue or a Republican or Democratic issue. It is a matter of concern to all Americans, and with bipartisan support and with equal support from the Republicans as well as the Democrats, we are putting forward legislation which is strong, just, effective, and reasonable to secure for all Americans the rights and opportunities that they deserve.

Domestic issues, however, were not the sole topic of my talk. I said unless we are moving here at home, we cannot move the cause of freedom around the world. And in the last 331/4 months, the tie between foreign and domestic policies has become clearer than it ever was before. It is because our economy has grown by nearly $100 billion that we have been able to increase by 100 percent the number of nuclear weapons available in our strategic alert forces, increase by 45 percent the number of combat-ready Army divisions, increase by 175 percent the procurement of airlift aircraft, and increase by 500 percent our special guerrilla and counterinsurgency forces.

American agriculture is more prosperous now than at any time in the last decade. It is feeding 9 million hungry children in Latin America alone, providing wages in the form of work and food for more than 1/2 million workers in 19 developing countries, and sending nearly $4 billion worth of our surplus food under our Food for Peace program to hungry people all over the world.

It is this spirit of American idealism that has made the Peace Corps and its 10,000 members serving around the globe admired around the world. And it is our effort to correct racial injustice here at home that has won us the respect and understanding of millions of people in other countries of other color.

To build this kind of America of which I speak--and the unfinished business lies heavily before us; the agenda is still long-to build the kind of America of which I speak requires leadership across the board, in the Congress as well as in the Executive, at the local level as well as at the national level.

Your Democratic Members of Congress have supported these major efforts at home and abroad to strengthen this country, and your able and progressive Mayor, Jim Tate, has provided that kind of leadership here in Philadelphia. He, too, has shown his concern about the health and safety, and job opportunities, and housing and education, of all of the citizens of this great city, and the people of Philadelphia, I am confident, do not need any help from outsiders, including me, to be reminded of his vigorous leadership.

In conclusion, may I repeat the words with which I summarized my view of America 3 years ago: "I believe in an America that is on the march, an America respected by all nations, friends and foes alike, an America that is moving, doing, working, trying, a strong America in a world at peace." That was my credo then and that is my credo now.

Today, America is on the march, respected by friends and foes alike. America is stronger than it was ever before, and the possibilities of peace are brighter now than ever before. America is moving, doing, working, trying, and with your help and continued support we shall continue those great efforts over the months and years ahead.

In the words which concluded an historic address to our party by the great American historian Claude Bowers, some 35 years ago in the '28 campaign:

Now has come the time for action.
Clear away all thought of faction.
Out from vacillating shame, every man no lie contain.
Let him answer to his name.
Call the roll.

I hope you are going to call the roll next Tuesday.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at Convention Hall in Philadelphia at a rally for Mayor James H. J. Tare, Democratic candidate for reelection as mayor. The President's opening words "Congressman Green" referred to Representative William J. Green, Jr., of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Committee.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks in Philadelphia at a Dinner Sponsored by the Democratic County Executive Committee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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