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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Airport Rally, Knoxville, TN

September 21, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. I would just as soon sit and listen to Albert some more. [Laughter.] I want to thank my friend, Albert Gore, for his generous words today in his own State and also for his friendship stretching back over 14 years in the House and the Senate. He speaks for Tennessee in the Senate and he also speaks for the United States. [Applause.] I am proud to be here today with your distinguished Governor, Buford Ellington, who has devoted himself [applause], who was a strong supporter of Senator Johnson for the Presidency before the convention, has shown the same friendship and the same support for the ticket of Johnson and Kennedy after the convention [applause].

I stand here as the Democratic nominee for the office of the Presidency. I think the State of Tennessee knows something about the job of President, because you have sent from this State three distinguished Presidents of the United States. One was James Polk, who in character and accomplishment, I think resembles Harry Truman, one of the great unknown Presidents of the United States [applause], and you sent two other Presidents to the United States Capital, to Washington. One was Andrew Jackson, who is the only president of the United States whom the Senate has officially censured, and the other was Andrew Johnson, who is the only president of the United States whom the House of Representatives ever impeached.

Why did they impeach Johnson and why did they impeach Jackson? They impeached them for doing their duty, regardless of the popular pressures. [Applause.] They censured Jackson because he fought against the bank at Philadelphia, which was trying to strangle the economic life of this country. They impeached Andrew Johnson because he would not liquidate the South after the Civil War. They recognized that the obligation of the President is not please the people but to serve them. That is the recognition which Tennessee has given to this country in the past and gives it today.

I stand here in this State, and I come from 1,500 miles away. I support the Tennessee Valley not because Massachusetts gained, but because the country gained, because it was in the national interest. [Applause.] The Tennessee Valley was conceived originally and developed by two men, one from Nebraska and the other from New York. One was George Norris and the other was Franklin Roosevelt. [Applause.] And they recognized that a rising tide lifts all the boats. If this country moves ahead, if the Tennessee Valley moves ahead, Massachusetts and Nebraska and the United States move ahead. [Applause.]

If I am elected President, or if I stay in the Senate, I will fight and give you three guarantees. First, that the headquarters of the Tennessee Valley in spite of all the rumors spread by distinguished newspapers, will stay here in this State. [Applause.]

Secondly, I will never call the Tennessee Valley creeping socialism. [Applause.]

Thirdly, I think the Tennessee Valley has been a source of strength, not only to the Tennessee Valley and not only to the United States, but the Tennessee Valley typifies, in my opinion, the kind of domestic program which has far reaching implications around the world. [Applause].

One of the great influences of the Tennessee Valley has been that it has been the best ambassador that the United States has ever had in the Middle East and Africa and Asia. [Applause]. If we want people to follow up, we have to lead. If we want the newly emerging countries of Africa and Asia and Latin America to want to associate with us, they have to feel that there is something in our lives and in our experience that is common to them. The reason that Mr. Lilienthal works in Iran today is because he worked in the Tennessee Valley. When they talk about damming the Jordan River, they talk about making another Tennessee Valley in the Middle East.

In the days of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, we carried on great agricultural experiments, great progress in the damming of our rivers and cleaning them. And therefore people in their own countries, newly independent, newly emerging, wanting to make a better life for their citizens, came to this part of the United States, because they saw an area that was desolate and hopeless 25 years ago that is now one of the richest parts of the country. They know what we did here by the initiative of the people in this part of the United States, joined by a Government which saw the necessity of cooperation. They know what we did, they can do; what we have done in the past, they can do; what we will do in the future they can do. That is the great lesson, that is the great experience I think that the United States has. That is the best hope for peace, not by trying to buy allies, not by trying to pour out sums of money suddenly when a crisis comes along. [Applause.] But by doing things in our country, using our natural resources, using our food surpluses imaginatively, building a better life for our people, solving our urban problems, moving ahead here in this country, so that people around the world look at us and say, "The future belongs to them, not to the Communists." [Applause.]

I campaign in this campaign and have spoken around the country, and yesterday the Vice President said that during this period of crisis at the United Nations we should cease all talk about the United States being weak. I don't say the United States is weak. I say it is a strong country but I say it could be stronger. [Applause.] I would much rather Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Castro, while they are visiting the United States, should hear the voice of the opposition which does not want appeasement, which wants to see our country grow, which wants to see freedom expand, which wants to see a strong military defense, which wants to see a brighter life for our people. That is the voice of the United States I want Mr. Khrushchev to hear. [Applause.]

I don't want him to hear uniformity. I don't want him to hear silence. I want him to know that this is a vital country, that we are a strong people, that we believe our best days are ahead, and that we believe [applause] - and that we believe that the Democratic Party can lead and that if we are successful in January this country will move again. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Airport Rally, Knoxville, TN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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