John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Airport Rally, Roanoke, VA

November 04, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Battle, Governor Almond, Congressman Jennings, Congressman Downing, Congressman Gary, your distinguished national committeeman, Congressman Hardy, ladies and gentlemen, as the Democratic standard bearer in 1960, I come to the mother of the Democratic Party, Virginia, and ask your help. [Applause.] I am honored by the generous introduction of your distinguished former Governor, and I am proud to sit here on this platform with leaders of the Democratic Party of Virginia, Virginia which began under Thomas Jefferson the Democratic Party. I cannot believe that in 1960 Virginia would vote for a Republican of the strip of Richard Nixon. [Applause.]

I come here today to this State which has nourished the Democratic Party in good times and bad, which began this party, which gave it growth, which gave it intellectual conviction, and I come here to this State and ask your support in the last 4 days of this campaign. [Applause.] I believe that Virginia and the Nation join in concerning ourselves with the future of our country. I do not believe that any citizen of the State of Virginia who bears the proud title of Democrat can possibly, in 1960, determine that the destinies of this country should be placed in the hands of a candidate and in the hands of a party who have opposed progress for the last 15 years. [Applause.]

Mr. Nixon [aircraft noise] - goodby, Dick [laughter] - I don't care how many rescue squad operations are now being organized around the country to save Mr. Nixon. I rode through the streets of New York by myself. I did not require [applause] - I did not require Henry Cabot Lodge or Nelson Rockefeller or President Eisenhower to go by my side. [Applause.] The point of the matter is that a team is not running for the Presidency. We have one man who runs, one candidate, and the people of Virginia and the people of the United States must decide whether a candidate who runs on a platform of standing up to Khrushchev, who will not come into a studio and have a fifth debate, who needs an escort guard to take him around the State of New York, whether he can lead the American people or not. [Applause.] You have all seen these elephants at the circus, with their heads full of ivory, thick skins, long memory, no vision, and when they move around the circus ring, they grab the tail of the elephant in front of them. [Laughter.] Mr. Nixon grabbed that tail in 1952 and 1956, but he is the lead elephant now, and the people of the United States do not want a candidate who needs an escort to meet the American people in the last 5 days of the campaign. [Applause.]

I come here today and ask your help. This party was begun by Thomas Jefferson. This party of the Democrats is a national party. I run as the presidential candidate, Lyndon Johnson, of Texas, as the Vice President. We stand as a united party, North, South, East, and West. The strength of the Democratic Party is the fact that it is a national party, that it speaks for all the people, that it represents all interests, and most of all represents the public interest. [Applause.]

I have been reading speeches by Mr. Nixon and others that if we get into office, that we are going to spend this country blind. I do not know a fiscal record which has been marked by greater imprudence than the record of this administration in fiscal matters in the last 8 years, and I am going to prove it. [Applause.]

Do you know in the last 3 months the United States has lost $1 billion in gold? One billion dollars in 3 months has flowed out of this country. In 1952, the U.S. gold reserves were $11 billion more than the debts that we owed to foreign debts. Today our foreign debts are $3 billion more than our gold reserve. A dangerous deterioration in our world position of $15 billion in the last 8 years.

In the past month our estimated tax revenues, because of a decline in our economy, have gone down from $2 to $3 billion in the last 3 or 4 months. In the last few months, our gross national product has actually declined by $3 billion. The Soviet Union is moving ahead at 7 percent a year. Our average growth in the last 8 years is 2 1/2 percent; in the last 9 months it is minus 0.3 percent. In the most difficult and dangerous time in the life of our country instead of growing, instead of providing opportunity for our people, instead of providing the sinew that makes it possible for us to defend our country, we are actually falling behind.

In the last few months, the cost of living has reached an alltime high. Therefore, I believe we can do much better. I believe we are going to have to do much better. I want to make it clear as the leader of the Democratic Party in this campaign, as a Member of Congress for 14 years, if I am elected President of the United States, we commit ourselves to a sound monetary and fiscal and responsible monetary policy that will move this country ahead and meet our obligations. [Applause.]

From fiscal 1954 to fiscal 1960, the last 6 years, we increased the national debt by $21 billion. In the last 6 years, $21 billion. We incurred budgetary deficits of more than $18 billion, and piled up the largest single peacetime deficit in 1 year in the history of the United States $12 billion. Never before in the history of the United States did any administration in peacetime have a larger deficit than this administration in 1958, 12 billion. They would have had an increase in the debt of more than $10 billion except a Democratic Congress in the last 6 years cut the budget requests of the President of the United States by $10 billion. So if we are going to talk about fiscal responsibility, if we are going to talk about meeting our obligations, if we are to talk about balanced budgets, I want to look at the record.

This administration in 1952 on a commitment to reduce Federal spending to $60 billion a year, it is $73 billion. It has never been close to $60 billion. They have spent 46 percent more than Harry Truman spent. They have added 106,000 new Federal employees. I think it is about time the American people knew. [Applause.]

I don't believe that any Democratic President or any Democratic Congress could perform the miracles of Mr. Benson. Do you know that in the last 3 years the Department of Agriculture has cost more than it cost in the 20 years of the Democratic Party? In the last 8 years they have spent more money in the Department of Agriculture than they spent in the whole history of the Department of Agriculture. That is the record that Mr. Nixon is running on. [Applause.]

The interest rate policy of this administration has added $3 billion a year to the tax bill of the American people. If you buy a house today, $10,000, 30-year mortgage, you pay $3,200 more for that house on interest rates alone than you would have paid in 1952. Who are the spenders? [Applause.]

I was chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Governmental Reorganization which steered 30 Hoover Commission recommendations through. Mr. Hoover wrote me a letter praising us for the work we had done on Government economy. I do not intend to become President of the United States in order to liquidate the dollar. I become President of the United States because I think we can do a much better job than the Republicans can do. [Applause.] And I make the following commitments:

First, we Democrats do not intend to devalue the dollar from its present rate. We will defend its value and its soundness.

Second, we will seek a balanced budget over the years of our administration, seeking a budget surplus in good years as a brake on inflation.

Third, we will place less reliance on a high interest rate policy which discourages investment, which I believe is vital to our growing economy, and which has been a major contribution to two recessions, 1954 and 1958, and which has slowed down business in 1960 so that the rate of unemployment in this area of Virginia is higher than the national average.

And, fourth, we will begin a large-scale effort to assist those communities in the United States, communities that are represented by Pat Jennings, by the people of West Virginia, which have been hard hit, chronically [applause] which have seen men and machines go idle. Here in this rich country of ours we are producing steel at about 55 percent of capacity. We built this year 30 percent less homes than a year ago. By November, the middle of November of this year, we will have more cars unsold than we have ever had in our history. That is the record Mr. Nixon runs on. And I believe we can do much better. [Applause.]

I come to Virginia and ask your help. Every citizen of this State is a citizen of the world. You do not need the reassurances of any man about our position in the world. You know it well. This State would not have survived unless the citizens of this State had had foresight, and you know as Virginians and as citizens of the United States that the United States has to be stronger, we have to do better. You cannot possibly place your reliance in a candidate who has chosen in 1960 to run on a platform that we have never had it so good, that our prestige has never been higher. I ask your support, the descendants of those Americans who in other days faced the truth. [Applause.]

This State nourished the great Republic. Its leaders protected this country during our early years, and I do not believe the citizens of Virginia would choose in 1960 to place their confidence in a leader who is not wholly frank with them, who does not tell them the truth, the truth with the bark off. [Applause.]

This State and country is going to have to do better. That is the real issue of our times. If you are satisfied, if you believe that everything that needs to be done is being done, in its proper measure, if you believe that our power and prestige is increasing around the world, if you are satisfied, if you are confident, Mr. Nixon is your candidate. [Response from the audience.] But if you share my view that the Republican Party is not equipped by its very nature, by the interests it represents, to lead our country in a changing and vigorous time in the life of our country, in a world of change, in a world of revolution, in a world which sees new countries rising and old countries falling, which sees the Communists carrying on a steady offense against us - I believe that whether the struggle is in outer space or whether it is for the economic survival of this country, I believe the Democratic Party, made up of men of commitment, made up of men who look to the future - I believe you should place your confidence with the Democratic Party once again. [Applause.] And I believe the presence on this platform of Governor Battle and Governor Almond, and distinguished Members of Congress, I believe that that indicates better than anything their good judgment that Virginia should go Democratic in 1960. [Applause.]

Virginia was Democratic when Massachusetts was Federalist. Virginia was Democratic when Massachusetts was Whig. Virginia was Democratic when Massachusetts was Republican, and I do not want it said that Virginia was Republican when Massachusetts was Democratic. [Applause.]

[Aircraft noise.] There are more Republicans leaving town today than ever. [Laughter.]

This campaign is just about over, and I am sure we are all going to be glad. It is 4 more days. The issues are joined. The differences between us are acute. The differences which separate Mr. Nixon in the past and us in the future are sharp. You can make your own judgment. You can make your own judgment about your community, your State, your country, and the world. But I come to this State with its long and ancient history, and I come here as one who knows Virginia, whose two brothers attended the University of Virginia, who feels at home in Virginia. [Applause.] Who feels at home in Virginia, who knows as a Democrat that he is among friends, and I come here and say, How could Virginia possibly put its confidence in Richard Milhous Nixon and the Republican Party in 1960? [Applause.]

I believe a Democratic tide is rising in the Nation. I believe the people of this country are committed to looking forward. I believe that they know in good times and bad, regardless of what may be said or read, the record of the Democratic Party is shown to you all. It is a responsible and progressive record. All those Republicans who come down here to worship at the shrine of Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson and Andrew Jackson fought against them all their political lives. [Applause.] The Republican Party ruined Woodrow Wilson and his hope for the League of Nations. [Applause.] The intellectual predecessors of the Republican Party, the Whigs, censured Andrew Jackson for trying to prevent the flow of money, in this country, prevent it from being dominated by a small group in Philadelphia.

John Quincy Adams, who represented my State in the Senate, was expelled from the Senate by the Republicans in those days, because he supported Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase. They come down here and say, "We are all for Wilson, Jackson, Jefferson, and the rest. [Response from the audience.] They are even beginning to say a few kind words about Franklin Roosevelt. Harry Truman, of course - 20 years from now they might even speak a good word for him, but he won't about them. [Applause.]

This is an ancient struggle between those who look to the future, between those who share the inheritance of Jefferson, and what was it? It was a willingness to look life in the eye, to look to the future, to plan to decide what is best for our country and to move ahead, to be committed to no faction but to be committed to the truth. That is the inheritance of Thomas Jefferson. And on that inheritance I run in 1960, and ask your help. Thank you. [Applause.]

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

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