Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Albion, MI
Senator KENNEDY: I have seen that face someplace, but I don't know exactly where [laughter]. I have seen that one, too. [Laughter.] In 1952. [Laughter.]
Governor Williams, John Swainson, the next Governor of the State of Michigan [applause], my friend and colleague and valuable Senator in the United States Senate, Pat McNamara [applause], the candidate for Congress from this district [applause], ladies and gentlemen: I want to express my thanks to all of you, particularly those of you who are college students who can't vote, who came down here anyway. [Applause.] I recognize that the sacrifice is not extensive as I am doing the work this morning and you are not in class. [Laughter.] I am glad that you are participating actively in the political process. Artemus Ward 50 years ago said, "I am not a politician and my other habits are good." [Laughter.] I believe all of us recognize now in a free society that we are all politicians, in a sense we are all officeholders, in a sense we all bear part of the burden of maintaining free government. And this election of 1960, I believe, is one of the most significant elections of the 20th century, because we have candidates and political parties who divide sharply over the responsibility which the United States must bear, the burdens it must assume, the obligations it must meet in the next decade, if we are not only going to endure but prevail.
I hold the view that in these difficult and dangerous times it is the function of the opposition, if it is going to meet its responsibility as a party, to try to suggest alternative courses of action. I do not downgrade the United States. I have the greatest confidence in it. I have the greatest confidence that it can meet its responsibilities. But I do downgrade its present leadership. [Applause.] I do believe that this leadership and the leadership which is suggested by the Republicans for the future falls to take into account the sober problems which the United States faces at home and abroad. You come from the State of Michigan. Here in this State which is one of the great industrial complexes of the United States, you are going to see in the next 5 and 10 years the problem of maintaining full employment at a time of automation, at a time when we have increased our productive capacity more than our ability to consume, and to maintain full employment and prosperity in this State and country in the next decade will take far greater imagination, and far greater vigor, and a far greater sense of what is needed than this administration has shown. [Applause.]
If the United States is going to maintain its position of being a friend of freedom in Latin America, if we are going to be successful in this struggle which is now going on, not merely on the island of Cuba, but all over Latin America, we have to be identified, not merely in the fight against communism, but in the fight against poverty and disease, in the fight that those people are waging for a better life for themselves, and in my judgment the United States is not now in their minds identified with that fight.
If we lose that psychological struggle, if Castro or his counterparts in other countries of Latin America are able to suggest that we are indifferent, that we are rich, that we are prosperous, that we do not look at their problems, I believe the future of Latin America will be far different than it could be if we identify ourselves as Franklin Roosevelt did with their problems, with their opportunities and join with them. [Applause.]
Those of you who may be supporters of the opposition party [response from the audience] - supporters of Mr. Nixon and Mr. Lodge, you should take scant comfort in the fact and Mr. Nixon in the debate before the one last night referred to our votes in the United Nations as a source of strength and prestige, and the next day, the Saturday after the Friday on the question of the admission of Red China, two African nations voted on the same side as we did, Liberia, which after all we helped found, and the Union of South Africa, which is outside the compartment of the rest of Africa because of its policies toward its Negroes. The rest of Africa - Guinea, Ghana, all the rest - none voted with us. More countries in Asia voted against us than voted with us. How can you take satisfaction, as young Republicans, in the record of our country in the last 8 years in outer space? How can you take satisfaction in the fact that in 1959 the United States not only had a lower economic growth than the Soviet Union, but one-half of that of Western Germany, less than Italy, less than France, less than Japan? [Response from the audience.]
Percentage points? Economic growth, economic growth, finding jobs for people. There are 7 million Americans today, only 2 years after the recession of 1958, that are either unemployed or working 2 or 3 days a week. If you feel that that is a good record, if you feel that the United States has shown sufficient vision, sufficient foresight, sufficient recognition of the changing nature of our time, then you should stay with the Republican Party and Mr. Nixon. [Response from the audience.] But if you believe that the United States has to demonstrate a whole new concept in our relations abroad, if we have to associate ourselves intimately with the problems of these people, if you are not satisfied to have the United States offer the Congo 300 scholarships last June and the year before 200 for all Africa - do you know how many of those Congolese students are here in the United States now as the result of those scholarships? Seven. If you think that is a good record, stick with Mr. Nixon. [Response from the audience.]
Well, I want to say to you five girls, I appreciate that. [Laughter.] In any case, Republican or Democrat, success or failure in November, this is a great country. I don't think there is a disagreement on that. The whole question really in this election is, What must the United States do what must the leadership set before the American people as the unfinished business, what responsibilities must we meet? What philosophy of government, what philosophy of our times, must motivate our President and our Congress? I hold with the Democratic Party on this occasion. I think this year we serve the national interest. I have bad news for you, gentlemen. I think we might even beat you in Michigan. [Response from the audience.] Thank you. [Applause.]
John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Albion, MI Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274643