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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Battle Creek, MI

October 14, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Lt. Gov. John Swainson, who is going to be the next Governor of Michigan, Pat McNamara, who sits next to me in the U.S. Senate, and who I am confident will speak for Michigan again in the future, for liberal, progressive government in this State and country, my friend and colleague, Pat McNamara [applause], and your next Congressman, Sam Clark [applause], and my name is Kennedy. [Applause.]

I appreciate the chance to come here to Battle Creek and also to the State of Michigan in this campaign for the Presidency of the United States. I believe that this is an important election, and I believe that there are great issues which separate our parties, separate the candidates, issues which divide not the United States, but which indicate a different philosophy for the future. My philosophy is a progressive one. I stand in direct succession to Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt who in their day and generation recognized that there was a responsibility for the people as a whole, working through their government, to move this country ahead, and I stand in that tradition.

I come here to this community and to this State, and I come here and ask your support. The decision which you must make between now and November 8 is whether you put your confidence, whether you put your future, in the Democratic Party or in the Republican Party, in Mr. Nixon or myself and I do not believe that that should be a difficult decision, because Mr. Nixon and I are sharply divided. We do not agree on the basic questions which face our society, and, therefore, as all of you must have some vision of this country's future, as all of you must share some concern, you must be able to decide whether you agree with the candidate who runs on a slogan of "You never had it so good" or a candidate who runs on a slogan that this country is going to have to do better if we are going to meet our responsibilities at home and abroad.

The question is not merely who can argue with Mr. Khrushchev. It is a far more difficult question than that. Mr. Khrnshchev has spent his life in arguments. The question is, Which candidate and which political party can mobilize the resources of the United States and the resources of the entire free world to turn the tide of freedom against the Communists? That is the issue. It is not a debate. It is a matter of consistent work, of setting before the American people the unfinished business of our society. I do not believe that this administration has met its responsibilities in the great areas of freedom. Do you know that there were more foreign students studying in the United States 10 years ago from all the countries of the world than there are today? We have less scholarships given to students to study here in the United States from abroad so that they can learn something about our country than we did a decade ago. Do you know there are less students from the Sudan and Yemen and Guinea and Ghana here in the United States than there are in Moscow? Do you know that there are five countries of Africa where there is no American representative today, newly independent countries that are members of the United Nations and yet do not have even a single Foreign Service officer there? Do you know that Africa will have one-quarter of all the nations of the General Assembly as votes in the next 2 years, and we have 26 Negroes out of 6,000 in our Foreign Service?

Do you know that there are countries in Africa - in fact, in all of Africa a year ago we had less Foreign Service representatives than we did in Western Germany? Do you know that the United States did not even establish a Bureau of African Affairs until 1957, even though Africa was in turmoil and change, and even though it is the center of one of the great struggles of history, to see which direction it will move in?

We are second in space and we are becoming second in other areas. We have an economic growth almost a third that of the Soviet Union. By 1975 their hydroelectric capacity will be greater than ours. And the question is whether you feel that this administration, in all of the changing areas of life, has shown sufficient intellectual vitality, has brought to Washington men of foresight and judgment in all these areas, and I think on that question the issue stands. I spent some months in England in the 1930's, and I heard Winston Churchill speak again and again about the perils that England faced. And I heard Stanley Baldwin and Chamberlain run on programs of "Never had it so good," that everything was being done in its proper time and in its proper place. I believe that those who serve freedom in 1960 should tell the American people that this is the best of times, but it is also then a time of hazard, that the United States is not meeting its responsibility, that the tide is not moving in our favor, that the power of the Communists relative to ours is mounting, and that we cannot afford to lose more time in the fight for freedom around the globe. Castro is only the beginning of the struggle which will take the next decade in Latin America, whether the people of Latin America will continue to identify themselves with us or whether they will decide that the only way to lick poverty and ignorance and disease is to move in the direction of Castro.

Why did the candidate for the Presidency of Brazil decide to go to Cuba and call on Castro during the campaign? It was because he recognized the strength of Castro in his own country. I do not come as the candidate of the Democratic Party in 1960 saying to you that the future is black, but I do say to you that what we are doing today is not good enough. [Applause.]

Here in Michigan, here in the country, unless we move ahead, unless we provide employment for our people, unless we treat all of our people with fairness, unless we make sure that our brightest boys and girls get to college and get an education, and nearly 35 percent of them never go to college today - 35 percent of our best students in high school never get a college education - unless we are sure that those who seek jobs can find them, unless we are sure we are developing our resources, unless we are sure we are concerned with what is on the other side of the moon and also in the life of the people across the street, I don't believe the United States is meeting its responsibilities to itself. So I come to Battle Creek and I ask your support in this campaign, not in my campaign, but I believe in a campaign in which you are intimately associated, and that is for a stronger country, for identifying ourselves more strongly with the cause of freedom, persuading all those millions of people to the south of us that we represent the way of the future. Castro, what is happening in Africa, what is happening in Asia, can be stopped if the United States once more stands as the great champion of liberty. All over Africa there are boys named Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln and Roosevelt. I want them to be named after American statesmen of the sixties and seventies. Up to now there are no Lenins in Africa no Trotskys, no Stalins. We want to make sure that the United States, which has always stood for freedom, continues to be identified in their minds as a revolutionary country, believing in the most drastic doctrine that mankind has ever known, government by the consent of the governed.

I come today to ask you to join in this effort to strengthen our country, to strengthen freedom, and extend our hand around the world in friendship. [Applause.] During the campaign of 1860, when the issue was much the same as it is today, whether the country would exist half slave or half free, Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend:

I know there is a God and He hates injustice. I see the storm coming. But if He has a place and a part for me, I believe that I am ready.

Now, 100 years later, when the issue in a wider sense is still whether the world will exist half slave and half free, we know there is a God, and we know He hates injustice, and we see the storm coming. But if He has a place and a part for us, I believe we are ready. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Battle Creek, MI Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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