John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Bell Aircraft Co., Niagara Falls, NY

September 28, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to have you meet Mayor Wagner, of New York, Arthur Levitt, the comptroller of the State, and Mr. Prendergast, the State chairman, We do not come to Niagara to see the falls. We came to See you and the people of northern New York. I am a candidate, as you know, for the Office of the Presidency of the United States, and I run as a Democrat. [Applause.]

Mr. Nixon has said that party labels don't matter so much this year, that the question is the man. I think it is also the man and I think it is also the party. I think parties do stand for something. They ought to. Grover Cleveland, a Governor of New York as well as a President, said what good is a politician unless he stands for something and what good is a party unless it stands for something.

I want to make it very clear what we stand for in 1960. The Democratic Party stands for a stronger America; not strong if, but when or something, but strong this year, now, period. [Applause.] I want to make it very clear that I consider it to be a central responsibility of the man who is elected President of the United States on November 8, to send a message to the Congress in the first 3 months of his office which will request appropriations which will make us in 1961, 1962, and 1963 in a position to stand up to the Soviet Union or the Chinese Communists or anyone else who wishes to threaten our security. I think it is incumbent and I think it is primary, and I think it will provide us, and we can provide the kind of security that we need.

Secondly, I stand for full employment in the United States. [Applause.] There are more people out of work this August than at any time except for the two recessions. Here in this country you have seen it. I think that the Federal Government and the States and the companies have to devote themselves to the goal of providing work for men who want it, for men who need it, and providing work under good conditions. That has been the goal of the party that I represent since Woodrow Wilson, and it is the goal of the Democratic Party today.

I have served on the Labor Committees of the Congress for 14 years, and I have traveled in the last year to nearly every State in the Union. I have been to parts of New York and to West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and southern Illinois, and I think that it is a problem which is going to face the next President of the United States in the first 6 months. I don't think it is any secret for Mr. Khrushchev that the U.S. economy today is at a plateau, that our steel mills are working 50 percent, and I don't want to see the winter of 1961 slide as it did in the winter of 1958 and 1954 and 1949. This country cannot maintain its leadership unless our people are working and our machines are working.

The Soviet Union last week produced as much steel as the United States, and the reason, of course, is because our steel mills work 54 percent of their capacity. What affects the steel mills affects this country. If this country is moving ahead, if we have fiscal and monetary policies which stimulate employment, if we have a defense policy which provides not only protection for the United States but strength for our economy, if we provide security for our people, then I think we provide security for freedom.

My program is brief: that is to strengthen this country, because what we are in this country speaks far louder than what we say. If we are building a strong society here, and a strong economy, if we are providing work for our people, there isn't any question that we can outproduce any country in the world, that our security will be assured. We only fail when we don't measure up to our own potential. It is my policy, and I think the policy of the Democratic Party, and I think the policy of this country, to start this country moving again. That is the program to which we commit ourselves. I will be glad to answer any questions that anyone might have. [Applause.]

Does anyone have a question?

(Question from the audience inaudible.)

Senator KENNEDY. The question was: "Why are all the defense contracts going to California, to the west coast?"

They are going partly to Washington and partly to California. Of course, the west coast of the United States has great advantages in building the aircraft industry originally, No.1, and No.2, there were arguments at one time that they were in a more secure position than the east coast, particularly as the enemy was at one time in Europe. I think that defense contracts should be fairly distributed. I represent a section of the United States, New England, which has had the same problem that upper New York has had, defense contracts leaving, industries laying off, and we have begun to bring them back, particularly in electronics and in the Raytheon Co.

I think defense contracts should be fairly distributed across the Nation. I also support the reestablishment of the Defense Manpower Policy No.4, which was thrown out in 1952, which provided that those defense contracts would go to those areas which were able to meet the competitive price and had over 8 percent unemployment.

I think we can use defense contracts to strengthen the economy as well as strengthen the country. In any case, if we are successful, we will try to distribute defense contracts fairly so that it protects the United States and protects the economy. [Applause.]

I will say that parts of California have also been hard hit lately because of the transition from aircraft to missiles, and I think the decision on the B-70 which I supported I think would do something for the aircraft industry as well as provide us a lead in planes.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, can you tell us how you voted in 1957 on civil rights, particularly on section 3?

Senator KENNEDY. The question is: "How did I vote in 1957 on the civil rights bill on section 3?"

Section 4 of the civil rights bill gave the Attorney General the right to institute suits in all parts of the country to protect the right to vote. Section 3 gave him the right to institute suits in order to protect all other constitutional rights with the exception of voting. I supported title 3 in 1957, and in 1960, and we were defeated in both cases. I would say we had about 33 Democrats supporting title 3 in 1957 and about 9 Republicans, and about the same figure in 1960, and we were defeated both times. I think title 3 ought to pass. [Applause]

Can I have one more question?

QUESTION. What are you going to do about the medical bill for the aged?

Senator KENNEDY. As you know, in the August session of Congress, we had a fight on this issue. The proposal that we put forward was to provide that medical care for the aged would be tied into the social security system. In other words, that during your working years you would contribute through the social security system, and then when you reached the age of retirement, 65, you would receive assistance in paying your medical bills. That program was brought to a vote in the U.S. Senate. We were defeated 44 to about 55. The Senate passed a bill which I consider to be wholly unsatisfactory, and it is a fact that the State of New York as well as other States have not supported or sustained the program which the Congress finally passed. On that vote, 44 Democrats voted "aye" and 1 Republican Senator voted "aye." I want to make it clear that in my judgment the only way you are going to protect the interest of the country, the only way you are going to be able to provide a program which pays for itself, the only way you are going to provide medical care for the aged, is through the social security system which has worked for 25 years. [Applause.]

Therefore, whether I am in the U.S. Senate next year or whether I hold the office of the Presidency, in my judgment the Congress and the President must pass a medical-aid bill through social security which I think represents the best hope for all of us. [Applause.] Especially as we are all aging very fast these days. [Laughter.]

Thank you very much for coming out. I appreciate it. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Bell Aircraft Co., Niagara Falls, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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