John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Bergen Mall, Paramus, NJ

September 15, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Thank you very much. Governor Meyner, Daniel Amster, mayors, the next U.S. Senator, Thorn Lord [applause] - why don't you stand up, Thorn - the next two Congressmen, Congressman Dobbins to be and Congressman McKenna to be [applause], ladies and gentlemen:

I want to express my thanks to all of you for being kind enough to come out to a rally at 10 o'clock in the morning. I have been campaigning in the last 10 days all the way from Maine to Alaska, through California and Texas, the State of Idaho, and Michigan, and now in the State of New Jersey. I really say the same thing in a sense every place, because I think it is the basic issue before the United States at this very difficult and dangerous time in the life of our country, and that is which candidate and which party and what action can best insure a stronger America, a freer world and the peace of the United States. It is to those great problems that we address ourselves as Americans in the campaign of 1960.

I think this campaign can serve a useful purpose if it gives the American people clear alternatives, a clear choice of action, so they can determine what they want their country to be in the 1960's, and what they want their lives to be. My own feeling is that in the last few years, the influence, the power and the prestige of the United States in relationship to the Communist world has begun to decline, relatively. We are still moving ahead but we are not moving ahead fast enough. We are still strong, but we are not strong enough. We are still meeting our traditional responsibilities, but we are not doing it with traditional vigor and traditional energy. In other words, I don't think that there is any man or woman here today who feels that the position of his family and the position of his country is as secure as it was 10 or 15 years ago. [Applause.] Partly I think it is because we have not recognized that in a difficult world it is necessary for us to to to work here in the United States to build our strength here in the United States if we are going to build our strength around the world. If the U.S economy is moving ahead at a rate one-half that of the Soviet Union or Western Europe or Germany or France or England, that is not really just a domestic problem. That is not a problem just to us in New Jersey or Massachusetts or California. It affects our position around the world. It affects our ability to do the things that must be done. If Americans here in this country are producing one-half as many scientists and engineers as the Soviet Union, don't you think that is going to affect our relative power in 1970 or 1986? If we waste food in this country, if we store billions of dollars and are not able to distribute it effectively, that is not a domestic problem. That is a problem which stares us in the face all over the globe, in Africa, in Asia. I think the basic issue which separates us at this time in the two parties, at least in their leadership, which separates Mr. Nixon and myself, is not because we don't both desire the best for our country, but I think that the leadership of the Republicans on this occasion say we never had it so good, and I say we can do better. I say we are going to have to move ahead. [Applause.]

I don't run for the office of the Presidency in these dangerous days saying that if I am elected life will be easy and the problems all solved, because I think to be an American in the next decade is to bear heavy responsibilities and great burdens. But I do say that if we are successful, if I am elected, if the Democratic leadership is successful, then I think we can begin to move in this country on all of the problems that now face us, and by so moving here we strengthen ourselves around the world. I ask your help in this campaign. I ask you to join us in this great effort, not merely for the success of a political party, but because I think our best days in many ways are to be ahead. Thomas Paine in the Revolution of 1776 said, "The cause of America is the cause of all mankind." I think in 1960 that the cause of all mankind is the cause of America. If we meet our responsibility in this time as we did in the days of Wilson and Roosevelt, I think we can meet our responsibilities to ourselves in this State, to ourselves in this country, and to the cause of freedom around the world. I ask your help in that effort. Thank you.

During the American Constitutional Convention there was a painting of a sun behind George Washington's desk, very low on the horizon, and many of the delegates wondered whether it was a rising or a setting sun. At the conclusion Benjamin Franklin stood up. He said, "We now know. We have made our judgment. It is a rising sun and the beginning of a great new day." I think in 1960 it can be for the United States and the free world a rising sun, and the beginning of a great new day. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Bergen Mall, Paramus, NJ Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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