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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Capitol Steps, Austin, TX

September 13, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Daniel, Senator Johnson, Congressman Thornberry, Lieutenant Governor, General Wilson, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen I want to express my warm appreciation to your distinguished governor for his generous welcome this morning. The U.S. Senate is filled with Governors that wanted to get to the Senate. He is the only one I know in the Senate who wanted to come back here and be Governor of a great State. I can understand why. [Laughter and applause.]

We have been traveling since the night before last, when we came into the Pass of the North, from El Paso down through San Antonio, Houston, and today in Austin. One of the things that has impressed me most about Texas, which I regard as a forward looking and progressive State has been the care and attention which the people of Texas have given to the past. Yesterday we visited the Alamo. Coming into the city of Austin last night, the Governor pointed with pride to a building which has been developed under his administration, which will house the Archives of Texas, which will house, as said, the letter which Travis wrote from the Alamo, which will house the documents which Houston wrote, which will house the documents which have helped build the State of Texas. Why would a State like Texas, which lives on a frontier, which has had a record of progress, look to the past? The reason is simple. We look to the past so we will know where we are going in the future. We look to the past because it tells us what we have been able to do. We look to the past because it gives us confidence that this country has been built by men of courage, men of character, men who are willing to risk all to develop the State of Texas and the United States. We look today to the past, both as Democrats and as Americans, because it is the past that tells us most about what the future can be.

I look to the past of the Democratic Party as the standard bearer of that party. I look to the record of Lyndon Johnson as the Vice Presidential candidate of this party because I think that record has been a good one for Texas and the United States. [Applause.]

The resources of this district were developed in part by the initiative of Lyndon Johnson, followed by a distinguished Congressman, Homer Thornberry. The resources of this State were developed in part under the leadership of Sam Rayburn. The Democratic Party and history, the Democratic Party and Texas, have been jointed intimately together. Therefore, I consider it a source of strength to the party nationally as well as in the State of Texas, as well as in the State of Massachusetts, as well as in the State of Florida, as well as in the State of Washington, that the Democratic Party on this occasion presents a united national front to the country. We are able to serve the people because the people belong to the Democratic Party. We include Yankees from the North and Texans from the South. We include farmers from Lubbock, we include rangers from California. We include citrus growers from Oregon. We include all of the people. And because we include every interest and every group we speak for the people, in the Congress and in the executive branch. [Applause.]

Texas has sent 21 Democratic Congressmen to the Congress, and 1 Republican, a fair proportion, a good average. [Laughter and applause.] You have elected two Democratic Senators, Senator Johnson and Senator Ralph Yarborough, with whom I serve on the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare. You have elected a man who is the Speaker of the House. You have elected a Senator who leads the Democratic Party, both unanimously, both chosen by Democrats in all parts of the United States to lead them in the House and Senate and speak for them.

Now, if the Democratic Party and Texas have been so intimately joined, it seems to me that you can place your confidence in the Democratic Party in the future. We seek to lead not merely one section of the United States or one interest. We see, Senator Johnson and I seek to lead the United States in a difficult and dangerous time. We do not do so saying that if we are elected the problems of Texas will be over, the problems of the United States will be solved, because they will not be solved in our generation or our time. But we do promise that if we are elected that this country will be strong, and this country will present an image to the world of vitality and energy, that we will represent to the world not only our own interests, but also extend a hand to all those who wish to associate with us, in the great fight for freedom and independence. The Democratic Presidents in this century have been successful here in the United States: Wilson, Roosevelt, and Truman. They have been successful around the world because they were successful here, because they moved this country ahead, because they demonstrated that here in this country we were still revolutionaries, that we still believed in the doctrines which are far more progressive and vigorous than the doctrines of the Communists. Mr. Khrushchev came to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and he predicted that our children would be Communists. He went to China after a visit to the United States and said that he capitalistic system is a sick and dying and faltering horse that is about to collapse to the ground.

I do not agree with him. I think our brightest days are ahead. [Applause.] I think it is incumbent upon us to demonstrate that this system of ours can work, that it can work in a period of danger, that it can work at a time when it is being challenged all over the globe, that we can hold out a hand of friendship to those to the south of us, to those in Africa, those in Asia, that we represent the way to the future, and that the Communist system is as old as Egypt.

I ask your support in this election not merely for the State of Texas, but also for the United States; not merely for the United States, but for all those who desire to join us in a great effort to maintain their freedom. The hard, tough question for the next decade, for this or any other group of Americans, is whether a free society can maintain itself, whether we can demonstrate to a watching world as we sit on a most conspicuous stage, that the future and the United States are one.

I ask your help in this campaign. I ask you to join us in turning this State and this country back on the road of progress. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Capitol Steps, Austin, TX Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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