John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Capitol Steps, Lansing, MI

October 14, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Senator MeNamara, Governor Williams, Congressman-to-be O'Rourke, Governor-to-be Swainson, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I first of all want to express my appreciation at the courtesy of the Governor of this State, my friend and colleague, Mennen Williams, with whom I have worked closely in recent months in building a stronger and more responsible Democratic Party. [Applause.]

I believe that the record that he has made in this State will last, and I think the things for which he has fought in Michigan, better education, fair equality for Americans, regardless of their race or their color, the movement forward of the State of Michigan - I think those things will last and so will his reputation, as a distinguished public servant. I am delighted to salute him on the occasion of visiting his State Capitol - Governor Williams. [Applause.]

And I am delighted to tour the State of Michigan with my colleague in the U.S. Senate Senator McNamara. Senator McNamara has been chairman of the Committee on Aging of the Senate. There are 17 million Americans over the age of 65 who live on an average social security check of less than $78 a month. Many of them live, at least 9 million of them live, on less than $1,000 a year, and until Senator McNamara began to turn the spotlight of public attention on this problem, they were forgotten. I salute him for a job well done, a job still unfinished. [Applause.] And this job will not be finished until we provide medical care for the aged under social security.

Finally, let me say that I am glad to be here with a young and progressive figure from the State of Michigan, who I believe will succeed Mennen Williams as a great Governor, who will lead Michigan forward - John Swainson. [Applause.]

And lastly I want to pay tribute to what I hope will be the Congressman from this district, Congressman-to-be O'Rourke. [Applause.] I knew him when I was a member of the Rackets Committee and he was carrying out courageous actions against those who lived off the reputation of labor and management. He is a young man of courage and even though this ticket may be overbalanced with some Irish names, O'Rourke, Kennedy, and McNamara, nevertheless, I hope you will support him. [Laughter and applause.]

The State of Michigan has many problems and so does the United States, but most of the problems a Michigan has are the same problems that our country has. If someone in this country of ours finds their income drop in Connecticut, and they decide that they will not buy a new car this year, you feel it in Lansing, and you feel it all over the State of Michigan. If our steel industry produces at 50 percent of capacity, you feel it here in Michigan. If we build 200,000 less homes a year than we should, which we are now doing, you feel it here in Michigan. Michigan is a great industrial State, and it is sensitive to the rises and falls of the American economy. Michigan, itself, can only move forward - you can provide employment for the 180,000 of the citizens of this State who are now out of work only if the economy of the United States is on the rise. Fifty percent of our capacity in steel is unused. One-third of our steel-workers are part time or out of work. Seven percent of the labor force of Michigan is unemployed. Michigan in a very real sense and the United States never fully recovered from the recessions of 1958. Unless this country is able to stimulate the economy of the United States to move ahead 4 percent or 5 percent a year, we are not going to find jobs for all the young men and women of this State who get out of high school and college next year.

Where are they going to find work in Michigan or in the United States if there are 4 million people unemployed and 3 million employed part time? We have to do better than that. We have to do better than that, not only because we should adopt the national goal of full employment, but also if the U.S. economy drags, we are not able to maintain our strength as a nation, and if we do not maintain our strength as a nation, all those who look to us with confidence and hope for leadership turn in another direction. The place to start is here in the United States. The place to build our prestige in the world is here in the United States. The place to build strength for freedom is here in the United States. If we are on the upward move, if the wave of our vitality and energy as a nation is coming in, if we are providing employment for our people, if we are consuming all that we produce, if we are able to provide a better distribution of the great wealth of this country than we have in the past, then the United States is strong, and when the United States is strong, the world is strong, the chance of freedom is strong, the U.S. influence is strong, our prestige is greater. [Applause.]

I do not suggest in any way that the problem ot maintaining full employment, the problem of solving automation, the problem of stimulating our housing industry, the problem of increasing educational opportunities, the problem of caring for our aged, the problem of balancing supply and demand in agriculture, the problem of maintaining our military strength, the problem of disarming, if we can disarm, under safe conditions - I do not suggest that there are easy answers to the most difficult and complicated problems that this country has ever faced. The only question is, Has this administration, and has Mr. Nixon, my opponent, and has the Republican Party not only indicated the problems but has it attacked them with vigor in recent years? [Response from the audience.]

That is the decision which you must make. Have we done what needs to be done? Do you feel as an American that this country is meeting its responsibilities at home and abroad in full measure? Do you feel we can do better? Do you feel we must do better? It is upon your judgment of that great question that the decision of November 8, 1960, will be made. I believe an election time serves more than to have candidates make speeches. I hope it is a chance, as it has been in our history, for the United States to make a determination as to what it wants to be and what it must do. It was true in 1932, it was true in 1912. I think in 1960 that the people of this country are coming to a conclusion that if this State and country are going to maintain their freedom, if we are going to occupy a position of leadership in the world, then we have to move again. I believe that will be the result of the election of 1960, which, in many ways, will transcend the results of any party's success. I believe in part as a result of this campaign, in part by the force of events and the pressure of history, that the United States in the 1960's will fulfill its destiny as the leader of the free world. This country will move again. Thank you. [Applause.]

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

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