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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, City Hall, Providence, RI

November 07, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. John Notte, the next Governor of the State of Rhode Island, Mayor Reynolds, Senator Green [applause], Claiborne Pell, who will be the next Senator from Rhode Island [applause], Congressman Fogarty [applause], my distinguished friend and colleague from the Senate, John Pastore [applause], my colleague in the House of Representatives, who has been working all over the country with us, Aime Forand [applause] - who else? [Laughter.] And John Notte, who is going to be the Governor of this State [applause], and Ferdie St. Germaine, who is going to be the next Congressman, replacing Aime Forand. I would like to have you meet my three sisters [applause], Jean, Eunice, and Pat. [Applause.] They have campaigned in this campaign in 40 States. Just to show you how long we have been engaged in this campaign, one of them is married to a citizen of New York, one is married to a citizen of Illinois, one is married to a citizen of California [applause] - at least she is a citizen now - and if we can carry, which is their responsibility, New York, Illinois, and California, we are going to win. [Applause.] And if we don't - well, I want to carry Rhode Island, and I am here to ask your help. [Applause.]

I think it is appropriate in the last 24 hours of this campaign to come to a great Democratic State, a great Democratic State, and ask you to lead the way tomorrow, November 8. [Applause.] Let me make it clear this campaign is now coming to an end, and tomorrow the respective responsibilities of Mr. Nixon and myself cease and yours begin. [Response from the audience.]

What are the issues in this campaign that any voter should consider before they vote? In my judgment they are two: First, there is the point of view expressed by the Vice President that this country has never been stronger, that our security is assured [response from the audience], that we are experiencing and enjoying unprecedented prosperity from one end of the country to the other [response from the audience] and that the way to win the peace is by journeys through Eastern Europe in order to inform them of the value of freedom. I want to make it clear that Mr. Nixon may decide, if he is elected, to go to Eastern Europe, but I am going to Washington, D.C., because that is the place. [Applause.] Have we not learned in the last 8 years that parades and trips and good will missions are not the way to negotiate, are not the way to limit, are not the way to expand the cause of freedom around the world? [Response from the audience.]

Mr. Khrushchev is not impressed by words. He is impressed by the power of a free society, and the way to get power in a free society is to build the strength of the United States. [Applause.] Do you think after 40 years of Communist experience that the Communists are going to change their whole doctrine by visits? [Response from the audience.] What kind of a policy will that be for the 1960's, the most dangerous and hazardous in our history, to even indicate to people that peace can be won by some overnight gesture? Peace and security and the survival of the United State can only be won by work, perseverance, will, carried out over a long period of time without cease, without fail. In order to win the peace in Eastern Europe, in order to extend freedom around the world, our country has to go back to work again here in the United States. [Applause.]

Thomas Jefferson at the beginning of this country once said the disease of liberty is catching, but if it is going to catch, if it is going to spread around the world, then we here in the United States must meet our responsibilities. We must recognize there are no shortcuts, no easy way, no overnight, weekend meetings, which will bring a change in the balance of power in the world. What gives the Communist system its power and force is the productive strength of the Soviet Union. What gives freedom its power and force are not merely words and speeches but the productive power of the United States put to great purposes. [Applause.] And that is the issue of this campaign, which candidate, which party. [Response from the audience and applause.]

You have to make your judgment tomorrow as to which candidate and which party has associated itself and himself with the great issue of our time. On other occasions, in other years, this country has elected Republican Presidents and Democratic Presidents. They do it when they make a decision that that party and that candidate will serve a great national purpose. In my judgment and the responsibility ultimately is yours, in my judgment the United States will be best served by a candidate and a party who recognizes the basic issues of our time and that is that this country has to go back to work again. [Applause.]

For 8 long years, for 8 years we have seen the balance of power in the world change. It did not require the polls taken by the U.S. Information Service to tell us that the balance of power is not shifting in our direction. Cuba, Latin America, Asia, China, Russia - the world is full of hazards and peril and opportunity in the 1960's, and those hazards can be overcome, those perils can be met, those opportunities seized only if we in the United States are building a strong society committed to progress which the Republican Party has never been. [Applause.] Do you believe that when the basic responsibility of our country is to build strength and move ahead that we should entrust the leadership of his society to a candidate and a party who have opposed progress for the last 15 years. [Response from the audience.] Mr. Nixon leads a party which, in the midthirties, voted 95 percent against a 25-cent minimum wage, and he leads a party which in 1960 voted 95 percent against $1.25 minimum wage. [Response from the audience.] He leads a party which in the midthirties voted 90 percent against social security, and he leads a party which in 1960 voted 90 percent against medical care for the aged tied to social security [response from the audience.] The elephant has not had a new idea in 25 years. [Applause.] This choice is your. This choice is not merely between two candidates and two candidates and two parties and the record of the past. It is between their respective commitments to the future. And I come here to Providence, R.I., the United States of America, and secure your help tomorrow in moving this country forward. [Applause.]

I ask you to make a decision which will make it possible for us to enlist the best talent we can get in demonstrating what a free society can really do. Our purpose is clear, and the judgment finally must be yours. Which way do you want to go? [Response from the audience.] Do you want to drift and sleep and lie at anchor, or do you want to start to go forward in the 1960's and build our strength? [Response from the audience.]

Eighteen hours from now this campaign will be over. I want you to know that for 4 years the State of Rhode Island, away back in 1956, was generous enough, under your distinguished former Governor, Governor Roberts, to support me for the Vice Presidency [applause], and in 1960 Rhode Island was a leading State in making it possible for me to carry on this campaign. [Applause.] And now, for the third time I come to Rhode Island and ask your help and support. I can assure you that if we are successful, all of us in this State who seek office under the banner of the Democratic Party, I can assure you that our party in 1961 will meet its responsibilities, not only to the people of this State, not only to the people of this country, but to all those around the world who look to us with confidence and hope. Let me say 100 years ago in the campaign of 1860, Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend, "I know there is a God and I know He hates injustice. I see the storm coming, and I know His hand is in it. But if He has a place and a part for me, I believe that I am ready." Now, 100 years later [applause] - 100 years later, when the issue is still freedom or slavery, we know there is a God. We know He hates injustice, and we see the storm coming. But if He has a place and a part for us, I believe that we are ready. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, City Hall, Providence, RI Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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