John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Corn Palace, Mitchell, SD

September 22, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Congressman McGovern, Governor and Mrs. Herseth, Mrs. Price, my sister, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen, I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to be here in George McGovern's home and in the State where he comes from. I appreciated what he said about me and I appreciated it particularly because I think he has the same qualities which he was generous enough to ascribe to me. [Applause.]

Quite obviously, I think whether you may be a Republican or a Democrat - I think that you will agree that what we really need is the best talent that we can get, the most honest talent we can get, the most energetic and vital intellect that we can apply to the great problems that face the United States.

I know there is a great feeling that the politicians who used to live 100 years ago, 75 years ago, 125 years ago, were far superior to the men who dominate the political life today. The halfbacks 30 years ago were faster, the girls were prettier, and the politicians, like Daniel Webster and John Calhoun and all the rest were far abler. But I don't know whether you realize that Calhoun and Clay and Stephen Douglas and all the men who dominated the political life in the 19th century really dealt in that entire period of time with four or five problems the development of the West, the railroads passing through the West, the admission of new States, slave or free, our relations with England, France, and occasionally with the Soviet Union.

We challenge now, the United States meets now problems which dwarf in complexity every week the kind of problems which those men dealt with in their lifetimes. The problems that you face here in the State of South Dakota, dealing with the problem of agriculture, how we are going to harness our capacity, how we are going to harness our abundance and make our abundance fruitful for ourselves and for people all around the world is a problem far more vast, far more complicated, than any which faced any 19th century statesman.

What is true of agriculture is true of fiscal policy, is true of monetary policy, is true of the sophisticated questions which face us in national defense, nuclear energy, our relations with the Soviet Union, Latin America, and Asia. Therefore, I can say to you that the next President of the United States will deal with problems far more complicated, far more difficult of solution, requiring greater judgment, greater responsibility, than any President of the United States in history.

We don't have candidates who measure up to those Presidents of history perhaps, but I do want to emphasize that when we can get talent, and I think George McGovern has that kind of talent, I think we should seize it. I think it is the kind of man that we need in this country. [Applause.]

I think the same is true of your distinguished Governor, Governor Herseth. The trouble is [applause] the great trouble with American politics today, I think, is that we talk in slogans too often and symbols and we fight old battles. The sixties are going to be entirely different. Unless the political leaders of both parties can recognize that new problems bring new solutions, that the problems which will face the United States bear no comparison with the problems which faced us in the days of Eisenhower and Truman and Roosevelt and Wilson. We are a new generation which science and technology and the change in world forces are going to require to face entirely new problems which will require new solutions. Therefore, I run for the office of the Presidency as head of a party which is the oldest political party on earth. But I do believe that the Democratic Party has had one silver thread which has run through the tapestry of our history since the days of Thomas Jefferson and that has been the willingness to look ahead, to face the future, to break new ground, to try new solutions, to recognize new problems.

I came today to this State in what I think to be the most dangerous time in the life of our country, a time which can be bright for all of us, but which is also full of hazards. It would be easier, perhaps, if we were Switzerland or Norway or Denmark or Sweden, a small country out of the course of world events. But world events and our own power and our own desire to be free have made us the leader of the free world. If we fail, the whole cause of freedom fails. If we succeed, the cause of freedom succeeds. That is the responsibility that is thrust upon a corn farmer or a wheat farmer in the State of South Dakota. He must concern himself not only with agricultural policy, but with our policy toward Pakistan and India and Latin America and Africa, and our policy in outer space as well as in the earth of South Dakota.

I think this is the most dangerous time for all of us. I don't run for the office of the Presidency saying that there are easy solutions to difficult problems. There are difficult solutions for difficult problems, but there are solutions. I have the greatest possible confidence in our system, because I think it fits in with the basic aspiration of people, not only in the United States, but all around the world to be free and independent, a common desire, possessed by people in Latin America, and Africa, and Asia, and Eastern Europe, and in the Soviet Union, finally, itself. That is the great force working for us.

The seed it planted and ultimately is going to reap the harvest the desire of people to be independent whether they live in Congo or Cuba or Russia or Poland or East Germany. Sooner or later the basic desire to run their own affairs, to be free men and women, I think represents the most powerful force that this country has. And my great criticism of the foreign policy of this administration has been that we have not associated ourselves with those aspirations. We have not recognized that that is the way of the future. The United States has not spoken for freedom. We did not concern ourselves with the position of the Congo when the Belgians had it. We are concerned that the Soviet Union will control the Congo, but we never spoke a word about the Congo when it was held in another kind of colonialism. Unless we identify ourselves with freedom here in the United States and around the world, then the United States will appear to have lost its vitality and force. That is why we led before. The reason Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were world leaders was not because they forced their solutions, but because they stood for great moral principles in good times and bad, against friend and foe, and I hope it is possible in the sixties, if the United States is going to lead the world again, that we associate ourselves with great causes once again, that we speak strongly for the interests of South Dakota, that we review and concern ourselves for the interests of agriculture in the State of South Dakota, that we recognize that this is a blessing from the Lord, that there are people who are hungry all over the world, and in West Virginia and Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and here in this State, which is a rich and prosperous State potentially in the food that you produce, this is one of the great sources of strength for the United States in the next 10 or 20 years.

I don't regard the problem of agricultural surplus as a problem. I regard it as an opportunity to use it imaginatively, not only for our own people, but for people all around the world. There are faces in the United States which you know - West Virginia, Kentucky, parts of Tennessee, southern Illinois, and Pennsylvania - where over 4 1/2 million people wait every month for surplus food packages from our Government. They live on an inadequate diet. The food packages would not total a cost of $3.25 a month for the Government - one can of dried eggs, some powdered milk, some rice, some grain, and this summer the Department of Agriculture announced it is going to add lard. No chickens, no meat, no ham, no nothing, for fellow Americans who live out their lives in desperation and without hope, and every month we give them a pittance. And what is true in this country is true around the world. As long as the great battle which occupies the attention of the people around the world is: "How can we eat three times a day?" We have strength, because we know how to do it; 12 percent of our population feeds our people and could feed much of the hungry world; 85 percent of the population in other countries searches for food. That is the revolution which this State and States like it - that is the great miracle of the United States since the end of World War II, the increase of food production, and it is a great asset. It is a great asset and should be so regarded.

I hope the next President of the United States, in putting forward his proposals for agriculture and if it is me I will make them very clear - that we recognize that in every hundred acres there is a percentage of that production which could be produced for a price which would be a parity price in the market. If you produce 5 percent more than that 100 acres can consume, you break the price. Divide your 100 acres. One part of it will be for domestic production, at a parity price. The second part will be to feed our own people who are hungry, the unemployed, the old, the sick. The third part of it will be a food program for peace, through the United Nations and through our own distributive agencies.

The fourth part will be a conservation reserve, not whole farms, but a conservation reserve, sharing and storing our land for the time when we may need it. To think that you can possibly control production by dropping support prices down and down and down, which causes a farmer to produce more and more has found us in our present situation with great surpluses, low farm income, high burden on the taxpayer, and a farm income which is bringing distress to other sections of the United States. I am delighted to come here today. I appreciate your invitation. I come here as a candidate for the Presidency to say this, and that is that I hope those of you who are farmers will never get the idea, and those who live in cities, that there is a hostility which exists between the cities and the farms. Fellow Americans facing a difficult future, I think the farmers can bring more credit, more lasting good will, more chance for freedom, more chance for peace, than almost any other group of Americans in the next 10 years, if we recognize that food is strength, and food is peace, and food is freedom, and food is a helping hand to people around the world whose good will and friendship we want. So you are a great source of strength to us in these great years ahead, and I come as a presidential candidate with the greatest possible hope for the future and ask you to join in a great effort on behalf of our country and the State of South Dakota. The motto of the State of South Dakota is "Under God the People Rule." The motto of the United States could be the same. I hope in the next 10 or 20 years when historians write of our times that they will write that that cause of the people ruling under God spread in these years and became stronger, increased in strength, increased in substance.

During the American Constitutional Convention, there was a painting of a sun low on the horizon behind the desk of General Washington and many of the delegates wondered whether it was a rising or a setting sun. At the conclusion, Benjamin Franklin stood up and he said, "We now know. We have now decided because of what we have done that it is a rising sun and the beginning of a great new day."

I think it can be for the United States because of what we do in the coming months and years, it can be a rising sun and the beginning of a great new day. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Corn Palace, Mitchell, SD Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives