John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Do Drop Inn, Muskegon, MI

September 05, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. The greatest Governor in the history of Michigan, Governor Williams [applause] with the possible exception of John Swainson, in the years to come [laughter] Senator McNamara, my seat mate in the U.S. Senate - between the two of us we usually vote right [laughter] Don Jennings, whom I am confident will be elected to the Congress from this district [applause] Walter Reuther, who could be [laughter] Leonard Woodcock, Senator Hart, Mrs. Price and I am not running [laughter] Senator Church - he comes from Idaho; we won't mention him - monsignor, ladies and gentlemen: I am leaving Michigan to go to Pocatello tonight. You have heard of Pocatello. There was a famous story of a U.S. Senator from Idaho who got defeated as we all do sooner or later, and therefore it is always regarded as Senators who stay on and on after being defeated that they don't want to go to Pocatello. I will know tomorrow why that is. [Laughter.] In any case, I am delighted to be in Muskegon. We really have had a great day. I must say I am encouraged. I don't know if they just took me in the strong Democratic areas, but in any case we really had a good day and I am most appreciative to you. [Laughter.]

I am most appreciative to Mennen. This is Governor's day in this district. He endorsed me at a crucial time in my race for the nomination. Back at about the 10th of June when everything looked like it might fall apart, he endorsed me, and the Michigan delegation supported him, and I don't think there is any doubt that he played a most significant part in securing my nomination. [Applause.]

For that reason, among others, I am anxious to win. I don't want him to look bad next November. [Laughter.] I am very grateful to Walter Reuther who has been speaking ahead of us. I have missed some great speeches today, but he went ahead of us, spoke for an hour or two, got the audience warmed up, and I came on. [Laughter.]

About l2 years ago a foreign visitor to Michigan came and was talking to a U.S. Senator from this State, Louis Kass, and was very impressed by Michigan. He said if this is what Michigan is like in its childhood, what will it be like in its old age. Senator Kass said, "Michigan or the United States will never have an old age."

I think that is what we are going to decide in 1960. [Applause.] The Democratic Party is the oldest political party on earth. We trace our intellectual descent back to Thomas Jefferson. Our call this year, however, is to the young at heart, whether they are over 65 or under it. All those who believe and have lived through the days of Woodrow Wilson's new freedom, through the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, through the Fair Deal of Harry Truman, through the great crusade of the last 8 years, they know how important this election is that the Democratic Party assume control of the executive branch of the Government. [Applause.] And the Democratic Party of Michigan, under John Swainson, with Pat McNamara and Don Jennings, and all the rest, are prepared to offer that kind of leadership in this State. This has been true of the Democratic Party throughout our history. When the Federalist Party was old and tired, Thomas Jefferson began the Democratic Party. His first action early as President was the Louisiana Purchase, against the wishes of all those who came from my own section of New England, who wanted the country to remain small, secluded, belonging to a few. Instead, he took a chance and spread the United States west, and even though when he became President the western boundary of America was Virginia, he sent Lewis and Clark all the way to the Pacific Ocean to open up the entire United States. That has been the spirit of the Democratic Party. It has been the spirit of Jackson and Roosevelt and Truman and all the rest, and that is the spirit we are going to recapture. [Applause.]

I think this is an important election. I know that candidates think every election is important, but I think that the election of 1960 is important. I think we have an opportunity to make a choice of whether we are going to continue to move forward, as I believe we must. What is at stake in this election is not only our security within this country, but also the position of the United States around the world.

Senator Johnson and I are prepared to carry on a great effort to secure a new frontier for the United States, a frontier which offers not merely what we are going to promise in this campaign, but offers an opportunity to all of us to serve the great Republic. It is, I think, a source of concern to us all that the first dogs carried around in outer space were not named Rover and Fido, but, instead, were named Belka and Strelka. It was not named Checkers, either. [Laughter.]

In any case, we are finishing in Michigan for the time being, but we are coming back to this State. We have to carry this State. [Applause.]

The law says that you can only vote once on election day, but if you will go out and register one person between now and the time of election in November, then you can vote twice. I think that this is an important time. I ask your help in this election. We can win this one. Let us try to work together and make Michigan Democratic, sweep this country in November, and then begin to go to work and roll up our sleeves and begin to move. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Do Drop Inn, Muskegon, MI Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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