John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Downtown, Lockport, NY

September 28, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Mr. Mayor, Mayor Wagner of New York - why don't you stand up, Mayor [applause] - he wanted to see what a big city looks like. That is why he came to Lockport. Chairman Prendergast, Bob Richards, candidate for Congress, Mr. Mayor. I understand, Mr. Mayor, that you are a member of another active party in the United States. [Laughter.] I hope you won't feel I am abusing the hospitality of the city if I say a few good words on behalf of the Democratic Party. [Applause.]

I am a candidate for the office of the Presidency, and I run for the office with a full recognition that the United States moves through very difficult times. I am sure Mr. Nixon would agree that there are no easy solutions to the difficult problems that the United States faces. I think one of the tendencies of all of us who are candidates and perhaps all of us who are voters, is to think of all of the issues between the parties in the traditional sense, and I do think that is valuable because it tells us something about the party. But the point I want to emphasize is that I think the problems that the United States is going to face in the next 10 years are entirely different than we have ever faced before. We are going to have the great problem of demonstrating to the world that a free society can work better than a Communist society. [Applause.]

We are going to have to show that not by our words but by our deeds. Mr. Castro and the head of the Ghana Government, the head of the new Laos Government, the head of the Chinese Communist Government, the head of the Russian Government, they believe in their system because they believe that their system represents the best opportunity to bring to the people the material things that they want. We believe our system is better for two reasons. First, because we believe that freedom can produce a better life for our people, and also because we believe that freedom is the way people want to live. We think people want to be free all over the world. [Applause.]

I think it is the next function of the next President and the next Congress, and the country, to try to develop policies which will demonstrate here in the United States that we have a vigorous and vital society, that we are able to maintain a defense second to none, that we are able to assist those countries that wish to follow on freedom's road, countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, who are going through now the same experience that we went through 100 or 150 years ago. I wish I could run for the Presidency saying that the only problems that will be before the American people are the problems that face the country here. But I run for the office of the Presidency with full recognition that as voters and as officeholders we must be concerned not only with what happens in this community, and this congressional district and this State and country, but also what happens in Africa and Asia, inside of men's minds in those countries, and what happens on the farther side of space.

It may be unfair - the burdens placed upon us may be too great. I don't think they are. I welcome the opportunity for the United States to demonstrate that it is a vigorous and vital society, that it can maintain its defenses, that it can build an educational system second to none, that it can maintain employment at a time when we are increasing our population, and when new machines are taking the jobs of men, that we can make productive use of our agricultural surpluses.

I said on television Monday night that 4 million Americans received food packages from the Government which are worth $6.25 a month for a family of 4. That adds up to 5 cents a day. Those are not just statistics. There are 125,000 to 150,000 people in West Virginia alone in this rich country who get that 5 cents worth of food every day. The reason is because machines have thrown men out of the coal industry.

Now in the 1960's in coal, in steel, in automobiles, in oil, in chemicals, in paper, in glass, we are going to meet the same problem. How can you find 25,000 new jobs a week for the next 10 years, which we are going to have to find if we are going to maintain full employment, at a time when 1 machine will do the job of 10 or 15 men 15 years ago.

I run for the Presidency with full recognition that the problems facing the next President of the United States are more complicated and more difficult and more burdensome than they have ever been in the past. How can a free society compete over a long period of time with a totalitarian society? That is the question which our generation of Americans is going to face. I must say I hope after this election that Mr. Khrushchev realizes that a new generation of Americans has taken the leadership, men who fought in Italy and in the Pacific and are not prepared to see freedom lose in the 1960's. [Applause.]

I want to see in the next 10 years people around the world begin to wonder what the United States is doing, not merely what Mr. Khrushchev or Castro are doing, but what we are doing in this country, the most powerful and productive country in the world - a country which represents and stands for freedom. If we move ahead here, if we are first in space and first in defense and first in the things which catch people's imaginations, then I think we can demonstrate to the people of Latin America and Africa and Asia that they don't have to follow Mr. Khrushchev or Mr. Castro, that they can come with us and meet their problems and also live in freedom.

We have a great cause with which we are identified, and whether I win or lose this election, I would hope that this election would give the American people an opportunity to make a judgment about the future, that we take a great movement forward in the 1960's, that we recognize that what we are doing now is good, but not good enough; that this a great country, but it is not great enough; that it is a powerful country that can be more powerful.

Mr. Nixon says that I downgrade the United States. I don't at all. But I give you just one figure to show how serious is our situation. Mr. Gallup, and I don't always agree with his polls, did take a poll in February of this year. In 10 countries scattered around the world, he asked them the single question, "Do you believe by 1970 the United States or the Soviet Union will be first, militarily and scientifically?" In every one of those countries a majority of the people thought that the Soviet Union would be first. Why? A country of one-half of our productive power, the most backward country of Europe 30 years ago, and yet the majority of the people around the world think that they will pass us in both of those areas in the next 10 years. That is why politicians on the make in Africa and Latin America begin to wonder whether Castro and Lumumba and Khrushchev may represent the way to the future. I think we do, but I don't think we are going to be prepared to meet it unless we are prepared to move ahead. My invitation to you is to join in building the prestige of the United States, in recognizing that we stand today on the razor edge of decision, and so does the world, and recognizing that if we succeed, we succeed not only for ourselves, but all those who look to us for leadership. I ask your help in this campaign. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Downtown, Lockport, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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