John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Eastern Carolina Stadium, Greenville, NC

September 17, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. My friend and colleague, Senator Ervin, Governor Hodges, Senator Jordan, Congressman Bonner, my fellow Members of the congressional delegation, your next Governor of North Carolina, I hope, Terry Sanford [applause], distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I come here today from a section of the United States which claims to be the oldest section of the United States, to North Carolina, which is the oldest section of the United States. [Applause.] I am very grateful to be the guest of Eastern Carolina College. [Applause.] I understand that they have had a most rapid growth and now wish to play in the Southern Conference. [Applause.] I am scheduled in the Southern Conference, too, and find it with some difficulty, and I hope you have success and that I do, also. [Laughter and applause.]

I come here today as the nominee of the Democratic Party and, therefore, I stand in succession to a number of distinguished Americans who have borne the banner of the Democratic Party in good times and bad, but they have borne it high for the benefit of the United States of America.

North Carolina helped create the Democratic Party - the State of Virginia founded it, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison - and our party was given its modern form as the party of the people by a great citizen of this State, Andrew Jackson. I, therefore, come here today to ask your support in a difficult and trying time in the life of our country.

I do not run for the office of the President saying that if I am elected life will be easy. I think to be an American citizen in the 1960's will be a difficult and hazardous occupation. I believe that this is a great country, but I do believe that it can be a greater country. This is a powerful country, but I think it can be a more powerful country.

My chief disagreement with the Republicans in this campaign is that they have had too little faith in the development of this country. I think we can do better. [Applause.] Their campaign motto has been, "You never had it so good." Well, I think as a citizen of the United States, as well as a Democrat, that it is our obligation to do better, to build the economy of the State of North Carolina, to build the economy of the United States, and in so doing build the strength of the United States as a great and free country.

I think what Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman recognized was that this country cannot be strong and powerful in its world position unless it is strong and powerful here in the United States. I think that there is a direct relationship between the deterioration of our relative standing in the world in the last few years and the fact that we have not moved ahead here at home fast enough. Last year the United States had the lowest rate of economic growth of any major industrialized society in the world, and when we grow at home here slowly, our prestige and power and influence around the world begins to diminish. Here we are, the richest country on earth, and yet in a hungry world we find ourselves unable to use in an imaginative and affirmative way the great surpluses that the Lord gave us.

Here today in the richest and most productive tobacco country in the United States, I come as the Democratic standard bearer, affirming the confidence and faith of the Democratic Party in a strong agricultural program. [Applause.] It is a source of satisfaction to me that for 2 months every 4 years the Republican candidate for the Presidency, whoever he may be, comes out strongly for an affirmative agricultural program. But day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year in the Congress, the burden has been carried by Congressman Cooley, the Democratic Senators from this State, Democratic Congressmen and Senators from the South and the Midwest. We believe, as Franklin Roosevelt believed, in his day, in an agricultural program that lifts the farmer up, that does not liquidate him, that does not catch him in a cost-price squeeze that liquidates his profits and drives him into the urban centers of the United States.

I stand in direct succession in a great tradition which I think has meant a good deal to North Carolina, and to my own State of Massachusetts and to the United States. I ask your support in this election, not merely as the Democratic standard bearer, but as one who has the greatest possible confidence and faith in the future of this country. Thomas Paine during the American Revolution said, "The cause of America is the cause of all mankind." I think in 1960, and in the next decade, the cause of all mankind is the cause of America. Our responsibility is to be the chief defender of freedom at a time when freedom is under attack all over the globe. The future will not be easy, but I do think that if we meet our responsibilities here, here in the State of North Carolina, here in the United States, if we build a better life for our citizens here, whether they live in the cities of the North or the South, or whether they live on the farms of this country upon which our economy has traditionally depended, I think as we grow strong here, we hold out an inspiration to all those who wish to follow our example. The reason that Franklin Roosevelt was a good neighbor to Latin America was because he was a good neighbor to the people of this country. [Applause.]

Today we celebrate Constitution Day, which is the day at the end of the Constitutional Convention when George Washington sent the Constitution to be ratified by the States. I stand to say that as the supporter of the American Constitution as the best and most happy way for the organization of our life, and I think our great ambition is to see the blessings of freedom spread, riot only in our own country, but around the world. A strong America, believing in freedom for all our citizens I think offers the best hope of freedom to all those who look to us with confidence and hope. [Applause.]

I ask your help in this campaign. I ask your help and I can assure you that if we are successful it will be my daily task to care for the needs and the hopes of our citizens and also to defend the United States in a time of great danger.

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

I think in 1960, it can be for the United States a rising sun and the beginning of a great new day. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Eastern Carolina Stadium, Greenville, NC Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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