John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Elks Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA

November 01, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Senator Engle, Congressman Roosevelt, Mr. Hawkins, Mr. Unruh, ladies and gentlemen, photographers, ladies and gentlemen. [Laughter.] I come here today, to the Golden State of California, and ask your Support in this campaign, in this campaign for a stronger and better State of California and for a stronger and more progressive America. I come here and ask your help. [Applause.]

Let me make it very clear that I stand today as the standard hearer of the Democratic Party, in direct line and succession to Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and others who believe that this country must move ahead. [Applause.]

You have to make your judgment about what kind of a country you want, what kind of a philosophy you want to govern your country. I want to make it very clear that the differences between Mr. Nixon and myself, the differences between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are clear. Mr. Nixon represents a party, a philosophy which he believes in, which voted against social security and minimum wage and housing and unemployment compensation. The fact of the matter is that the Republican Party controlled the Congress and the Presidency for years and no civil rights bill ever saw the light of day. [Applause.]

I was in the Senate in 1953 and 1954. The Republicans controlled the Senate and the House and the Presidency, and no civil rights bill came to the floor of either the House or the Senate. I was in the House in the late forties, and I served on a committee headed by Congressman Powell of New York, a committee which was devoted to providing protection to all Americans in their employment rights. Seven times the subcommittee and the full committee and on the floor of the House that bill came to a vote. Seven times Mr. Nixon voted against it, seven times, and seven times I voted for it. [Applause.]

In the debate 2 or 3 weeks ago, Mr. Nixon stated that he thought $1.25 minimum wage was extreme. Do you know what the average wage for laundrywomen, and most of them are Negroes, in five large cities of the United States is? Sixty-five cents an hour for a 48-hour week. [Response from the audience.]

Mr. Nixon came out about 3 weeks ago for a new housing program, and in it he said the Housing Act of 1949, which provided the basis for all later housing bills, the Housing Act of 1949 has worked well. Do you know Mr. Nixon voted against the Housing Act of 1949 as a Congressman? How short does he think our memory is? [Applause.]

I want to make it very clear that I am not satisfied as an American to know that if a white baby and a Negro baby are born side by side, that that white baby has three times as much chance of getting to college as the Negro baby, three times as much chance of finishing high school. That Negro baby has four times as much chance statistically of being out of work in his life, that Negro baby has four times as much chance of owning his own house. And how much chance does that Negro baby have of sending his children through college? [Response from the audience.] The fact of the matter is we don't say that everybody's talent is equal, but what we say is that every body should have the same chance to develop their talent. [Applause.]

Do you know the greatest minority in the world today? The greatest minority in the world today is the whites. The whole world, Africa, Asia, the Middle East - people who are colored, yellow, brown, black, they look to us, they look to the Communists, and they want to decide which road they will take. We preach the doctrine of democracy. It is the most difficult of all doctrines. But we have to live up to it. We have to practice what we preach, and that is what we are going to do. [Applause.]

We are going to move ahead. We are going to provide a fair chance for our people, full protection for their constitutional rights. To that we are committed, and that we are going to do, and we are going to move this country ahead. [Applause.] Do you know the most important new area of the world today is Africa? It controls one-fourth of all the votes in the General Assembly. I am chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Do you know how many Negroes we have in our State Department Foreign Service out of 6,000? Twenty-six. Do you know how many Federal judges there are, Federal district judges? Zero out of 220. We can do better. We can do better. [Applause.] So I come here today, saying that this country is faced with difficulty and hazardous days. We need all the talent we can get. What we want is a fair chance and a fair opportunity to move ahead, to strengthen our country, develop the potential of our people, and to that we are committed. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Elks Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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