Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, First-Time Voters Convocation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA - Question and Answer Period
Mr. STEIGERWALT. As student body president of the Associated Students of Southern California, and representing students of Southern California, and representing not only my fellow students but the first Voters of this area, at this time we would like to pose several questions to you regarding the 1960 presidential campaign.
Our first question is: Exactly what are today's practical differences between the Republican and Democratic Parties as you see them.
Senator KENNEDY. Well, I think that there are several significant differences. The first is the difference which is suggested by their record of the past. The fact of the matter is that the Republican Party has opposed every single piece of new, progressive legislation of benefit to the people in the last 25 years, social security [applause] social security, housing, minimum wage [response from the audience] civil rights. In 1953 and 1954 the Republicans controlled the administration, the House and the Senate. Not one single civil rights bill saw the light of day in either the House or the Senate.
Second, I think what is past is prologue. I think the general direction of the Republican Party and Mr. Nixon himself, as he has said on many occasions, is to be conservative, and a conservative defends the status quo. And I don't believe in 1960 or in the 1960's that there is going to be a status quo. I believe we either drop back or we move ahead. We do not sit on dead center. Secondly, the differences were suggested earlier in my speech. Mr. Nixon and I hold a wholly different view of our position in the world, of our prestige. Prestige is not popularity. Prestige involves the willingness of other countries to follow the leadership of another country, and the polls taken by the USIA this summer which have not been released, but which several papers have printed, show, for example, that only 7 percent of the people of England and France now believe that we are ahead of the Soviet Union in science. A majority of people in the 10 countries pooled believe that the Soviet Union will be ahead of us militarily and scientifically and in economic growth by 1970. How many of those people will follow our lead, if they believe that the way to the future is our adversary and not ourselves?
So first in our party differences, in our willingness to move forward, in our willingness to provide programs which will serve our people; second, in our view of the world, our prestige in the world, the judgment that we make of our prestige; third, I believe that we, the Democratic Party, are far more concerned historically and at present about the problems of the underdeveloped world which hold the key to our future, Africa, Latin America, India versus China. I do not believe that the Republican Party has shared this concern. We are, for example, the 14th country in the world today in radio broadcasts to Africa. We gave the Congo last June - we offered them more scholarships, 300, than we had offered all of Africa the year before. Do you know how many Congolese students are studying as a result of that in the United States? Six.
Guinea asked us for 500 teachers last year. Do you know how many we sent them? One. We gave Africa less than 5 percent of all our funds for technical assistance. I don't believe that this administration, either in nuclear testing or in the case of Africa, in the two revolutions of the fifties, has demonstrated its willingness to break new ground. In those three areas, our parties and the candidates differ. [Applause.]
Mr. STEIGERWALT. Our second question: What three issues upon which you and Mr. Nixon greatly differ do you feel will be the most decisive in bringing voters into your respective camps, and in each case, why do you feel that your particular stand is better?
Senator KENNEDY. One is the issue we have discussed already, about our position in the world. The second is the question of economic growth which goes to the question of jobs, full employment, and our ability to meet the national budget, our defense, and all the rest. The United States over the last 8 years has had an economic growth of about 2.5 percent a year. In the last 9 months, our economic growth has dropped back, 0.3 percent. Western Germany had twice the economic growth that we did in the last 8 years. Italy had a greater economic growth and so did France. The Soviet Union was, according to Mr. Allen Dulles, nearly 2 1/2 times as much. We are going to have to find 25,000 new jobs a week every week for the next 10 years, in order to maintain full employment.
I believe that that can be done only by an administration which is committed to progress, which in the management of the monetary and fiscal organs of government demonstrates an awareness of change, which supports programs which emphasize education, full employment, housing and all the rest. This year, for example, we are going to build 30 percent less homes than we did a year ago. This year, by the middle of November, we will have nearly a million unsold cars, the largest by 500,000, nearly, than we have ever had in mid-November in the history of the United States. Anyone who is a student, who looks at the facts, believes that we have in Mr. Nixon's words, unexampled prosperity, maybe should stay in school one more year. [Applause.]
The third point on which we differ is in the record of our party, and the promise that that record gives to the future. Ninety percent of the Republicans voted against a 25-cent minimum wage in 1935, and 90 percent of them voted against the $1.25 an hour in 1960, which Mr. Nixon considers extreme. Ninety percent of the Republicans voted against the social security in the midthirties and 95 percent in 1960 voted against the medical care for the aged tied to social security. The fact of the matter is that on these issues, medical care, social security, this administration vetoed two bills on housing, and one of them, the reason it was vetoed, was because it provided loans to colleges for dormitories. We are going to have to build more college dormitories and classrooms in the next 10 years than we have built in the last 200 years, to provide space for all the people who want to go to college by 1970.
Now, if you believe that a party which has opposed all of these pieces of progressive legislation in the past, legislation which we now take for granted, is equipped to lead a changing country in a changing world in 1960, then Mr. Nixon is your man. But I don't agree. [Applause.] [Response from the audience.] That was my brother. [Applause and laughter.]
Mr. STEIGERWALT. Mr. Kennedy, at this time we are running out of time, and at this time may I thank you on behalf of all students, the first-time voters for this area. It has been a great pleasure having you with us. Thank you very much.
John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, First-Time Voters Convocation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA - Question and Answer Period Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274051