John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Government Square, Cincinnati, Ohio

October 06, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor DiSalle, John Weithe, Mr. Garrett, ladies, and Gentlemen, I come here in 1960, to this State of Ohio, seeking the election as President of the United States, recognizing that the responsibilities and burdens of the next President will be greater than any since 1860 and 1861. I do not run for the Presidency after 14 years in the Congress without full recognition that, as Harry Truman used to say, on his desk there was a sign "The buck stops here."

In my judgment, the great questions of war and peace, of full employment, of economic growth, of a stronger society, of equal opportunity for all, will depend in the final analysis upon the President of the United States. [Applause.] Not upon the House and not upon the Senate. Congressmen speak for one district. Members of the U.S. Senate speak for one State - I speak for Massachusetts and Senator Engle speaks for California - but only the President of the United States speaks for Massachusetts and California. And the question which Cincinnati and Ohio must decide for themselves is which President, which party, which political philosophy you want to govern in the Office of the President of the United States, because there are very sharp differences, there are very sharp differences between Mr. Nixon and myself. [Applause.] They have been written, and there are in 1960, as there have been in other periods of our history, very sharp differences between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. [Applause.]

Cincinatti has voted - it is called Cincinnati in Boston, and I am from Boston [Laughter and applause] - we are going to explain to you how to pronounce it [laughter]. This city [laughter] - this city has supported the Republican candidate for the office of the Presidency ever since 1936. I think it is time you changed. [Applause.]

I think that this country needs a New Deal for the Democratic Party and the United States. [Applause.] I don't believe that this city and the State of Ohio wants for a President of the United States in 1961, a man who thinks a minimum wage of $1.25 an hour for someone working in interstate commerce is extreme. I don't believe that anyone who believes in Federal aid to education, and to make sure that our teachers are well compensated - anyone who believes that that is extreme, I don't believe the American people are going to endorse that leadership. [Applause.]

I don't believe that the American people are going to give their endorsement to the leadership which believes that medical care for our older citizens, financed under social security, is extreme, and I quote Mr. Nixon accurately - which he does not always do me. [Applause.] I don't believe in an administration whose economic and fiscal policies, whose devotion to high interest rates have helped bring the recession of 1954 and a recession of 1958, and bring a leveling off in 1960, that is ominous for 1961. The men and women in this audience who work in our factories, the small businessmen who depend on credit and on a moving economy to make his living, the children who go to over-crowded schools [response from the audience] the people who are looking to retirement, I think they are going to vote in 1960 as this country has voted in other years, in favor of a party of progress and a country of progress. [Applause.]

And all this in the most dangerous time in the life of our country. All this has significance to the position of the United States and the world around us. If the United States stands still, if it does not show vision and vitality in its policy here at home, how does anyone think it is going to show vision and vitality in our policy abroad?

The United States last June offered 300 scholarships to the Congo because of the crisis. That was more scholarships than we had offered the 2 preceding years to all of Africa. When we broke off the sugar quota from Cuba last June, we offered economic aid to Latin America. Mr. Nixon, on "Meet the Press" a month ago, said that if we had developed that program 5 years ago, perhaps we could have prevented Castro from seizing power in Cuba. Well, this administration was in power Syears ago. We ignored Latin America. We have given more aid to Yugoslavia since the end of World War II than all of Latin America combined. There is not a present American statesman who is quoted by any African leader today. They stand on the razoredge of decision. They wonder whether the world and the future belongs to the Communists or belongs to us. A Gallup poll taken in February among 10 countries of the world, in which the people were asked a simple question - which country, the Soviet Union or the United States, will be first in military and scientific power in 1970. The Soviet Union, which 40 years ago was the most backward country of Europe, was asked and a majority of the citizens of every country but one said the Soviet Union would be first, both militarily and scientifically. Why do they think so? Why have we fallen behind? Why do they believe that they will be stronger than we are? We have an economy twice theirs. We have a long history of scientific progress. Why in the short space of 40 years has the Soviet Union been able to capture the imagination of the peeple? Why are we second in outer space and second in the minds of many of the people of Africa and beginning to be second in the minds of many of the people of Latin America? Why was it necessary for a presidential candidate, in Brazil, in the middle of his campaign, to pay a visit to Castro? Why was the United States unable to get an indictment of Castro by name at the last meeting of the Organization of American States?

Because the power and prestige of the United States, relative to that of the Communist world, has diminished in the last decade; because these people wonder whether the future belongs to the Castros and the Khrushchevs and the neutralists who are turning to hostility. They wonder whether the future belongs to freedom.

That is the great issue of 1961 and 1962. I must say I don't think we can capture the imagination of the world, we cannot capture the imagination of our own people, unless we have an administration manned by men and women who look to the future, who recognize that this is a changing and a revolutionary world, and that what was good enough 10 or 15 years ago is no longer good enough.

I want Africans and Latin Americans not to quote Roosevelt or Lincoln or Jefferson; I want them to be quoting the next President of the United States. [Applause.] I want us to stand for freedom. I want us to demonstrate in this country, as we sit on a most conspicuous stage, that we are a strong and vital country, that we and the cause of freedom are closely identified, that we want a better life for our people, that we do not in this country practice discrimination of any kind, that all we want is the best talent we can get. That is the kind of society we can build, and what we do here and what we are will speak far louder than what we say over the Voice of America.

Franklin Roosevelt was a good neighbor in Latin America because he was a good neighbor in the United States. I believe that in the 1960's the United States can once again capture the imagination of the world. We can once again be the wonder of those who seek to follow freedom's road. Freedom's road begins in Washington, but it stretches around the globe. We want people to join us. The future belongs to the United States, and those who believe as we do. Our high noon is yet to come. The Communist system is as old as Egypt, and if we do our job, if we demonstrate vigor and vitality here, we can radiate it around the world until finally all those who wish to be free will finally come with us. That is the opportunity. That is our chance. [Applause.]

I ask your support in this campaign, not promising a life of ease, but promising the U.S. leadership which leads, leadership which sets before us our unfinished business, leadership which will get this country moving again. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Government Square, Cincinnati, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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