John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Greensboro, NC, Airport Rally

September 17, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to express my appreciation to the man whom I hope you are going to elect the next lieutenant governor of North Carolina, for a very generous introduction. [Applause.]

I don't know what is locked up in Greensboro or High Point, but obviously it is something much bigger - I am sure it is not better, but it is bigger in High Point - since we have the key to unlock it.

I am here today as the Democratic nominee for the Presidency. I am reminded somewhat of the celebrated speech which the most celebrated Senator from my own State of Massachusetts gave during the great debate which led to the Compromise of 1860. In that famous speech, Daniel Webster began his talk by saying, "I speak today not as a Massachusetts man and not as a Northerner. I speak today as an American merely for my cause."

I speak today not as a Massachusetts man and not as a Northerner and not just as an American. I speak today in North Carolina as the standard bearer for the oldest political party in the world, the Democratic Party. [Applause.] And I am especially proud to be in good company today, to be traveling the State of North Carolina with your distinguished Governor, Luther Hodges, who was generous enough to support me for the Vice Presidency in 1956, as did a majority of the North Carolina delegates, and who now serves as the chairman of our business and professional committee in the United States. I hope that he will be able, if we are successful, to help us do in the country what he has done in rebuilding the economic vitality in the past year. [Applause.]

I am proud to be traveling also with my friend who I hope will be the Governor of this State, who, if we are both successful, will be working with me for a new day in North Carolina, while we work for a new frontier in the United States. And members of your senatorial delegation, Sam Ervin, with whom I served on the Rackets Committee for the United States, and for honest labor and management for 3 years; Senator Jordan, who has spoken for North Carolina and the country in the United States. Members of your congressional delegation, Carl Durham, who was in the Congress when I came there in 1947, and who is being succeeded this year by a man who is able to follow in Carl Durham's footsteps, your next Congressman from this district, Horace Kornegay. [Applause.] And my friend and former colleague, Charlie Deane, who has been my friend in other years and who is my friend this year.

I am delighted to be here today, and I come as I say, as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party. I am sure the people of North Carolina who have paid steadfast allegiance to our party since earliest beginnings now come to the election of 1960, and they are sure that they will make a careful judgment as to which way they shall go.

I think they should go with the Democrats, and I think they should go for this reason, that every time we have had a crisis in our history, and we have had many, in my judgment, the Democratic Party, beginning in the days of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland, and in this century in the days of Wilson, Roosevelt, and Truman, have come down on the side of progress, have come down on the side of the people, have moved this country forward, have not stood still, and have made the name of the United States not only a powerful image to our citizens here in this country, but all around the world. The New Freedom of Woodrow Wilson was the domestic application of his 14 points. The New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt fitted in with his whole aspirations for the four freedoms around the world, and the Fair Deal of Harry Truman had its counterpart in world politics in the Marshall plan. Because they led here in the United States, they led around the world. I am not satisfied as an American to live in the most powerful country, the greatest country in the world, and see the balance of power begin to move away from us and in the direction of our adversaries.

I don't want some historian, 5 or 10 years from now, to look at 1950 and 1955 and 1960 and say, "In those years the balance of power began to ebb, the tide began to run out on the United States." I think our brightest days are ahead. But I don't think we are going to grasp the future unless we are willing to work for it. I think the chief task of a President of the United States is to set before the American people the unfinished business of our society, the things we have to do. I speak for Massachusetts in the Senate. Senator Jordan speaks for North Carolina. But the President of the United States speaks for Massachusetts, North Carolina, and the country, and unless he speaks, no one speaks for him, no Senator, no Congressman, no Governor. Only the President can do what Franklin Roosevelt did, and that is put before us what we must do to maintain our power and our influence, to build the economy of this State. [Applause]

It is a source of satisfaction to me that every 4 years the Republican candidates run on the Democratic platform. I am glad that they do. [Applause and laughter.] But what I would like to see them do is put it into effect for the next 4 years. Mr. Benson, who has been the Secretary of Agriculture for 8 years, is in Mr. Nixon's own words, the most remarkable Secretary of Agriculture in history. And the reason is that he has spent more money than any Secretary of Agriculture, he has been 8 years in office, he has high surpluses and a lower farm income in 20 years, and still says it is the Democrats' farm. Mr. Nixon, in Iowa yesterday, tried to cut Mr. Benson out of the herd. But I think that there is always going to be an equivalent of Mr. Benson as there was in the 1920's, as there has been in the 1950's, and as there was in the twenties and forties, in the opposition to the program which Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman put forward. By their works ye shall know them. In 1930, 1940, and 1950, I cannot recall a single piece of new and progressive legislation at home or abroad put forward by the Republican Party. [Applause.]

I don't say that if we win life will be easy. I think life will be difficult in the 1960's and 1970's. But this is a great country. I think its capacity is unlimited. Why should we be second best in the 1960's, militarily? Why should the Soviet Union produce twice as many scientists and engineers as we do? Why should young intellectuals and students and union leaders in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, why should they look to Peking for hope for the future instead of the United States? Why should both candidates in the presidential election in Brazil be running on an anti-American platform when we were in the 1930's a good neighbor? I think the United States has lost its image as a revolutionary, forward looking country. We celebrate today the anniversary of the Constitution Day. I hold the view that the Constitution is the most revolutionary document with the Declaration of Independence, ever written, and it should to the new countries serve as a source of stimulation and enterprise to them. We hold the view that the people will come first, not the government. We hold the view that every American, regardless of his religion or his race is entitled to his constitutional rights. [Applause.]

We hold the view that the people make the best judgment in the long run. That is a revolutionary document. I don't hold Mr. Khrushchev's view that the United States is a sick and faltering horse, but I do realize that though we may quarantine him in Manhattan next week, and though we may do the same to Mr. Castro, we have not quarantined Castro in Latin America or Mr. Khrushchev in Africa. They move steadily outward. I therefore ask your support. I ask your support to rally around again, as North Carolina has on so many occasions, a Democratic Party which has produced men in this century like Wilson and Roosevelt and Truman, and more importantly has produced a party and popular support which has permitted them to move this country ahead.

If we win this election, I can assure you that the Democratic Party will lead again, and this country will move. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Greensboro, NC, Airport Rally Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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