John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Hazleton, PA

October 28, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Ladies and gentlemen, Governor Lawrence, Senator Clark, Congressman Flood, Mr. Mayor, fellow Democrats, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for coming out here today. Your presence here indicates that you feel as I do, that this is an important election in an important time in the life of our country for a most significant and responsible job, the Presidency of the United States. You have to make your choice as citizens of our country, concerned for our country; you have to make your choice of which man, which party, which political philosophy, which view of our times, shall be elected President of the United States and lead this country in the next 4 years. [Applause.]

I want to make it clear that Mr. Nixon and I differ. I hope that no one will go to the polls on November 8 thinking that there is no clear choice; Mr. Nixon and I differ very basically about what our country needs to do, about what our position must be in the world, and what the responsibilities are of the United States in the turbulent and changing years of the 1960's. Mr. Nixon represents his party. He looks, in my opinion, to the past and present, and we look to the future and we ask you to look to the future, too. [Applause and response from the audience.]

I hope a Democrat threw that. [Laughter.] This community probably as well as any community in the United States knows what the issues are in this campaign. This community as much as any community in the United States has worked itself. It has believed it can do, and it has tried to build itself up, tried to find work for its people, bring industry in here, provide employment. But you know very well from your own experience that unless there is full employment in the United States, unless people are working all around our country, it is extremely difficult to find jobs for all the people who need them. Under this administration we are building 30 percent less homes than we built a year ago. Our steel mills work 50 percent of capacity, and that affects the job of every miner. We are going to have, by the middle of November, 1 million unsold cars, the highest inventory of unsold cars in the history of the United States.

Now, anyone who believes that under those conditions we should continue that kind of leadership, that supports leadership that twice, not once, but twice vetoed the area redevelopment bill, sponsored by your Congressman, Dan Flood, and your Senator, Joe Clark - anyone that believes that a minimum wage of $1.25 is extreme, Mr. Nixon is your man. But anyone who believes as I do that this country will never be strong in the world, that we will never be successful in turning Mr. Khrushchev back, we will never be successful in expanding freedom around the world unless we have in this country a strong and vital and progressive society, and that is what we are committed to, that is what we are committed to, and I believe the American people on November 8, faced with a choice of a leadership that looks to the past and the present, and recognizing that this country, the only hope of freedom that there is, we are the only sentinel at the gate, and if we don't move ahead, if we don't provide employment for our people, if we don't use our facilities to the fullest, if we don't educate our children and provide under social security medical care for our aged and jobs for those in between, then the United States, instead of being the leader of the free world, will cease to count as the only hope of freedom.

Mr. Khrushchev does not take a country as seriously - when he is able last week to produce almost as much steel as the United States, and he is now producing twice as many scientists and engineers. I believe that this country is a great country. I have served it for 18 years. I represent the oldest political party in the world, but I represent this year the youngest party, the party that looks to the future, that looks as Franklin Roosevelt looked to the future, and I want your help. [Applause.]

If you can tell me after 14 years in the Congress, if you can tell me one single piece of original progressive legislation for the benefit of the people sponsored by either Mr. Nixon or the Republican leadership - can you tell me one? Minimum wage? [Response from the audience.] Social security? [Response from the audience.] Mr. Nixon made a speech 3 weeks ago about what we need to do in housing, and he said in that speech the Housing Act of 1949 works very well, that is the basic housing act. Do you know he voted against it as a Congressman? He leads a party that voted 90 percent against a 25-cent minimum wage in the midthirties and votes 90 percent against $1.25 in 1960. He leads a party that voted 90 percent against social security in the midthirties and voted 90 percent against the medical care for the aged tied to social security. Under the bill signed by the President, if you are over 65, if you have parents over 65, if they get ill, do you know what they have to do to get any assistance? They have to sign an oath that they are medically indigent, a pauper's oath. Then they go down to the relief station and get public assistance. Under our bill, those who are working would pay an additional tax of 3 cents a day, which amounts to $10 a year, and when 65 you would be entitled to the benefits to which you contributed.

The difference between those two approaches, in my opinion, is the difference between our two parties in 1960. And I believe in 1960, and I say this not as a Democrat or a leader or standardbearer of our party but I say it as a concerned American who wishes to see our power and prestige and influence grow as the great hope of freedom, I believe that we have to move in this country. The Bible tells us, "Who prepares to battle when the trumpet sounds an uncertain sound?" In the last 3 years, the influence, power, and prestige of America has declined relative to that of our adversaries, I want to see it built up again. I want people all over the world to wake up in the morning and wonder not what Mr. Khrushchev is doing, not what Mr. Castro is doing, but to wonder what the Americans are doing. [Applause.] So I come to this community in the heart of Pennsylvania, the Keystone State of the United States, and I ask your support. I ask you to join me in picking this country up and moving it again. [Applause.]

I ask you to join me in providing our Nation with power, force, and purpose. This is a great country and it deserves the best of us all. When you decide on November 8, you look to the future. You join with us in saying that it is time America started moving again. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Hazleton, PA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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