John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Hibbing, MN

October 02, 1960

SENATOR KENNEDY. Now we will play for the Vice President "California Here I Come." [Laughter.]

Governor Freeman, Senator Humphrey, Congressman Blatnik, I must say I would not have missed coming to the strongest Democratic area that I have seen in this campaign. [Applause.] I used to think that they were pretty good in south Boston, but we are going to send them out here for indoctrination. [Applause.] I stand here today as the Democratic standard bearer, and I stand side by side with three great Democrats: John Blatnik, who has fought for the interests of this district for 14 years in the Congress of the United States, as he fought in World War II for the country, Orville Freeman, who has had the most difficult of all jobs, which is to be a Governor of a growing and expanding State, who has had the guts to meet the problems of Minnesota and who will be reelected, I am confident, by the people of this State. [Applause.]

And Hubert Humphrey. I know how tough he is. He has made the Vice President of the United States look easy. He is so tough that he chased me all over Wisconsin and all over West Virginia until I finally asked him to run for the Senate again. [Applause.]

Minnesota needs him and I am confident that the Senate of the United States will see him back there. [Applause.]

Mr. Nixon made a speech the other day and said that Senator Johnson and I were not in the tradition of Jefferson and Jackson. The fact of the matter is when Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States, and when he made the Louisiana Purchase, which has meant so much to this area of the United States, the Federalists of those days, who were the Republicans, almost impeached him. When Andrew Jackson seized control of the great bank, the Senate of the United States, dominated by the Whigs, who were the forefathers of the Republican Party, they censured him in the U.S. Senate. They say we are not in the tradition of Woodrow Wilson. They did everything they could to ruin Woodrow Wilson's life. At the end of the World War I, they led the fight against the League of Nations. They say, the Republicans, that we are not in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt. They fought Franklin Roosevelt four times. They tried to block every piece of progressive legislation that he put forward, and they say we are not in the tradition of Harry Truman. They despised Harry Truman and he beat them again and again and again. We stand in the Democratic tradition. The Republicans fight us in our day as they have fought every progressive piece of legislation since the time of Lincoln. The fact of the matter is that the Republican Party by its nature, looks backward. Can you tell me one single piece of new legislation that they have ever introduced and fought for and secured the passage of?

I raise no call of alarm, of despair, of distress. I raise the call to rally to this country's behalf, and also to the cause of freedom, to serve it, to work for it, to move it, and in so doing that we serve and move and work for the cause of freedom. I ask your help in this campaign. I ask your support, and I can assure you that while life may not be easy in the 1960's, we shall meet our responsibilities and we shall move into the sixties with vigor and confidence. Thank you. [Applause.]

Mr. Nixon endorses housing and all the rest today. But what have they been doing for 8 years? What have they been doing for 8 years? This district here in northern Minnesota has had three recessions in 8 years. Here in 1960, after the recession of 1958, the steel strike of 1959, we see the steel mills of the United States working 50 percent of capacity. Steel is the basis of industrial power. How can the United States meet its commitments around the world and to our own people if we use our capacity 50 percent? And it isn't just the steel mills; it is the men. One hundred thousand steelworkers are out of work in the steel mills, with others working part time, and you feel it back here where it all begins. This is the Iron Range and the Iron Range is the power of the United States. I believe we need an administration that will put this country to work again, that will move this country forward. [Applause.]

Back in 1933, Robert E. Sherwood, Franklin Roosevelt's friend, wrote a brief sardonic poem:

"Plodding feet, tramp, tramp,

The Grand Old Party is breaking camp

Blare of bugles, din, din

The New Deal is moving in."

Today on every major crisis from the shortage of schools and homes, the plight of our steel mills and the steelworkers in Berlin and Quemoy, and Matsu, we hear no blare of bugles, din, din; we see only plodding feet, tramp, tramp, and the Grand Old Party breaking camp.

I think we can do better. I think we must do better. I ask your help in this campaign, not merely because we run once again for office, but because in these difficult and dangerous times, when the United States bears the great burden of freedom, the chief responsibility for its maintenance, we cannot afford to stand still. We cannot afford to stand still. If we cause our efforts, if we rest on our oars, if we are unable to use our capacity to the fullest, who is going to defend the United States when trouble comes? Who is going to speak for us? Who is going to come to our rescue? We depend upon ourselves. We depend upon our own strength. We depend upon our own right arms, and the United States, depending as it does upon itself, the world of freedom depending upon the United States, cannot afford to stand still, cannot afford to look back, cannot afford to rest on its oars, cannot afford to stand still in the sixties. I think that is the very clear test the very clear choice that the American people are being offered. Do you want to say "Yes" to the sixties? Do you want a green light to the next 10 years? Or do we want to continue to drift, letting the world explode around us, not using our capacity to the fullest, always on the border of a recession, always taking a risk with our national defense, always seeing people newly emerging who begin to look to the Far East instead of the Far West. I want the people of Africa and the people of Latin America to look to us as they once looked to Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. [Applause.]

Our hope for winning the support of people around the world does not rest in great propaganda programs, however important they may be; does not rest in the great aid programs, however desirable they may be. It rests upon the power of the United States. The people of the world can make a judgment as to which way history is moving. A Gallup poll taken in February among 10 countries scattered around the world, was very revealing. It said to them which country do you think will be ahead by 1970 scientifically and militarily? And a majority of the people in every country, except Greece, said the Soviet Union will be first militarily and scientifically.

Why should it be? The Soviet Union was the most backward country in Europe 40 years ago. If they are able to convince the people of the world that they are going to be No.1, that they are going to be the leader in 1970, what are the leaders of these underdeveloped countries going to say? Which way will they want to go? They want to tie in with the future, and if they think the future belongs to the Communists, they will move with them. If they think the future belongs to us, they will move with us. I think the future belongs to us. I think it can belong to us. But it cannot belong to us possibly, and this we might just as well understand, because we will see it in the sixties, it cannot possibly belong to us if we are content with being second in space, if we are content to turn out one half as many scientists and engineers as the Soviet Union, if we are content to use our steel capacity 50 percent.

Last week the Soviet Union produced more than we did in steel, not because we could not produce twice as much, but because we did not, because the economic and fiscal policies of this administration, because the leadership of this administration, because the vision of the Republican Party has put a damper on our energies at the one time that we need it. I do not say the future is easy, and I do not come to this community and say that if I am elected life will be easy and the problems solved. But I do say we can do better. I do say it is possible for us to reestablish in our time and generation the same sense of energy and vitality and purpose which Franklin Roosevelt and Wilson had in their generations.

I stand where they stood and I come to this district and ask your help in this campaign. I feel the Democratic Party can once again be of service to the people of this State and to the people of this country. I stand with your Governor, as he has stood in this State, and I stand with Congressman Blatnik, and I stand with Hubert Humphrey, and we say "Yes" to the future, we say "Yes." We ask your help in this campaign. Give us your help. [Applause.]

A hard, tough question for the next decade, for this or any other group of Americans, is whether free society, organized as ours is, can endure in the face of the Communist challenge. That is the question which we face as citizens. And we will mark that specially in those days when we will witness not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction, but also a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space, and the inside of the ore fields of this district.

This is a challenge; this is a period of adversity, and I believe it can bring out the best in us. I ask you to join us in moving across the new frontiers of the 1960's, in serving again as other generations of Americans have served the great Republic, to serve our country, and in serving our country serve the cause of freedom. We ask your help. Thank you. [Standing ovation.]

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

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