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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Johnston Hall, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA - (Advance Release Text)

October 28, 1960

The Republican candidate for President keeps telling us how well off we are under the Republicans.

He tells us, "You never had it so good."

But in the next breath he tells us that we can't afford to do those things in America that everybody knows we need to do.

He says we can't afford to do what this great country should be doing in education, in programs for the aging, in medical care, in housing, in development of our natural resources.

I say we can.

It is Mr. Nixon - not I - who is downgrading America.

It is Mr. Nixon - not I - who is selling America short.

Mr. Nixon talks of America's limitations. I speak of her boundless possibilities.

Mr. Nixon talks of what we can't do. I speak of what we can do. Mr. Nixon says we are doing well enough. I say we can do far, far better.

I agree we are well off; I agree we have the most productive economy the world has ever seen. But I assert - and here I differ from Mr. Nixon - that we can, and ought to, put our great productivity to work to meet the needs of our people, not ignore them.

If we are well off, as we are, then why can't we assure every American boy and girl the chance for an education up to the very limit of his abilities?

Mr. Nixon says we can't afford to. I say we can.

The Soviet Union is putting twice as high a share of its national income into education as we are. They have been graduating twice as many scientists and engineers. As an American, it pains me to say this, but it is true - that many a bright child born in the Soviet Union has a better chance for a college education than many a bright child born in the United States, if that child happens to be born on the wrong side of the tracks.

In Russia, they pay their brightest young people handsome stipends to stay in school; in the United States, a third to a half of our brightest young men and women do not go to college, principally for lack of money.

The Republican administration has, for 8 years, opposed almost every effort of the Democratic Congress to provide assistance to our public schools and our colleges. I say we can afford to educate our sons and daughters to the limits of their abilities, and under a Democratic administration the means will be found to do it.

They tell us we're well off; then they tell us we can't afford to provide enough hospital beds in America to take care of the sick. Every single year the Republican administration has tried to cut back the appropriation for aid to community hospitals under the Hill-Burton Act, while communities wait in line for the help they need. I say to cut back on hospitals is downgrading America.

They tell us we're well off; then they tell us we can't afford to provide our older citizens with a decent program of protection against the heavy cost of medical care.

The Republican administration forced upon us a program which refuses medical care to any retired person or his wife, unless they sign away their home, their car, and take a pauper's oath. And somebody comes around to check to see that there's no money hidden underneath the mattress. The Republican bill is so bad that even the Republican Governor of New York has said he won't put it into effect in his State.

I say that we can afford to provide medical-care benefits to every retired person - and provide them as a matter of right, without the humiliation of any kind of means test, the same way that social security pensions are provided. To say that we cannot do the right thing by our older citizens is downgrading America.

They tell us we're well off; then they tell us we can't afford to clear our slums and make it possible for every American child to be raised in a decent home. The Republican administration has tried to gradually abandon urban renewal and to kill off low-rent housing programs, and they have let the homebuilding industry decline to where it is building fewer than two-thirds the number of new homes each year that should be built. Russian homes are not as good as ours, or as big, but the fact remains that they are building 3 million a year to our 1 million. For Mr. Nixon to say we can't afford to do more to clear our slums is downgrading America.

The Republicans tell us our economy was never stronger; then they tell us that a minimum wage of $1.25 an hour would break its back. Who can raise a family on $1.25 an hour, $50 a week? For Mr. Nixon to say $1.25 an hour is "extreme," as he did, is underrating the great potential strength of the American economy.

They tell us we're well off; yet their administration proposed to abandon, entirely, the program of aid to clean up our polluted streams so that people can fish, swim, and boat along our inland waters.

There is this much logic in the Republican position: It is true that under their policies, where we have three recessions in just 6 years, where we have the lowest rate of economic growth of any industrial country in the world, then there are many things we can't afford.

But it is equally true that, if we put our economy to work - if we achieve the rate of 4- to 5-percent growth every year that is within our reach - then we will have the added resources to devote to schools and hospitals and medical care for the aged, housing, and conservation.

The Republican candidate proposes to continue his party's restrictive policies. I propose policies which will put our people, our resources, and our whole economy to work to build the kind of America we want to live in and raise our families in.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Johnston Hall, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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