John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Joplin, MO, Airport Rally

October 22, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. My friend and colleague in the Congress, Charley Brown, your distinguished United States Senator, who has served Missouri and the United States faithfully, and who has been a constant friend of mine and colleague, Stuart Symington [applause], Ed Long, your U.S. Senator, who succeeded Tom Hennings, and who I know you will elect to the Senate in November, John Dalton, who will be the next Governor of the State of Missouri [applause] Tom Eagleton, who is the candidate of the Democratic Party and I, hope the next attorney general of the State of Missouri, ladies and gentlemen, I come here as the Democratic standard bearer and you must make your decision on November 8 about the kind of State you want and the kind of district you want and the kind of town you want and the kind of country you want and the kind of world you want. All Mr. Nixon and I can do is present our views of that country and that State and that world, and that district, and then on one day you have to decide. And I want to make it very clear what I regard the choice to be.

It is a choice between the comfortable and the concerned. It is a choice between those who run on the slogan "You've never had it so good" - and I want Mr. Nixon to come here and run on that slogan - and between those who say we must do better. It is between those who believe that this country is doing everything it must do in order to maintain its independence, its security, to meet its obligations around the world, and between those who say that we are going to have to revitalize our country, to move ahead, if we are going to fulfill our obligations to ourselves and to those who wish to be free.

I think this is an important election, and it is upon the citizens of the United States, not upon the candidates, that the burden finally falls, upon the miners, upon the farmers, upon the small businessmen, upon the mothers who want their children to be the best educated, upon all those who look at the world around them and say in this crucial time in the life of our country, "I choose progress."

I come here and ask your support not merely as the Democratic standard bearer but as an American who believes it incumbent upon us to be part of a generation, to live at a time when motion and action are our distinguishing characteristics, and foresight and willingness to look at the truth in the face. That has been a quality of this State since it came into the Union. Its first U.S. Senator, Thomas Hart Benton, was not a popular figure. In his own words, he despised the bubble popularity. But he looked the truth in the face and so did Harry Truman and so did the men in between, and so do our present Senators, and so do you. This State says, "Show me,' and I think you have to be shown. You don't need a map. You just have to read your paper. You just have to look at Latin America and look at Joplin, look at Asia and look at your mind, look at your farms and look at the outer side of space, look at education in this country, and housing, look at the prespects for urban renewal and know that the Republican Party for 25 years has said "No," "Maybe," "Perhaps," "We might," or vetoed it.

I believe this is the year when the American people are going to say they are going to move forward again. [Applause.] We have now had 8 years of the Republican leadership and I believe for our own sakes and for the sake of our country, and I believe this choice does not involve merely Mr. Nixon and myself - it involves all those who share the view I do, and I am sure you do, of this country and its future, of men like Stuart Symington, men like Charley Brown, men who have served this State and country and who know the facts of life where we live.

You say "Show me." I cannot believe that any American in 1960, faced with the problems that this country faces, faced with a militant adversary around the world, faced with a deteriorating position relative to our strength, faced with an economy that is moving ahead slowly, that dropped back in the last 9 months, that sees our steel mills using only 50 percent, which affects your mines in this community, sees farm income dropping sharply, over 25 percent, in the last 8 years, sees more small business failures by three than we had 14 years ago, 13 years ago, sees us pay interest on our debt because of our fiscal policy and monetary policy that is $3 billion more just in interest on our debt than we paid 10 years ago. --sees all of that and says that is the kind of leadership we want, that we want, Mr. Nixon to lead us in the dangerous sixties. [Response from the audience.]

I believe we want new leadership. We want new people in Washington. We want new policies. We want to move this district forward. We want to continue the kind of leadership which Charley Brown has given this district, Truman and Roosevelt and Wilson. [Applause.] Which John Dalton can give this State and Ed Long, as Stuart Symington has given it. Mr. Nixon stands where McKinley stood and Harding and Coolidge and Dewey and Landon. Where did they get those candidates? I stand where Woodrow Wilson stood. [Applause.] They got those candidates right out of the party. That was the best they had and that is who they ran - Harrison. Some man was found in a depression in his administration eating grass on the front of the White House lawn. He said, "Tell him to go behind. The grass is longer." [Laughter.]

Harding and Coolidge and McKinley and the rest of them - Alf Landon, who ran in 1936 on a program to repeal social security. Thomas E. Dewey - I don't know what his program was. We never did find out. [Laughter.] I think the best news we have had is what happened this week to Casey Stengel. It just shows that experience is not enough. [Laughter.]

I come here to Joplin, here to Missouri here in this part of the central United States. About 2 weeks ago up in Boston, my own hometown, Mr. Nixon said I was just another Truman. I said I regarded that as a compliment because he was just another Dewey. [Applause.] When I first came in here they gave me a hat one size too small, which belonged to a miner, and there were eight or nine miners up there. I spent a month in a State which has a lot of miners in it, West Virginia. My own judgment is I know no tougher occupation in the world that to be a miner, lead, zinc, coal. I am always glad to meet them because I think they live with peril. They have as tough a life as there is. Every other one whose hand you shake has a finger off, a foot crushed, the chances of in 20 years their having a bad accident are more than any of the rest of us. And yet in this community and in West Virginia and Idaho and in other sections of the United States, there has been no group that has been harder hit, no group that has been more forgotten, and yet this administration, in spite of the fact that we are talking about people who are Americans. [Applause.] This administration vetoed twice, not once but twice, the area redevelopment bill, which was to help those sections of the United States hard hit.

This administration distributes its surplus food to miners and their families and others like them, nearly 4 or 5 million of them, 5 cents a day per person. Five cents a day per person, $6.50 for a family of four, not in India, but in America. Well, we are going to change all that. We are going to do better. [Applause.]

I don't think these problems are easy. I don't say these problems are easy. They are all different. Maintaining full employment in a free private enterprise economy is difficult. Maintaining a sound agricultural policy at a time when there is a technological revolution is difficult. Maintaining our position around the world in view of the changes in the world is difficult. But I know we can do better than they are doing. I know we can do better than Mr. Nixon. [Applause.]

Ladies and gentlemen, on November 8, "Show me." [Applause.]

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

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