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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Kalamazoo, MI

October 14, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. My friend and colleague in the Senate whom I sit next to daily, and whom I hope to sit next to in the future Senator McNamara - I don't quite mean it that way [laughter] Governor Williams, Sam Clark, who I hope will be the Congressman from this district [applause], John Swainson, who I hope is going to be the next Governor of the State of Michigan [applause], ladies and gentlemen:

I want to express my thanks to you for being kind enough to come down here and for giving me an opportunity to speak to you. I come here as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party in the campaign of 1960. Many of the problems which we discuss here in this campaign, which we ordinarily would consider domestic problems, also have their implications in our position around the world. The Tennessee Valley, which Franklin Roosevelt developed in the thirties, was a great asset to the Tennessee Valley, but it also has demonstrated since that time to people all over the world how a free people can harness their resources, and now in Persia and now in the Indus River and now in Colombia in South America other free people are building Tennessee Valleys. The same is true of education here in the United States.

About 10 years ago the United States graduated from two to three times as many scientists and engineers as the Soviet Union. Last year the Soviet Union graduated twice as many scientists and engineers as we did. The long-range implication of that concentration, of that ability to speed up when they thought it was needed, indicates how serious is the competition in which we are now engaged. I want to make it very clear that I believe that the United States must have an educational system second to none, and I believe that the Federal Government has a responsibility in this area for school construction and for teachers' salaries, and it is on this issue, I believe, that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party--------- [Applause.]

The question which is frequently asked is, is it possible for the Federal Government to assist education without the Federal Government controlling education? All of you who live in Michigan live in what was originally the Northwest Territory, and all of you know that in the original Northwest Ordinance at the end of the 18th century, one-sixteenth of all of the land was set aside by the National Government for education at the beginning of our country, by Thomas Jefferson and by John Adams. All of you know of the University of Michigan, and of the other State universities and colleges in this State. The University of Michigan was established around 1837, and it was financed by lands of this State to support education. The Land Grant Act of 1862 set aside land by the Federal Government, public land, belonging to all the people, in order to support public education in the States of the United States.

The Federal Government is now paying out money for vocational training. It is also paying out money for schools in areas where there is a defense impact. My feeling is that this should be more orderly, that the Federal Government should assist in school construction. It should give funds to local communities and they should make the judgment how the money should be spent in cooperation with their own expenditures.

I believe the Federal Government must provide loan funds for students who wish to go to college. [Applause.] Over 35 percent of our brightest boys and girls who graduate from high school never see the inside of a college. Can we afford to waste that talent in the most difficult and dangerous time in the life of our country? [Response from the audience.]

This issue separates Mr. Nixon and myself and it separates the Republican and Democratic Parties. We have stood on this program for many years, and we stand on it now, and will stand on it next year. [Applause.] This is only one of many problems which we face. But education is going to be necessary if the young men and women in this audience are going to get good jobs. They are going to have to be well educated. If the boys and girls of this country are going to meet their responsibilities as Americans, if they are going to find employment and decent wages, if they are going to maintain the freedoms of this country we are going to have to have the best educational system in the world.

Our lack of interest in intellectual pursuits is reflected in the fact that 10 years ago there were more foreign students studying sponsored by the Government in the United States than there are today. Last year we gave 200 scholarships to all of Africa to come here to the United States. In the Congo, 8 or 9 million people, who could go Communist at any time, there are 12 college graduates, in all of the Congo. In all of Africa, 1 percent or less have finished high school, and yet we expect them to maintain a free society? And the U.S. Government did not even establish a Bureau of African Affairs until 1957.

We see two independent countries, Guinea, independent in 1958, now supports the Communist position at the U.N. Ghana, independent in 1958, now supports the Communist position at the U.N. Do you know when Guinea became independent the Soviet Ambassador showed up that day. We did not recognize Guinea for 2 months and did not send an ambassador there for 8 months. I think the issues are very clear, not merely whether it is Mr. Nixon or myself. It is two different philosophies. It is two different views of the necessity for vigorous, foresighted, farsighted action. [Applause.]

Do you know what position the United States holds in radio propaganda broadcasts today? Fourth in the world. Moscow is ahead of us, Peiping is ahead of us, Radio Cairo is ahead of us, and we are a poor fourth. Do you know how many programs we send to Latin America, the basic defense area of the United States, in Spanish? None in the last 8 years. These are all serious problems. They affect the education here, they affect our employment here, they affect the ability of Michigan to meet competition in the sixties. They affect security of the United States, and I believe that this country has to once again determine what it wants to be. In my judgment, it wants to be not only a great country, which it is; it wants to be a greater country. It wants to protect not only its own people, but it wants to serve as an example and inspiration to all these who wish to move along the road of freedom. So I come here today as the nominee for the oldest political party on earth, the Democratic Party, founded [applause] founded by the most extraordinary individual of the 18th century, the most gifted, the most farsighted, Thomas Jefferson, and I come in 1960 and say that we need men of intellectual curiosity, farsighted, concerned, interested, who want this country to be what it can and must be. Thank you. [Applause.]

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

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