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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Marion County Court House, Marion, IL

October 03, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Senator Douglas, Congressman Gray, Otto Kerner, the next Governor of the State of Illinois, the next Congressman from this district, and the next U.S. Senator, ladies and gentlemen, somebody told me before I came here that there were a lot of Republicans that live in this community. Is that right?

(Response from the audience.)

Are there any Republicans here today? Will they hold up their hands?

Are there any Democrats here today? Hold up your hands.

Well, there are a few people that did not hold up their hands on either occasion, and we are going to talk to them. We want to convince you between now and November 8 that the Democratic Party can be of service to this State and this district and the country. One of the things which we talk about so much in government is waste; how can we make our Government more efficient, how can we bring about a better break in the expenditures of tax dollars and get more results from them. I want to talk to you about another kind of waste, and that is the waste of our resources and the waste of our talent.

Thirty-five pereent of our brighter students in this country in high school do not go to college. What happens? How is their talent wasted? Why aren't they given the opportunity to get a good education and contribute to their own welfare and that of their country? This district in the last 10 years lost nearly 60,000 people. Why is that? Because there has been in this district, and in my own State of Massachusetts, and in West Virginia, and in Pennsylvania, technological changes which have left some of this district behind and some of my own State behind. That is why I cannot understand how this administration on two separate occasions could veto the area redevelopment bill. I can assure you that if I am successful or if I continue in the Senate, this bill will become law next year. I think it must, if this district and districts like it are going to move ahead. [Applause.]

When we consider waste, consider $9 billion worth of food stored by our Government, when our own people in many areas, at least 4 million of them, depend on surplus food packages from the Government which average 5 cents per day per person, and when there is a world around us which is hungry. That is waste, in my opinion. I believe in putting our bread on the water, and I think it will come back to us many times over. I cannot believe that the best use for food is letting it rot in storehouses. I think it should serve people. I think it should serve the cause of peace. I think it should serve us and serve freedom. That is what I consider to be an objectionable kind of waste - not using our best students, not using our food, not using our industrial capacity.

Last week in the United States we used 50 percent of our steel capacity. The other 50 percent was unused. That is waste. There is waste in this country. Fifty percent of our mills are quiet; 100,000 steel workers are out of work. That is waste. If we could use our capacity to the fullest, if we provided full employment in this country, we would have, by 1962, $10 billion more in governmental revenue as well as billions of dollars for our economy.

I am for the end of waste, whether it is taxpayers' dollars or whether it is the waste of the people, or our natural resources, or our talent or our machines, or our plants or our resources of wealth which can produce so much for our country.

I think we should consider all of this in making our judgment as to what our country should do. We waste our people. There are people born in this country that because of their color do not get as good a job, do not go to as good a school, do not have as good teachers, do not get to go to college, do not get to be professional men, do not get to own their house. I consider that waste, too. There are many kinds of waste, and I think it is the function of government to use our resources to the fullest, to use our natural and material and human resources to the fullest, to educate our children, to build a stronger economy, to provide medical care for our aged under social security, to use to the fullest those areas of the United States where unemployment has been chronic for a great many years, to use our brains and our energy to build a stronger and better society here in the United States.

I think the future is ging to be a difficult one for us, but I have the greatest confidence in this country. I have served it in the Congress now for 14 years, and I must say after traveling to 50 States in the last 2 years and nearly every section of the United States from the Northwest to the Southeast, I believe that the United States can fulfill its function as the chief defender of freedom in a time of great danger for us all. A strong defense, a strong economy, a strong society serves not only ourselves but serves freedom.

We sit on a conspicuous stage. The kind of society we build, the kind of country we maintain, the principles for which we fight identify us with countries around the world. The United States was a great revolutionary country. As long as we maintain that spirit, we are going to hold the imagination of the world. I cannot believe that Mr. Krushchev and the Communist system, given time and given a strong America, given a hand of friendship held out to people around the world, I cannot believe that the result can be anything but on our side, and in our way. But I believe we have to go to work. I think this country has to move again. I ask your help in this campaign, and I can assure you that if we are successful we will serve the general welfare. Thank you. [Applause.]

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APP Note:  Although the original published title of this speech refers to the "Marion County Courthouse" in fact Marion IL is in Williamson County, Illinois.  There is a relevant history of Williamson County online.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Marion County Court House, Marion, IL Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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