John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Memorial Auditorium Dallas, TX

September 13, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Thank you.

Speaker Rayburn, Senator Lyndon Johnson, Lieutenant Governor, Senator Yarborough, General Phinney, Members of the Congress, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for a generous endorsement and statement by a great Democrat, Sam Rayburn, in the city of Dallas. [Applause.] Twenty-four hours ago a well-known American, the Vice President of the United States, made a speech in this same auditorium. In that speech he raised some question of whether Lyndon Johnson and I were members of the party of Jefferson and Jackson. Let me make it very clear that we are in a great tradition, stretching all the way back to the beginning of this country, and that tradition includes Jefferson and Jackson and Wilson and Roosevelt and Truman and Stevenson and Johnson and Kennedy. [Applause.] And let me make it very clear that there is no question that the Vice President is in the tradition of the Republican Party: Taft, Harding, Coolidge, Dewey, Landon, and all the others. No one will doubt where he stands. No one will doubt there he stands. No one will doubt the party for which he speaks. No one will doubt the interests which the Republican Party defends as they have ever since their party began after the death of Lincoln.

This is a very clear question which divides us today, whether we in the United States wish to stand still, whether we wish to develop a policy of no new starts, or whether we will carry on the great tradition of the Democratic Party of looking forward, of breaking new ground, of starting in the 1960's to revitalize the great boiler which is the United States. That is the mission of the Democratic Party, since its earliest beginnings. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were not popular with the Nixons of their day, and many of them lived in my own State of Massachusetts. Woodrow Wilson was regarded as a dangerous man. Franklin Roosevelt was hated. Harry Truman was despised, and yet today those men are regarded as the great ground breakers of the Democratic Party, and of the United States. [Applause.]

Our credentials in the Democratic Party go back a long way. Lyndon Johnson has been on Capitol Hill for 30 years, as a Democrat. My grandfather was the only Democrat from New England in the administration of Grover Cleveland. We believe in the Democratic Party. We grew up in it. We support it. We run with it. We carry its standards, because we believe the Democratic Party, representing all interests and all sections, has a great role to play as it has in the past, to speak for the people in a dangerous time. [Applause.]

Lieutenant Governor Ramsey put the issue to us. The question is, Which party and which candidates can best build a stronger America? Which party and which candidates can revitalize our country so once again it serves as an inspiration and a comfort to those who look to us for safety at a time of maximum danger? In a few days our shores will be visited by the grand master of the Communist Party, Mr. Khrushchev and his satellites.

(Response from the audience.)

Senator KENNEDY. They will come to the United Nations, but his eyes will be fixed upon the United States. What kind of a nation must Mr. Khrushchev see? What kind of a nation do we want him to see? What will impress him? What will cause him to halt on his headlong rush toward world conquest?

Some say it will be arguments, arguments in the kitchen, debates in the United Nations, that those that we must select to lead us should be those most skilled in the last 8 years from arguing against the Communist advance. But I suggest to you that there are more impressive things that we can do that will impress Mr. Khrushchev. He has engaged in his life in many arguments. He has engaged as a member of the Communist Party in many debates. He has exchanged threats and insults with the best of them and the worst of them. But he continues to move ahead, to probe the weaknesses of the West, to exploit chaos and disorder, to strengthen and expand the influence of the Communist system. Aided by Chinese Reds he expands his power. Others say that our propaganda will deter Mr. Khrushchev. If we keep saying that we are assured of a continued military leadership, if we keep saying that our economic growth is superior, if we keep saying that we are first in space and first in research, then according to this view, Mr. Khrushchev and the world will believe us.

If the skeptics and the critics and the Democrats only keep quiet, it will be obvious that our system, not theirs, represents the way of the future. But I suggest to you that saying does not make it so. [Applause.]

Mr. Khrushchev and the world know that the first space satellite was called Sputnik, not Vanguard. The first country to place its national emblem on the moon was not the United States but the Soviet Union. The first passengers to return safely from a trip to outer space were named Strelka and Belka, not Rover or Fido or Checkers. [Laughter and applause.] They know that Russia has an economic growth twice as much as ours. They know that Russia is turning out scientists and engineers twice as fast as we do. And if they know it, the people of America are entitled to know it. [Applause.]

The facts of the matter are that arguments are not enough and propaganda is not enough and self-contentment is not sufficient. The only thing that will deter Mr. Khrushchev from loosing his hounds on us will be a strong America. [Applause.]

What do I mean by a strong America? First of all I believe a strong America is a united America, uniting all parts of the country and all groups in a common effort to build a better society here at home. We have that kind of unity here in the Democratic Party. We can have that kind of unity, uniting all parts and all races and all creeds in an effort to demonstrate to the world that here in the United States we live up to the principles of the democratic ideal. [Applause.]

The Democratic Party is not preaching disunity, Mr. Khrushchev. Our program is not one that will please you. The Democratic Party wants to win this election, not to preside over the liquidation of the free world, or the destruction of mankind, but to achieve peace and regain our security by rebuilding our country. [Applause.]

Secondly, I believe a strong America is a militarily secure America secure enough to convince any present or future enemy that an act aggression would be a mistake - his mistake- and to obtain that kind of strength requires two things: an invulnerable atomic striking force strong enough to persuade any aggressor that our force could survive in sufficient numbers and capable of penetrating his defense and retaliating on his country. [Applause.]

Secondly, a modern conventional force of sufficient strength, firepower, and mobility to intervene quickly and effectively before any brush fire war causes a holocaust. Only when both of these objectives are attained, so secure that our enemies know it and respect our strength, can we talk successfully with Mr. Khrushchev about peace. [Applause.]

Third, I believe a strong America is one that leads the free world, not just because we are the richest or the strongest or the most powerful, but because we exert that leadership for the cause of freedom around the globe. Because we act as well as react, because we propose as well as oppose, and because we have earned the respect of our friends as well as the respect of our enemies, and because we are moving on the road to peace. [Applause.]

Fourth and finally, I believe a strong America is a growing America, a nation that is developing all of its resources to the fullest possible potential, human, scientific, economic, and natural, and developing these resources under a free enterprise system that looses the energy of our people. The splendor of this city is proof of what can be done. The vitality of this State is proof of what can be done. This country can move ahead, and it is that great object that we are dedicating ourselves to in this campaign. [Applause.]

But that requires a country that looks to the future, that makes the best possible use of its soil and water and natural resources, and it requires an atmosphere in which that kind of energy can flourish, an atmosphere of fair competition, available credit, low interest rates, expanding markets, and increased purchasing power for our people. [Applause.]

The Texas Constitution says that monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free people. And ever since the day of Jim Hogg, Texans have been found not on the side of monopolies but on the side of free people. [Applause.]

I come here today from the oldest section of the United States, the State of Massachusetts, and I come here to the last frontier in the State of Texas. I come here joining with my running mate from this State, demonstrating that the Democratic Party still has vitality, still, in spite of its long history, stretching back 160 years, looks ahead, still looks into the future. We ask your help in this campaign. Give us your voice, give us your help. Join with us in this effort to move this country ahead. [Applause.]

Lyndon Johnson and I do not promise a life of ease. We cannot promise a solution to the problems which disturb our lives, but we can promise that if we are successful we can move with vigor and vitality on the problems which disturb us here and around the world. [Applause.]

Thomas Paine, in the Revolution of 1776, said that the cause of America is the cause of all mankind. I think in the revolution of 1966, the cause of all mankind is the cause of America, and as we move ahead, we think not only of the city of Dallas and the city of Boston, the State of Massachusetts and the State of Texas, the United States; we think of all those who wish to join us in a great effort around the world to maintain their freedom and maintain the peace. [Applause.] And we take as our message the words which are written in a plaque behind the desk of Speaker Rayburn in the House of Representatives, which I read nearly every day during the 6 years when when I was in the House. They are from a speech given by a distinguished Senator from my own State of Massachusetts, Daniel Webster. In that speech he said, "Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its power, build up all its institutions, and see whether we in our day and generation may not perform something to be remembered." Thank you.

[Standing ovation.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Memorial Auditorium Dallas, TX Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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