John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Municipal Auditorium, Canton, Ohio

September 27, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Di Salle, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I want to express, as we leave beautiful Ohio, I want to express my thanks to all of you. We have been campaigning from Painesville, this morning, down through at least 50 percent of the State of Ohio. I must say I share the view of Governor Di Salle. I think that this State is going to go Democratic in November.

Last night on television Mr. Nixon stated that we agreed on the goals but that we disagreed on the means. That is what the argument has been for 25 years, how you move this country ahead, how do you provide full employment, how do you provide housing, how do you provide education, how do you develop the natural resources. Of course we want these things done, but the big argument is the means and the Democratic Party has provided the means. [Applause.]

Franklin Roosevelt in accepting the second Presidential nomination before 100,000 people in Franklin Field in 1936, I think said very clearly the differences between our two major parties. In that speech he said:

Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that Divine Justice weighs the sins of the coldblooded and the sins of the warmhearted in a different scale. Better the occasional faults of a government living in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.

I think that is the issue. What does this country want? Does this country want a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference, or do we want a government that will move, that will care for our people, that will set before the American people the unfinished business of our society? [Applause.]

After Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1933, the new President's friend, Robert E. Sherwood, set it all down in a brief sardonic poem:

Plodding feet, tramp, tramp

The Grand Old Party breaking camp

Blare of bugles, din, din

The New Deal is moving in.

Today on every major crisis that faces the United States, from the crisis at Formosa to Berlin, in the plight of our cities, of people out of work, we hear no blare of bugles, din, din; we see only plodding feet, tramp, tramp, and the Grand Old Party breaking camp.

I am a Democrat and I am proud to lead the Democratic Party. [Applause.] Mr. Nixon says the party labels don't mean anything; vote for the man. Party labels tell us something. The Democratic Party would not have nominated Mr. Nixon and the Republican Party never would have nominated me. We come out of the parties because the parties do stand for something. They do stand for a long history, and the record is written in the last 25 years and in the last 50 years. A Democratic majority wrote the Social Security Act and a Republican majority tried to kill it. [Applause.] The Democratic Party wrote unemployment compensation and the Republicans opposed it; a Democratic Party wrote the minimum wage law - a minimum wage of 25 cents an hour away back in the thirties, and four-fifths of the Republicans voted against it.

I think parties mean something. They tell something about the candidates and they tell something about what the candidates will do if they are elected to office. Mr. Nixon never would have been the unanimous choice of his party unless they felt they understood where he was going, what he believed, and that he believed what they believed, and I don't. [Applause.]

I believe what Wilson believed and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, that it is the function of government not to dominate but to serve. I don't believe, as I tried to say last night, in big government, but I believe in government meeting its responsibilities. When 50 percent of the steel capacity of the United States is unused, when we are building 200,000 homes less than we should, when there are 1,800,000 children who go to school part time, when teachers across the United States are paid 15 percent less for wages than they are in the manufacturing industries in the United States, then I think it is still time for the Democratic Party, I think we still have a function. [Applause.]

When the average wage of laundry women in five large cities of the United States is 65 cents an hour for a 48-hour week, when the average social security check for people over 65 is $78 a month, and at least 9 million live on less than $1,000 a year, I think there is still need for the Democratic Party. I think the party - I think the next President of the United States will face a difficult time, because our country faces a difficult time. He is going to be faced with the problem of maintaining our position in Berlin, of maintaining our position all around the globe, of attempting to rebuild the image of the United States as a vital and strong society, as a society that is moving ahead, and at the same time he is going to be faced with serious problems here in the United States. He is going to be faced with the problem of trying to maintain in the first months of his office full employment in the United States, and in 1961 we may face a difficult time. That will be a matter of the greatest possible concern and the greatest possible importance to our people.

I think that this administration has not realized that when you have a recession in 1954 and when you have a more serious recession in 1958, and then you begin to have a plateau in 1960, that it should be an indication that it is time that our economy was stimulated rather than was held back by a fiscal policy and monetary policy which I think in the last 8 years, which has featured hard money, high-interest rates, which I think has had a deflationary effect on our economy at a time when we needed to stimulate it. I think the United States must address itself again to the Full Employment Act of 1946. I think we must attempt to stimulate the growth of the United States. We are going to have to find 25,000 jobs a week for the next 10 years if we are going to find jobs for your children who are coming into the labor market - 25,000 jobs a week, 52 weeks a year for 10 years, if we are going to maintain full employment in the United States, and it is going to be a matter that is going to be of concern to us all, Canton, Ohio, and the United States. We want to make sure that any American who seeks a job, who honestly wants to work will have a chance to work. That is our objective. [Applause.]

And we must do this at a time when automation is throwing men out of work. I ran in the primary in West Virginia. I spent some time in McDowell County in West Virginia. McDowell County mines more coal than it ever has in its history, probably more coal than any county in the United States and yet there are more people getting surplus food packages in McDowell County than any county in the United States. The reason is that machines are doing the jobs of men, and we have not been able to find jobs for those men. I think this is not a problem for McDowell County nor is it a problem for Canton, Ohio. It is a matter that should be of importance to the next administration and to the next President.

The problem of automation is to make sure that machines make our lives easier, not harder, for those who are thrown out of work. [Applause.]

I think we must develop our natural resources. You cannot bring industry into Ohio unless you have clean rivers. I think the greatest asset that has happened to Ohio during the last few years, except for Governor Di Salle's election, was the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and I was proud, though I came from Massachusetts, to vote for it, because it is a national asset and a rising tide lifts all boats. If Ohio moves ahead, so will Massachusetts. [Applause.] Good water, power, transportation, those are necessary to develop the economy of the United States in the 1960's.

Sixth, I think we must formulate special programs which will be of assistance in those areas which are chronically hard hit by unemployment, areas where it is 7, 8, 9, or 10 percent, and it may have gone on for 2 or 3 years. I had one of them in my own State, Lawrence, Mass., where the unemployment rate was 35 percent for 3 years, and the reason, of course, was because we lost our textile mills.

This administration has opposed both area assistance bills. I am not interested in seeing people in the United States out of work not for 1 month, 4 months or a year, or for 2 years or 3 years, while they get a surplus food package from the Government of 5 cents a day in eggs, rice, and they are going to add lard this summer. [Applause.]

This is an important election and we need your help in it. We cannot possibly succeed in this area or in this State unless in the next 6 weeks we can carry the State of Ohio. Ohio is key and so is Illinois. This election will be decided in the major industrial States of this country, and the question before the people of Ohio is do you think we can do better, do you think a Democratic Administration, with new people, with a sense of urgency about the affairs of this country, at home and abroad, do you think we can move this country, or do you think [applause] - or do you think you have never had it so good? I don't think Khrushchev has had it so good as he has had it lately. He has been moving outward and he has done it by unrelenting effort to demonstrate that his society represents the way to the future. That is the most powerful weapon he has. Because if the Soviet Union was first in outer space, that is the most serious defeat the United States has suffered in many, many years. The reason - not merely because outer space is important militarily, but because as George Adams, the head of U.S. Foreign Service said earlier this year, people around the world equate the mission to the moon, the mission to outer space, with productive and scientific superiority. Therefore, in spite of all our accomplishments, because we failed to recognize the impact that being first in outer space would have, the impression began to move around the world that the Soviet Union was on the march, that it had definite goals, that it knew how to accomplish them, that it was moving and that we were standing still. That is what we have to overcome, that psychological feeling in the world that the United States has reached maturity, that maybe our high noon has passed, maybe our brightest days were earlier, and that now we are going into the long, slow afternoon. I don't hold that view at all. I don't hold that view at all, and neither do the people of this country. [Applause.]

I hope if we are successful that at the end of the next President's administration, people around the world will begin to wonder what is the President of the United States doing, what is the United States doing, not merely what is Mr. Khrushchev doing. I want to entertain him with a vision of the United States on the move. I am tired of reading every day what he says and what Castro says. I want to begin to see the United States moving ahead. [Applause.]

So we ask your help and assistance in this campaign. I will close by reminding you that in the election of 1860, 100 years ago, the issue was really comparable, the question of whether the United States could exist half slave and half free. Now in this election I am reminded of a letter which Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend during that election. In that letter he said, "I know there is a God and I know that He hates injustice. I see the storm coming. But if He has a place and a part for me, I believe that I am ready." Now, 100 years later, we know there is a God and we know He hates injustice, and we see the storm coming. But if he has a place and a part for us, I believe that we are ready. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Municipal Auditorium, Canton, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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