Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, New York University, Washington Square, New York, NY
Senator KENNEDY. Ladies and gentlemen, can you hear me? I want those Nixon sign holders to hear what I have to say. [Laughter.] This loudspeaker is in the engine. [Response from the audience.]
I come here as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party, and I come here as an American. I believe this race and this campaign is between the comfortable and the concerned, between those who stand still, like Mr. Nixon [applause], those who lead a political party, the Republicans, who have opposed every piece of progressive legislation for the last 25 years. [Applause.]
Mr. Nixon runs on a slogan "Experience Counts" - just listen. You won't learn anything if you are talking. [Laughter.] Let us see what the experience has been which has produced in the last 8 years three recessions, which now in the United States has us using 50 percent of the capacity of our steel mills. This year we are building in September 30 percent less homes than we built last year. We have 4 1/2 million people out of work and 3 million working part time. Last week the Soviet Union produced just as much steel, pretty nearly, as the United States.
Those are the issues in this campaign. What kind of experience is it when in a dangerous time in the life of our country the surveys taken of our position abroad show our prestige so deteriorated that the administration would not even release the survey. [Applause.] When this administration took control of the United States 8 years ago, I don't think that there was any question that our prestige, our influence. our strength were at a peak. Now, 8 years later, the survey printed in the New York Times of opinion of England and France showed only 7 percent of the people of those countries thought the United States was ahead scientifically. In an opinion taken, a survey taken of 10 countries around the world, only one country had a majority of the people thinking we would be ahead of the Soviet Union by 1960. [Response from the audience.] You cannot hear? [The Senator left his car and went to the top of a building.]
As I was saying [laughter.] Let me just say that those of you who are students here have to make a decision if you are of voting age, or even if you are not, on November 8, which I think goes to the future of the United States. The issues which separate Mr. Nixon and myself are very clear and very sharp, and I believe that basically they are twofold. First, Mr. Nixon has chosen to place his campaign on the basis that "We've never had it so good," that everything that must be done is being done in its own good time and in our position around the world - in our position around the world he has made the statement that our prestige has never been as high. Now, I could not disagree more with both of those statements. [Applause.] The fact of the matter is that the prestige is not popularity, it is not a matter that can be lightly dismissed. We lead an alliance of the free world, and we will no longer be the leaders of the free world. We will no longer be secure unless we have confidence that we represent the way of the future, that we are constructing here in the United States the kind of society which gives them hope that they can follow our example. When we drift, when we lie at anchor, when we are uncertain, when we have long debates about what our national purpose is, then we give an image of uncertainty. Mr. Khrushchev speaks with confidence of the future. He says our children and grandchildren will be Communists. We have to demonstrate our conviction that not only will our children be free, but so will the children of men around the world. [Applause.]
This administration and Mr. Nixon [response from the audience] I don't think you are going to get him though. [Applause.]
Let us put this administration's record to the test. These are entirely new times, and they require new solutions. The key decision which this administration had to make in the field of international policy and prestige and power and influence was their recognition of the significance of outer space. When they permitted the Soviet Union to move ahead, when we had a Secretary of Defense who said he was not interested in spending money to find why fried potatoes turned brown, the Soviet Union now is first in outer space.
Mr. Nixon said the other day that if we had put forward a program of aid to Latin America in 1955, that we might not have had a Castro. Well, why didn't we? Why did we wait until this summer? [Applause.] The new continent now which will bear great influence in the world is Africa. Do you know that we brought more foreign students to the United States 10 years ago than we do today? Last year Guinea asked for 500 teachers. Do you know how many we sent them? One. Do you know there are more students studying here from Thailand than from Africa south of the Sahara? Do you know that we are about 15th or 14th in the world in radio programs to Africa, that we are behind Indonesia? Do you know that we are fourth in the world behind Radio Cairo in our radio broadcasts from the United States? Do you know that the Soviet Union spends 10 times as much as we do in Spanish broadcasts to Latin America? This administration is experienced? I don't think any judge would give a man who had 40 accidents a new driver's license. [Applause.] I don't think an administration which has presided over three recessions in the last 8 years, which is now presiding over the lessening of the U.S. position around the world, which has permitted the U.S. image to fade as a vital society, our most important asset, which has in that way damaged the cause of freedom, I cannot believe that any young man or woman who looks to the future can possibly decide to sit down and sit still and look back with Mr. Nixon and the Republican Party which has always opposed progress.
Let me say to you young Nixonites - all eight of you [response from the audience] - let me say this: In this 20th century both of our candidates, both parties have put up various candidates, and I believe that where we stand now and where we are going in the future can best be judged by where we have been. Hear the Republican slogans, "Stand Pat" with McKinley, "Return to Normalcy" with Harding, "Keep Cool" with Coolidge, "A Chicken in Every Pot" with Herbert Hoover, "Repeal Social Security" with Alf Landon, and "Had Enough" with Thomas E. Dewey. [Applause.]
Who have we run in the 20th century? Woodrow Wilson and the New Freedom, Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal [applause] and Harry Truman and the Fair Deal [applause] and every one of their domestic programs had their counterpart in the international policy. The 14 points of Woodrow Wilson was the counterpart of the New Freedom. The four freedoms of Franklin Roosevelt were the international counterpart of the New Deal. Technical assistance, point 4, the Marshall plan, the Truman doctrine, were all the international counterpart of the Fair Deal. Now, in 1960, the choice lies between the candidate who in this most revolutionary time runs on the slogan "You've never had it so good," versus the candidate and a party that runs on the slogan of the "New Frontiers" of the future. [Applause.]
On that basis, I ask your help. [Applause.] I ask your support. This is not a contest between Mr. Nixon and myself. It is a contest between all of us who are devoted to our country, who feel that our country has a great role to fulfill as the chief defender of freedom, and it involves each one of you. How many of you in the next decade will be willing to not only serve your country in the foreign service, in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia, as doctors and engineers and teachers and nurses? How may of you will be willing to pick this country up and move it forward and make it shine once again. [Applause.]
We now go to Brooklyn. Thank you. [Applause.]
John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, New York University, Washington Square, New York, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274708