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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Northland Shopping Center, Jennings, MO

October 22, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. I want to express my thanks to the next Governor of Missouri, John Dalton - thank you - and I know you are going to elect him Governor of the State of Missouri for continued progress in this State. [Applause.] And Thomas Eagleton, who I know you are going to elect the attorney general of the State of Missouri. [Applause.] Melton Carpenter, who is the candidate for treasurer, who counts your money, watches it - I hope you elect him. [Applause.] And Larry Carp, who is running for the Congress against a Republican in a nearby district - we need good Congressmen, who will support progressive legislation. I hope you will support him. [Applause.] And your own Congressman, Frank Karsten, from this district [applause] - he and I have served together in the Congress for 14 years. He speaks for the interests of this district and he also speaks for the country, I know he is going back to Congress. [Applause.] And Ed Long, who is succeeding a great U.S. Senator, Tom Hennings, Ed Long who is a candidate for the U.S. Senate. I hope you will support his candidacy. [Applause.]

In a speech on November 23, 1953, President Eisenhower said this:

Abilene, Kans., has a code, and I was raised as a boy to prize that code. It was, meet anyone face to face with whom you disagree.

In this country, if someone dislikes you, or accuses you, he must come up in front. He cannot hide behind the shadows. He cannot assassinate you or your character from behind without suffering the penalties which an outraged citizenry will inflict.

I hope that the Vice President of the United States will abide by that code. [Response from the audience.] I wish he were here to hear those cheers. [Laughter and applause.] I hope the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Nixon, will read those words - [response from the audience] - I have to finish this sentence. I hope that he will read those words and accept our invitation to a fifth debate and discuss these issues. [Applause.]

I read these words to him again. It was "meet anyone face to face with whom you disagree." There are 18 days until the election. I am ready to go to any part of the United States to discuss the issues with Mr. Nixon. It takes 1 hour. It gives the people of this country a chance to see the candidates face to face. It gives us a chance to give the issues to Mr. Nixon, the truth, the facts and not rely on mimeograph machines and statements issued to the press. [Applause.]

He is running on a slogan that he can stand up to Mr. Khrushchev. I am sure he can spare an hour to stand up and debate the issues in front of the American people. [Applause.]

Now, if he can't debate me, if he can't arrange his schedule so that we can meet, perhaps we can arrange for him to debate with Mr. Lodge on who ought to be in the cabinet. [Applause.] Or perhaps he can debate Governor Rockefeller on their different views on defense policies and economic growth. Or perhaps he can debate Senator Javits, of New York, who said 2 days ago that anyone who said that our prestige had not dropped was silly. [Laughter.] I never said anything like that about Mr. Nixon. It was Senator Javits, his own Republican supporter. [Laughter.]

Then perhaps he might get together for an hour's debate with the Secretary of State on our Far Eastern policy, so that the Formosa resolution can be explained to him and what we have been doing for the last 5 years to implement it. [Applause.] Or best of all, he could call back Mr. Benson from his trips around the world, and debate agricultural policy and tell us how in one iota his agricultural policy differs from Mr. Benson's, just one iota. [Applause.]

This is an important election. It involves not a choice between two men. It involves a choice between two points of view about the United States, two points of view about what we must do, two groups of men, two parties which have strongly different histories, which have indicated by their action in the 20th century that they move in a different way to approach the problems that they face.

I cannot believe in the dangerous years of the 1960's that the American people are going to say "No" to progress by electing the Republican Party again. [Applause.] In 1932, the people of this country put their confidence in Franklin Roosevelt because he promised vigorous new leadership. If they had wanted to stay the way they were, sunk in the valley of despair, they would have continued Mr. Hoover. But they chose to move agam. Now, in l960, the problem is not economic depression in the United States. The problem is on a worldwide scale, but in many ways it is the same choice that was offered in 1932, between Mr. Hoover and Mr. Roosevelt. It is between those whose imagination is limited, it is between those who represent a party which is circumscribed in action by its very nature, it is between those who rely for advice for cabinet appointments, for diplomatic appointments, on those who have a narrow concept of our role in the world, a limited sense of history, a limited sense of the future, of failure to recognize that we live in the most changing and turbulent times in the history of the world. That is the reason that we have been indifferent to the problems of Latin America. That is the reason that we have shown no recognition of what is happening in Africa. That is the reason that we don't talk about the real problems which face Asia particularly those which face India. That is why we don't really decide today what our policy is going to be in outer space and on atomic testing and on defense. It is not because there are not men of good will on both sides. It isn't because Mr. Eisenhower and Mr. Nixon and the others are not patriotic. It is because they represent a party which in domestic policy since Theodore Roosevelt have opposed progress. [Applause.]

The Democratic Party is a national party. It represents all groups in our society. It represents particularly, as our inheritance from Thomas Jefferson - and Mr. Nixon keeps going down South and saying we are not the heirs of Thomas Jefferson. I agree we are not running on the same platform Thomas Jefferson ran on. It is 160 years since he ran for President. But we are his inheritors in one particular way, I hope and believe, and that is Thomas Jefferson looked to the future. The whole Louisiana Purchase, his decision to send Lewis and Clark to the Pacific - all that represented a change. He was identified with the American Revolution. He was identified with what was new and changing. He was in touch in Europe and America with all of the course of intellectual life. The same is true with Andrew Jackson who represented a new tradition.

Mr. Nixon keeps saying we are not part of the tradition of Jefferson, Jackson, and Woodrow Wilson. The point is the problems are entirely new. But they all had a willingness in common - to move. They were the exact opposite in their physical and intellectual qualities from McKinley, Harding, Coolidge, from Massachusetts. As a White House usher said, "In 42 years I never saw a President who slept so much."

That isn't what you need in 1960. We need a party and candidates and people, we need ambassadors and cabinet officers, we need people on every level with a sense of our times, with a sense of the future, with a sense of the difficulties of a free society competing with a Communist society. To just mouth the old slogans, to talk about the problems of China as if it were just a problem of keeping them out of the United Nations - that is easy. That doesn't solve the problem of China, which is on the march, militant, dangerous, expanding, dedicated now to war, about to have in 2 or 3 years atomic weapons - the problems are entirely new and we must think anew, and I believe we can do it.

I have the greatest confidence in this country. There are people in this country, I am sure, as there were in the early thirties, that can sound the trumpet again, and I come to Missouri and ask your help. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Northland Shopping Center, Jennings, MO Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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