Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Overseas Press Club, New York, NY
Senator KENNEDY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. President. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to express my appreciation to all of you for being kind enough to come here this morning and to give me a chance to talk with you. This is really the first speech I have made since the Democratic Convention, but I was anxious to come here to New York today to talk with you.
I think that you have a most important role to play in the coming election. I do not think of this election as merely a political exercise. Rather, I see it as an opportunity for Americans to make their choice as to which road this country should take in the coming months and years. I think that this election will give us an opportunity to re-assess the problems which face us. It will give the Congress and the next President an opportunity to go before the people in the early months of January, February, and March of 1961, with the support of the American people and attempt, with new vigor and vitality, to carry out new programs and move in new directions.
The problems which the foreign language press primarily face are problems which they have faced for many years. All Americans are immigrants. Some have come in more recent years than others. The function, I feel, of the foreign language press is really threefold-
First, to make it easier for those who are newly arrived in the United States, for those who have arrived at a point in their life here in this country where they find it somewhat difficult to move immediately into the mainstream of American life. The contact which you bring them with their older life, I think, is most significant. In this way you serve as a bridge between the new life and the old life. You serve as a method of transition. You do not merely keep alive the old life - you also bring them in contact with the new life.
Secondly, you help maintain in this country a very valuable national asset and that is the connection with the past; that is the connection with foreign languages. The knowledge of foreign languages, the knowledge of foreign cultures, the knowledge of foreign history, is really the most important asset that we, as a nation, have in our relations with countries abroad.
When an American goes to Poland, he comes not as a stranger - he comes, even if he is not of Polish extraction himself, and I have seen this on the various occasions that I visited Poland. He comes as a friend, because nearly every Pole has a relative living in the United States. And, what is true in Poland is true in Estonia and in Latvia and Lithuania and Czechoslavakia and Hungary and the Balkans and in Yugoslavia and in all of these countries, who in the last 50 or 60 years have sent so many of their fellow countrymen to the United States.
An American is not a stranger. He is, in many cases, to them a fellow countryman. That is a tremendous asset. This forms a great well of friendship and I think that the foreign language press, so-called, really helps keep alive that most important link.
In addition, I think the foreign language press can bring home to the American people the problems of those who are immigrants, the problems of those who have newly arrived, the problems of the countries from where these Americans have sprung.
I don't think that there is any doubt that one of the most powerful forces for the correction of two great policies are our immigration policies and our policy toward the captive nations. I think this has been due to the vigor and the constancy and the perseverance of the foreign language press - by keeping alive the issue of the captive nations, by reminding us of the desire of these people to be free, by reminding us that this is unfinished business, before the American people and before the bar of world opinion. I think it has served the cause of freedom.
Secondly, by its constant fight to try to improve American immigration laws, I think the foreign language press has performed a notable service to the people of this country - not to the immigrants - to the people of this country. Not to the countries abroad who are adversely affected by our immigration policy but to the people of this country because in the last analysis, we are the ones who suffer. If we present, in this area an image to the world of hostility, of saying that one country is better than another, by writing that into our national immigration laws, I think we do a disservice to our people and to our country.
So, I am here today to meet you, to say that I think you performed valuable functions in the past and to say also that you have great responsibilities to meet in the future.
I hope that I will have an opportunity to work in a position of influence to meet some of these problems. I hope that it will be possible to be elected President, but whether I am elected President or continue in the Senate, these are great problems for the United States.
The idea of a perfect Union has been one which has inspired this country from our earliest days. It is not achieved - and in a sense probably it is a goal to which we will always be working to reach - but it is a goal which is worthy of our effort. You play a most important role, as there is really a tie between Europe and the United States, between Latin America and the United States, between Africa and the United States, between the Middle East and the United States and, we hope more in the future, between Asia and the United States.
In a world where peace is our great endeavor and where we are fighting continually for the good will of all mankind, I think that you serve on the frontlines of that struggle.
John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Overseas Press Club, New York, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274349