John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Picnic, Muskegon, MI

September 05, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Williams, Lieutenant Governor Swainson, and the next Governor, Senator McNamara, and the next Senator, Senator Hart, Don Jennings, who is going to be a great Congressman from this district, ladies and gentlemen, I want to express my appreciation to the Governor. Every time he introduces me as the potentially greatest President in the history of the United States, I always think perhaps he in overstating it in one or two degrees. George Washington wasn't a bad President, and I do want to say a word for Thomas Jefferson. But otherwise I will accept the compliment. [Laughter and applause.] In any case, I am grateful for his support now - Hoover was a great President, too [laughter] and Dewey was a great candidate [laughter].

I want to express my appreciation to the Governor for his present support and his support before the Convention. I spent the day in the State of Michigan, following Walter Reuther around, and I want to say that what I think has been particularly impressive has been the quality of the party leadership here in the State of Michigan, and the wholehearted support and confidence and support that the people of this State have given the Democratic leadership. I appreciate what the Governor said about the St. Lawrence Seaway. I know that in the State of Massachusetts at that time it is not very popular, but it is a source of satisfaction to me that when I ran for office for reelection to the Senate 2 years ago, I secured in the State of Massachusetts the highest vote that was ever given, and I say that because the people of Massachusetts recognized in the long run that a rising tide lifts all the boats, and what is good for one part of the United States is good for all parts of the United States. [Applause.]

I do not consider a politician's chief duty to consider how he can gain popularity at the moment. His chief duty, his chief obligation, in fact, his only reason for service, is to tell the truth to the American people, not to serve to please them, but to serve them. That is the responsibility in the difficult years of the 1960's. [Applause.]

My criticism of this administration basically, my criticism of the Republican Party is that in the most dangerous years that this country has ever faced, they still use a slogan, "You've never had it so good." I don't go around the country criticizing present leadership because I enjoy it. I admire the President of the United States as a man, but I do not believe that we can continue the same kind of leadership in the future. [Applause.] A Gallup poll taken in 10 countries a few months ago asked the people of those countries who they thought would be first in 1970, militarily and scientifically, the Russians or the United States. Now, if you had asked them 10 years ago everyone of them would have said the United States. But in 1970, a majority of the people of those countries thought that the Russians would be first, both militarily and scientifically. That is what hurts the United States. If they think we are on the decline and the Russians are on the rise, if they think that our brightest day is somewhere in the past and now the future belongs to the Soviets, then all those people who want to go with the winner turn against us and move in the direction of Moscow and Peking. I want it said in 1970 that we are first, scientifically and militarily, educationally, economically. We should be first because we represent the greatest system of government ever devised. But this system, if it is going to work, requires that all of us dedicate ourselves again. I don't run for office telling you what I am going to do for you. I run for office asking you to join with me in rebuilding the prestige of the United States, in demonstrating that we are the greatest country on earth. This country is ready to move. [Applause.] This country is ready to move and we are ready to move with it. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Picnic, Muskegon, MI Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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