John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Pontiac, MI, Oakland Park

September 05, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Williams, Senator McNamara, Lieutenant Governor Swainson, ladies and gentlemen: As a driver of a Pontiac car, I feel very much at home. Is there anyone here who makes Pontiac cars? [Laughter and applause.]

I want to say that it is a pleasure. I understand that the Republican county chairman is here with us enjoying himself today, and we are delighted to have him. We want him next November 8 to be with us, and if he stays here and listens to the message, maybe he will join us. [Laughter and applause.]

This is a great picnic, a beautiful day, and we are delighted to be here. But 1960 is also a serious time in the life of our country. I don't think that there is anyone here today who can possibly be satisfied with what is happening to this country here in this State, here in this country and dear to the cause of freedom around the world. That is what we are concerned about, not as Democrats, not as a political party, but as Americans who believe in this country. [Applause.]

We don't say that there is anything wrong with America, but we say that we are not going to be satisfied until America is second to none. We are not going to be satisfied until every American who desires a job can find one at decent pay. [Applause.] We are not going to be satisfied in this country until every American boy and girl is given a decent education; that sign which says "Welcome, Senior Citizens" hangs over every labor picnic in the United States today, and it hangs over every Democratic Party meeting, but it does not hang over the Republican national headquarters because just the month of August when we attempted to secure the passage of medical assistance for the aged in social security, we got the vote of only one Republican in the U.S. Senate. We are not satisfied. We are not satisfied to be second. We are not satisfied to have 16 million Americans living out their lives as senior citizens with an average social-security check of $78 a month. I am not satisfied as an American to have the average unemployment compensation check for an American out of work and seeking a job to be $31 a week in the richest country in the world. I am not satisfied to have the average for laundrywomen, and most of them are Negroes, in five large cities, to be 65 cents an hour for a 48-hour week. This is a great country and we are confident we can move ahead, but we want every American, regardless of where he may live to live in a decent home, with decent schools and a decent hope for the future. That is what we are fighting for in this election. [Applause.]

Three years ago I went to Havana, Cuba, and I was told that the American Ambassador was the second most powerful man in Cuba. I am not saying he should have been, but he was. Today the Soviet Ambassador is the second most powerful man in Cuba.

I am not content to see the vision of the United States as a strong and vital country dimmed around the world. I am not satisfied to see people in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, who used to look to President Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Truman, now wonder what has happened to us, why we are on the decline, and look to Khrushchev and Peiping.

This is a great country. It can be greater. It is a powerful country. It can be more powerful. I ask your help in this campaign. I ask you to join me in a great effort to rebuild the country that we all love and in which we all believe. Thank you very much. [Applause.]

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

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