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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Pottsville, PA

October 28, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Mr. Ryan Mr. Mayor, Governor Lawrence, Senator Clark, Congressman-to-be William Deitman, Ed Schlitzer, and Albert Nagle, ladies and gentlemen: I want to express my thanks to all of you for coming out here this morning. You come here and I come here for the same reason, and that is that all of us believe that this is an important election, which involves our country, and that we are involved in selecting the President of the United States who will speak for the United States, who will symbolize the United States, and the symbol which Mr. Nixon and I present in this election is entirely different. You have to judge, you have to decide on November 8, a week from Tuesday, which symbol, which leadership, which philosophy, which party you prefer.

Now let me make it very clear that the differences are sharp. I want Mr. Nixon to come here to Pottsville and campaign on his slogan, "You've never had it so good." [Laughter and response from the audience.] My own feeling is that this country will be as strong in the world, that our chances for peace will be as well assured, the United States will speak with vigor and lead the free world only, if we have a strong and vital economy and country here in the United States. [Applause.]

Words are not substitutes for strength. Mr. Khrushchev has listened to words all his life. What he respects is the power of a free society, and this country is not moving ahead, it is not developing the kind of power that it must, if we are going to maintain the leadership of the free world and roll communism back around the world. [Applause.]

I will make it clear where the Republicans and the Democrats and Mr. Nixon and I differ. I was the floor manager and as chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor brought the first area redevelopment bill to the floor of the Senate. We passed that bill for depressed areas, and I represented a number of them - the city of Lawrence Mass, had 30 percent unemployment for 4 years. I brought that bill and managed it through the Senate. That bill was opposed by the Republicans. It passed the House and President Eisenhower vetoed it. We brought the bill through, the bill which Senator Clark led the fight for in the Senate, we passed it in the Senate, passed it in the House, and the President vetoed it. And I don't want Mr. Nixon or anyone else to say that that bill was not infinitely preferable to that half-baked bill which they brought forward, which would have brought little relief to Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, southern Illinois, where the unemployment rate has been in many cases over 10 percent for as long as 3 or 4 years. [Applause.]

I am not interested in campaign promises. I am interested and you should be, and you are, in what is the record. No. 2, this Government of ours passes out surplus food packages to nearly a half million people in the State of Pennsylvania. Do you know what is in those packages for a family of four? Some flour, some meal, some rice, they have added lard recently. It amounts, for a family of four people, to $6.50 for a family of four, which amounts to a grand total of 5 cents per person per day, in the richest country on earth. If you feel that a minimum wage of $1.25 is extreme, if you believe that medical care for the aged tied to social security is worse than a medical aid bill which requires that an old person must take an oath that he is medically indigent, a pauper's oath, before he gets public assistance, if you feel it is proper to veto two depressed area bills, if you are pleased by the fact that we built this year in September 30 percent less homes than a year ago, and that this administration has vetoed two housing bills in the last 12 months, if you think that is good, Mr. Nixon is your man. [Response from the audience.]

But if you share my view that this country of ours has to move ahead, we can't permit 50 percent of our steel capacity to go unused, 109,000 steelworkers out of work, others working parttime, coal miners - and I spent a month in West Virginia, which has the same problem as Pennsylvania - out of work, and this administration has been indifferent to it - the first act passed in 1953, pretty nearly, by this administration's leader in the Senate, Senator Knowland, when the Republicans controlled the Senate, was to repeal defense manpower policy No. 4. That policy provided that defense contracts would go into those areas where there was high unemployment. The fight was led by Senator Knowland, the leader of the Senate at that time.

I don't think that there is any person in the United States that can go to the polls on November 8 and say they stand for the same things. I disagree with Mr. Nixon across the board. My belief is that the United States has to move ahead. We cannot provide security for our people, we cannot provide employment for our people, we cannot educate our children, we cannot care for the aged, we cannot speak with strength as the leader of the free world, unless we have a strong and vital and prosperous economy here in the United States, and that is the question, and that is the issue. What is the possible use of pointing fingers at Khrushchev or making great speeches, when every poll taken in the last 12 months by the State Department around the world shows that they do not believe any longer that the United States is the strongest country in the world.

How can we lead an alliance? Who prepares for battle, as the Bible tells us, when the trumpet blows an uncertain sound? We are as strong abroad as we are at home. We are as strong in the fight against communism as we are in Pennsylvania. The hope for freedom in Eastern Europe rests with our strength, our determination, our unwavering determinations to carry this fight for freedom in this country and around the world until ultimately freedom prevails. And we will not do that unless this community and this State and this country are working forward, moving forward. And if you believe in a dangerous and challenging and changing time that we ought to stand still, if you look to the past instead of the future, if you believe that every thing that must be done is being done in its own good time, Mr. Nixon is your kind of candidate. [Response from the audience.]

But if you share my view that the United States as the leader of the free world has to lead, that the United States must move in the sixties, that this is the most dangerous and challenging and promising time in the long life of our country, in the long life of freedom - in the next 8 years this world is going to be entirely different. It will be freer or it will be more enslaved, depending upon what we do. The responsibility is ours. We are the only sentinel at the gate. If we fail, freedom fails. If we succeed, if we present an image of power, then freedom is strengthened.

It is on this basis that I come to this community in the heart of the United States and ask your help on November 8. [Applause.]

Let me conclude by just saying that 100 years ago in the campaign of 1860, that campaign was fought over the issue of whether this Nation could exist half slave and half free. Now the question, 100 years later, is whether the world will exist half slave and half free, or whether it will move in the direction of freedom or in the direction of slavery.

I am reminded of what Lincoln wrote to a friend in the campaign a century ago: "I know there is a God and I know He hates injustice. I see the storm coming, and I see His hand in it. But if He has a place and a part for me, I believe that I am ready." Now, 100 years later, we know there is a God and we know He hates injustice. We see the storm coming and we see His hand in it. But if He has a place and a part for us, I believe that we are ready. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Pottsville, PA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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