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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Reading, PA

September 16, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Senator Clark, my friends and colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I want to express my thanks to all of you for being kind enough to come out and welcome a candidate for the Democratic nomination. I run for the Democratic nomination at a very difficult time, but I don't think that there is anyone in this city who feels that there are no longer any major issues between the two parties. I think there are just as many issues today as there were in the 1930's or the 1940's or there were during the administration of Woodrow Wilson. The fact of the matter is that I cannot think of a single piece of progressive legislation recommended initially by this administration during the past 8 years. [Applause.] During the last session of the Congress in August we attempted to pass a bill which I considered to be vitally needed, which is to provide medical protection for the aged under social security. We received the support of 44 Democratic Senators and 1 Republican Senator, and we were warned that there would be a veto. When we tried to pass a bill to provide $1.25 minimum wage, which is $50 a week for our workers, we passed it in the Senate, and we were warned that if we passed it in the conference, it would be vetoed.

The fact of the matter is that the Republican Party in this century has said "No" to progress and the Democrats have said "Yes."

I ask your help in this campaign. I think that what we must do is not only rebuild the strength of the United States in foreign policy, but I think if the United States is going to be strong abroad, it must also be strong at home. You cannot live in the State of Pennsylvania, which is one of the great industrial States of this country, and have only 50 percent of the steel capacity of the United States working. If the Soviet Union destroyed one-half of our steel capacity, we would think we had been ruined. And yet by the economic policies followed by this administration, our steel mills are working 44 percent of capacity. I think we can do better. I think we must do better.

I ask your help in this campaign. This is an important election. The issues which divide the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are the issues which have divided us in this century. Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom, Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, Harry Truman's Fair Deal - all were programs on behalf of the American people, and they were opposed in their day as we are in our day by a Republican Party whose motto has been "No new starts", "No new starts any place in the United States." As a result, the strength, the power, the influence, and the prestige of the United States has deteriorated relative to that of the Communists around the world. When we are strong, when we are moving ahead in the United States, then we are moving ahead abroad. The reason Franklin Roosevelt was a good neighbor in Latin America was that he was a good neighbor to the American people. [Applause.]

I ask your help in this campaign, not saying that if we are elected life will be easy, but saying that if we are elected, we are going to move ahead on education and housing, and care for the aged, on all the programs which face us in the 1960's, to make a strong and vital country, equality of opportunity for all Americans regardless of their race or their religion. This is the great challenge of the new frontier. [Applause.]

During the American Constitutional Convention there was a painting in the State of Pennsylvania, in the city of Philadelphia. There was a painting of a sun low on the horizon, behind the desk of General Washington, and at the conclusion, many of the delegates wondered whether it was a rising or a setting sun. At the end, Benjamin Franklin stood up and said, "Because of what we have done here today, we now know it is a rising sun and the beginning of a great new day."

I think in the revolutions of the 1960's, if we take the path of progress, if we look forward, not backward, it can be for the United States and the free world a rising sun and the beginning of a great new day. Thank you. [Applause.]

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

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