John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Salem, Ohio, Stadium

October 09, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Congressman Hays, Governor Di Salle, County Chairman Gosney, Democratic Chairman Bill Coleman, ladies and gentlemen, I want to express my regrets to all of you for having kept you. I want to express my thanks to all of you for having stayed. We did the best we could. We were not out walking. We were out working here in the State of Ohio, and I am delighted to be here now. [Applause.]

Salem, Ohio, is 1,000 miles from Salem, Mass., but they are sisters under the skin. They are part of an America, and they stand in a great American tradition, which it is our responsibility in these times and in our generation to maintain. The motto of the city of Salem in Massachusetts is a palm tree, an Indian, and the motto is "To the farthest islands of the Indies," because Salem, Mass., and the young men who sailed from that port, sailed to the East Indies to make their fortunes. The East Indies. Salem, Mass., and Salem. Ohio, are all bound together in 1960. We rise or fall together. We rise or fall as freedom is maintained in this Ohio Valley, on the shores of Massachusetts, and on the farthest island of the Indies. I come tonight as the standard hearer of the Democratic Party to tell you that you in Ohio and the people of the United States have a very clear choice to make, and that is whether in their judgment the leadership of this country, its vigor and vitality, in the great problems that face us, will maintain that freedom, whether here or in the Far East. I want to make it very clear that there are sharp issues which divide Mr. Nixon and myself, which divide the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, and they are in our concept of what is happening to our country. He has run on the slogan, "We have never had it so good" and I run on the slogan "We must do better." I come here to this valley, which has seen a steel crisis, which has seen one-third of the steelworkers in the United States, either unemployed or working part time, I come to an America that must maintain its strength, not only because it must defend the welfare of its people, but also because it must defend freedom. This is no time for the United States to misjudge the course of events. And I disagree wholly with the interpretation which the Vice President gives to the course of events in this country and around the world. In our Friday night debate, in talking about whether the power and prestige of the United States has risen or declined, Mr. Nixon said, "Look at the voting in the United Nations over the past 7 years. This is the test of prestige."

There is the quote. Now, look at that for just one minute. You who are here tonight, who must live in these years of our days, and who must face up to the sober responsibilities that go with being a citizen of the United States, yesterday we had a vote. The most important vote in the United Nations this year. And I am ready to rest my case in my issue with the Vice President as to what is happening to our country on that vote yesterday, the vote, as Mr. Nixon said, in the United Nations.

The question was on the admission of Red China, and we have fought it for many years. The United States won by the narrowest margin we ever had. In yesterday's vote, 34 countries voted against us. But that was not what was alarming. In Africa, which will constitute by 1963 one-quarter of all the nations of the General Assembly, which is the great center of a struggle today between communism and freedom, only two African nations voted with us. One was South Africa, which is disliked cordially on the continent and the other was Liberia which has had intimate American ties for 150 years. Two nations in all of Africa voted with us yesterday, and the decline has been steady year by year.

In 1952 85 percent of the General Assembly voted with us. In 1953, it was 81. In 1954, it was 79. In 1955, it was 77. In 1956, it was 66. In 1957, it was 63. In 1958, it was 61. In 1959, it was 60 percent. This year it was 56 percent. Two nations in all of Africa voted with us yesterday on Red China. How many nations in all of Asia voted with us? Seven. The remaining either abstained or voted against us. More nations voted against us in Africa and Asia yesterday than voted with us. If Mr. Nixon wants to use that as the test of the United States prestige, I will use it.

Last week, in the United Nations, there was another test, and that was on the motion of the five neutral countries to force a meeting between Khrushchev and President Eisenhower, against the wishes of President Eisenhower and in accordance with the wishes of Mr. Khrushchev, we won that vote only because a two-thirds vote was necessary. Actually we got beaten, 37 to 41. Not a single country in Africa on that vote voted with us. They either abstained or they voted against us.

I agree with Mr. Nixon that these votes are a test of our prestige. But I can take no satisfaction in them. I can take no satisfaction in coming to this valley and seeing pottery mills, seeing steel mills working part time, seeing rivers that are polluted, seeing an administration which has twice vetoed the area redevelopment bill, which has vetoed a hill to clean our rivers, which has vetoed twice in the last 12 months a housing bill, which considers $1.25 minimum wage an extreme, which considers medical care for the aged as extreme, and I quote Mr. Nixon accurately. I stand tonight in this city of Salem, in the State of Ohio, where Franklin Roosevelt stood and Woodrow Wilson, and I come here tonight and ask your help in this campaign. I ask your help in building the strength of our country. This is a great country, but it is our obligation as long as we bear responsibility, it is our obligation to make a greater country. And this is a powerful country, but it is our obligation to make it a more powerful one. There are no secrets in this campaign. You who live in Salem can make your own judgment as to whether you believe that the course of events in the world and the force and vigor of our country is moving us where it should move us or whether history will record that in the last years of the fifties the tide began to go against us, the tide began to ebb. That is the question which you have to decide. What kind of leadership do you want? Do you want leadership which tells you that all is well? That never before have we been so secure? Two thousand years ago, Demosthenes in orating to the Athenians, against the onrushes of Philip of Macedonia, said, "Our peril is from people who tell us what pleases us, rather than what causes our peril." And I do not come here tonight to say what pleases, because I believe that we have 3 weeks to present our case and to make it clear that if you join with us it is because you believe we can do better. It is because you believe we must do better. And, therefore, I come here tonight to this city, and ask your support in this election. I ask you to join us in rebuilding the spirit of this country, the sense of national destiny, so that African leaders and Latin American leaders and Asians will once more turn to the great Republic for inspiration and example. We want them to be quoting the next President of the United States. I don't want them only to quote Lincoln and Jefferson and Wilson and Roosevelt. I want them to look to the future with us. I want to prove Khrushchev wrong, when he says that our society is a sick, and dying, and faltering horse. I stand for the future. I believe our opponents stand for the present, and they have made it very clear that they consider necessary for our survival. I disagree, and on that basis, the issue is joined. [Applause.] I am glad to come to this district which has been ably served in the House of Representatives by Congressman Wayne Hays, who came to the House in 1948, and who served as a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, who has spoken for the interests of this district but also for the interests of the United States, and we stand on the program of the future. I come here today from a part of the United States which has close ties with this part, but I come here in the spirit of asking your help, asking you to join us, asking you to get this country moving again, asking you to look to the future. That is why we are going to win. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Salem, Ohio, Stadium Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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