John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, San Francisco, CA, International Airport

September 03, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Brown, Congressman Shelley, Helen Lynch, Mr. Smith, Roger Kent, ladies and gentlemen, I think it is appropriate that we begin the 1960 campaign right here in the State of California, and I think it is appropriate that we begin it on Labor Day weekend. The Republicans are all at the beach, but we are out here at this airport. [Applause and laughter.]

Last night I spoke in the oldest part of the United States, in Portland, Maine; today at lunch, I speak in San Francisco; tonight at Anchorage, Alaska. We are going to carry this campaign to all parts of the United States, in order to show the American people that this country cannot possibly afford 4 more years of Republican leadership. [Applause.] We are going to take our case to the only forum where it belongs, where there is no threat of a Presidential veto, where there is no parliamentary obstruction, where we shall be successful, and that is the forum of the American people themselves. [Applause.]

This last session of the Congress for the last 4 weeks is a vivid example of what can happen when the country is divided in its leadership; because the Republican Party opposed the $1.25 minimum wage, we didn't get it. Because the Republican Party - and only one Senator voted against them - opposed medical care for the aged tied to social security, which had the endorsement of Governor Rockefeller, as well as the Democratic Party, and it was beaten by five votes. And Time magazine this week said that the leader of the Republican Party smiled when he heard the results - this is the kind of thing which has happened in the month of August. But we are going to reverse it in November. [Applause.]

The theme of this campaign is going to be action, action here at borne to keep pace with the growing needs of an expanding country, and action abroad to meet the challenge of our adversaries. I believe the American people will elect a President to act. He is the only one who can speak for the people of the United States.

I speak for the people of Massachusetts, and Clair Engle speaks in the Senate for the people of California, but only the President of the United States can speak for Massachusetts and California. And if the President does not believe in action, the country will not move. [Applause.]

I don't see how one can say that there are no longer any major issues. The pressures of our schools, the plight of our aged, the necessity of maintaining full employment, in spite of the revolutions of automation, the necessity of expanding equal rights to all Americans, wherever they may live - these are the things that require action. [Applause.] And the old way is changing around the world. In 1952, we in this country had never heard of Nasser, or Castro, or Lumumba, or any of the others, and now they are household words and their efforts are not dedicated to the well-being of the United States. In the last 3 years three countries, formerly on the side of the West, have now passed into the area of Communist control.

In the last 3 weeks the Congo, newly independent, is now dominated by a Communist government. In the last 3 years, the Republic of Cuba, under a dictatorship of Batista, closely associated with the United States, with the American Ambassador, the second most powerful man in Havana, now finds itself a Communist satellite. This is the kind of foreign policy. This is the kind of image we have presented to a watching world. The United States looks tired. It looks like our brightest days have been in the past. It looks like the Communists are reaching for the future, and we sit back and talk about the ideals of the American Revolution. The way to put the ideals of the American Revolution into significance is to act on them, not to talk about them. [Applause.]

My basic belief is that this country is not satisfied to live in a period of relative decline. I don't think that there is any American who wants it said that in the days of his generation, when he bore responsibility as a citizen, the power shifted from the free world to that of the Communist. I don't want historians in 1970 to say that in the 1950's and 1960's the Communists made a decisive breakthrough.

This is the challenge which is before us as Americans. Not merely as Americans, but as believers in freedom. This is not a choice between the Vice President of the United States and myself. This is really a choice between the two philosophies of government, between a party that wishes to act, between a party which is not satisfied with things as they are, between a party which wishes to move ahead to a new frontier, and a party which believes in maintaining the status quo. [Applause]

I am a candidate for the office of the President. I do not run for that office under any expectation that it is an easy, honorary job. It is the wellspring of American action. Only if the President of the United States sets before the American people the same kind of unfinished agenda which Franklin Roosevelt set before us in the 1930's [applause] and which Woodrow Wilson set before us in the new freedom, and which Adlai Stevenson set before us in his call for greatness [applause] which Harry Truman stood for in his own administration those are the names of the Americans who moved this country. Therefore, today I ask your support. This is a weekend which we take off. But I can assure you that if I am elected in November, this country's vacation will end and this country will begin to move again. [Applause.]

Thank you.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, San Francisco, CA, International Airport Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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