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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Schenectady, NY

September 29, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Peterson, Congressman Stratton, Mayor Wagner Arthur Levitt, Governor Harriman, fellow Democrats, independents, and a few Republicans. [Laughter.] Do we have any Republicans here today? [Response from the audience.]

We will have to be very careful what we say. [Laughter.] I want to express my appreciation to all of you for being kind enough to come out here. I am also delighted to be campaigning with your distinguished Congressman, and I hope whether you are a Democrat, Independent, Liberal, or Republican, you reelect Sam Stratton. [Applause.] He speaks for the interests of this district, and he also speaks for the United States, and I think that is the obligation of us all.

I come to this old city, Schenectady, running as I do for the Democratic candidacy as a Democratic candidate for the office of the Presidency. This city has a long and illustrious history. But the security of this city, its maintenance, its economic prosperity, are matters of continuing interest to the people of this area and of the United States. Schenectady will rise or fall, the economy of this area of the State of New York will prosper or decline, not merely on what you may do or this community, but also on what economic policies are pursued by our Government which stimulates business as a whole.

This community, like the cities of my own State, Massachusetts, can fight against recession. They can build their own economies. They can try to bring business in here. But if there isn't business growing in all parts of the United States, every effort which Schenectady may make, or the city of Lawrence, Mass., or a city in Illinois may make, isn't enough. If there isn't enough to go around, no city of the United States can rebuild itself by its own effort. It requires the cooperative effort of the people of this city, of labor and management, and of economic policies which stimulate our economy carried on by the Federal Government. It is a joint effort by us all if we are going to bring the tide up. [Applause.]

One of the problems which now affects us is the fact that we have this tremendous industrial capacity in the United States which has been stimulated by automation, which has been stimulated by great capital investments in the last 10 years, and the question is, can we consume in this country and around the world all that we can produce. If we can, we can maintain full employment. If we cannot, we will have layoffs, and it is a somber economic fact that in the United States in 1960, only 2 years after the recession of 1958, we are using only 50 percent of the capacity of our steel mills. Steel is basic to the economy of the United States. If steel is down, then the economy of the United States is on a plateau. Therefore, I consider the most serious domestic problem facing the next administration is to reverse the decline in agricultural income and also the maintenance of full employment in the United States. That will be a problem that will affect the administration of the next President in the first 6 months.

Some of the things that I think we can do: First, I think we can carry on a monetary and fiscal policy that stimulates our economy. I don't think that there is any doubt that the high interest rate policy followed by this administration intensified the recession of 1958, and also I think has had a deleterious effect on the economy in 1960.

I think the failure of the Congress and the administration to agree on an area redevelopment bill, which would be of particular benefit in attracting new industry into communities like Schenectady, I think it is most unfortunate. Both parties talk about it and it is a fact that twice we passed it in the Congress and twice it has been vetoed. I think that the administration and the Congress in January 1961 should pass an area redevelopment bill, because otherwise, even if you build the economy of the country as a unit, you are going to find areas which, because of technological changes, because of changes in the use of raw materials, or for one reason or another, will be left aside and there are over 150 of those communities in the United States today.

You know all about that in this section of New York. Therefore, I think the passage of the area redevelopment bill will be of the greatest possible help. In addition, I think we have to develop our natural resources. I mention all of these things, not because I think the Federal Government has the answer to all of these problems, but because I think there is a proper function for individual effort, for community government, for State government, and for National Government, and unless each group is meeting its responsibilities toward the community as a whole and toward the country, this country does not go ahead.

Mr. Nixon says I want to centralize everything. I have no desire to do so. I was the chairman of the Governmental Reorganization Committee which put over 30 of the Hoover Commission recommendations through the Congress in 1954 and 1955, but I do believe in effective government, and I do believe that there is a governmental policy now that affects all of our lives, education, economic and fiscal policy, foreign trade, our goals, all the rest - every phase of our national life and personal life is touched by personal policy. When you buy a house, the interest rates you pay on that house - all are affected by national policy. I want to make that national policy more effective. I want to make it more constructive. I think we can do a better job than has been done in recent years. [Applause.]

The old city of Schenectady, as all of you know, was wiped out by an Indian massacre early in its history. What is interesting and remarkable about it was that the settlers in Schenectady knew about the coming Indian attack over 2 years in advance. In fact, in the summer before, they made preparations for resisting it, but they did not believe it would come in the winter. Therefore, they laid down in the winter and the attack came and they were wiped out.

I don't say history repeats itself, but I do think there is a somber lesson in history, and that is that those who feel that they are secure, those who are not willing to work in the summer and in the winter, those who are not willing to prepare themselves for hard days ahead, have suffered in history the inevitable result. This is a difficult time. I think the United States is going to pass more difficult times in 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964. The next President of the United States is going to have to meet a crisis in Berlin, in the early days of his administration. He is going to have to meet a position in the Formosa Straits with an increasingly dangerous and belligerent Chinese Communist government. I think the job of the next President will be more difficult, more burdensome, more responsible than it has been in any administration since the time of Lincoln. But in the last 4 years I have traveled to every State in the Union, and I have visited every part of this country, and I have the greatest possible confidence in it. We have a productive strength which is unequaled. We have a form of government which every person in the world around us would most like to live under, given their free choice. We represent, in my judgment, the way of the future. I do not regard us as an extinct flowering of human experience. I regard us as the place where everyone ultimately wants to be. And if there is any lesson of the last 10 years in history, it is in Eastern Europe and in Africa, the same force has been at work, in Eastern Europe against the Communists, in Africa against the Western colonial powers, and what is it? The desire to be free and independent. This is the greatest and most heartening event in world history. It shows that ultimately the Communist experiment is bound to fail, because these people are not determined to gain their freedom in order to lose it. What I think is important for us is to associate ourselves with that great historical movement. I think in the last decade the United States has lost its image around the world as a friend of freedom. We have often allied ourselves with dictatorships which are on the way out. I think we should raise the standard of freedom as we always did.

Thomas Jefferson said the disease of liberty is catching. I think it is catching in our time and I want it to spread the world over. Our function is to maintain its vitality here, maintain our example here, so that as it starts to spread throughout the world, we will be the nucleus of a great army of people the globe around who desire to follow the same road we follow.

I ask your help in this campaign. I think we can win it here in the State of New York. [Applause.]

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

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