Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Senior Citizens Meeting, Kleinhan's Music Hall, Buffalo, NY - (Advance Release Text)
Twenty-five years ago social security became law.
But that is not the only anniversary we mark today. For, 25 years ago the Republicans in the Congress voted 95 to 1 to kill social security, calling it an extreme measure.
Today, 25 years later, much has changed for older Americans - social security with its hope for a later life of dignity and a decent standard of living is an accepted and admired part of the American way of life.
But one thing has not changed. This year again the Republican Party - as it always has in the past - is fighting every single Democratic effort to advance the welfare of our people to relieve poverty and hunger and the burdens of illness. This year again only a single Republican in the Senate voted for medical care for the aged. This year again Mr. Nixon, as the spokesman for his party, speaking to 73 million people in our television debate, said that our efforts to provide medical care through social security were "extreme."
But I don't believe it is "extreme" to help our older citizens get the medical attention they need. I don't believe it is "extreme" to work through our tried and tested social security system. I don't believe it is "extreme" to relieve poverty and illness and despair.
What is "extreme" is the fact of 9 million Americans over the age of 65 trying to survive on incomes of less than $20 a week - the 3 million more living on $40 a week. What is "extreme" is the fact of millions of older Americans who are unable to afford the medical care - the doctors and drugs and hospital rooms - which they so desperately need. And what is "extreme" is the opposition of the Republican Party to every effort to bring help to our older citizens.
When the Republican Party nominated Mr. Nixon, they not only selected a leader - they selected a man whose record had proven him to be a true heir and representative of this historic Republican tradition - a man who led the opposition to medical care for the aged. And a man who was ready to carry on that opposition.
In 1935 the Republicans failed to block progress. This year they succeeded in destroying the hopes of Americans over the age of 65 for relief from the crushing burden of medical bills - and for the opportunity to fully care for their health. And they substituted for a soundly financed program under social security, a bill which will cost the American taxpayer over a billion dollars a year, is impossible to administer, which will not even be put into effect in many of our States, which has been rejected by the Governor of New York, and which will fail to bring relief where it does go into effect.
Why then did the Republicans fail to kill social security in 1935, and succeed in 1960? In 1935 we had a Democratic President in the White House using all the many powers of that high office to insure the passage of his program. This year we had a Republican administration, using all its powers, to destroy our program.
The lesson is a clear one. Only with a Democratic President in the White House can we hope to bring help to poverty-stricken older Americans. And in 1961 we will have a Democratic President. And in 1961 help will be on the way.
John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Senior Citizens Meeting, Kleinhan's Music Hall, Buffalo, NY - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274719