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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Shaunee Mission East High School, Kansas City, KS

October 22, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. I am grateful for the introduction of my old friend and colleague, Newell George. He has served this district with vigor and he also has served it responsibly, and he speaks also for the United States. So I am hopeful that the people of this district will reelect him to the Congress of the United States to continue to represent our country in that most important body. [Applause.]

Members of the House of Representatives are given under the Constitution power to levy taxes, the power to appropriate money. The Senate is confined to approving treaties and appointments by the President to high administrative offices. So quite obviously, the House is the key job. Any time you don't like the way your taxes are being raised or your money is being spent, it is to the House that you write, not to the Senate. [Laughter.]

But in any case, he has done a good job. He is an old friend of mine and I am hopeful that this district - and I know that in Kansas it is tough for a Democrat - I am hopeful that the people of this district will support him and send him back.

In addition, I hope that Kansas will elect a U.S. Senator, Frank Theis, who will speak for Kansas. [Applause.] There are 100 Members of the Senate, 65 Democrats and 35 Republicans. Even if we lost every race, if the Republicans reelected every one of their incumbents in this fight and we lost every Democrat who is up for election, mathematically the Democrats would still Control the U.S. Senate. That being true, with the problems that Kansas has, particularly in the field of agriculture, particularly in the development of your resources, all the problems which a great State in the heartland of the United States has, specially in relation to the Government, it seems to me only commonsense that at least one of the Senators should be a member of the majority party, participating in the majority decisions, speaking for Kansas and the country in the Democratic Party.

Kansas today has two Republicans. The Senate will be Democratic. I believe that Frank Theis can serve this State and serve the country, and I am hopeful that he will be elected to the Senate of the United States. [Applause.] I spoke this afternoon in Wichita. We left New York after Mr. Nixon and I had our strange interlude. [Laughter.] Since then, since midnight, we have been to St. Louis, Joplin, Wichita, Kansas City, now Johnson County, and we are going to Green Bay, Wis., tonight, to attempt to carry our message tomorrow to the expectant and waiting voters of Wisconsin. But I was particularly anxious to come here. Mr. Nixon submitted a list, or his intimate advisors did, to some magazine this week, which gave his sure States. He gave us Massachusetts, I think, and Rhode Island. [Laughter.] He named a good deal of the United States and among the States that he claimed was Kansas. [Response from the audience.]

My impression has been that this election was not until November 8 and Kansas did not make up its judgment until then. My hope is that Kansas will vote Democratic as it did in 1936. [Applause.]

I don't want to disappoint him, but I do think it would be good for everybody if he got some surprises. [Laughter.]

I am delighted to be here with Stuart Symington. He and I had equal claims, equal lines, on the Kansas delegation at the Democratic Convention. You divided yourselves in a Solomon-like way, so we are both happy but not too happy, so I am delighted to be over here with him tonight. [Laughter.] Your distinguished Governor spoke this afternoon at Wichita. He had an old commitment to go to a dinner and asked me if I would express his regrets to all of you. He did want to be here. He has been a distinguished Governor. He is going to lead the ticket. We are all grabbing his coattails, and I am confident that Docking, George, then Kennedy, may win here in Kansas. [Applause.]

Let me just say one word. We have a tendency in a campaign to simplify issues and talk pretty much in - I suppose it comes down to almost slogans, and I think that that is important, because I do believe that there is a party difference and a difference in point of view of the candidates, which has been shown really not so much by their speeches, though I hope that they reveal some difference in approach and character, but also by their record in the last 14 years. But I do want to make the point that all of these old fights which the Republicans and Democrats have been engaged in, which involve so-called social legislation, those fights are going to go on in the sixties, because we have a responsibility to meet our commitments, to improve the life of every American so that they participate to some degree or other in our general prosperity in our national life. The point I want to make, however, is that most of the difficult decisions which the next President will meet will involve problems about which we have thought very little. In other words, in 1940, during the presidential campaign between Wendell Willkie and Franklin D. Roosevelt, there was no discussion of the effects of breaking of the atom, and what the effect of possessing atomic weapons would be. And yet when Albert Einstein came in 1941 with a group of other scientists, Franklin Roosevelt endorsed the idea, appropriated nearly $2 billion to the Manhattan project, and, of course, we made the significant breakthrough.

In 1952, during the campaign between Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower, there was no discussion, really, of outer space, and yet this administration, when a similar opportunity was granted to it to make a significant breakthrough, to recognize the implications of the opportunity in the same way that Franklin Roosevelt had recognized it in 1941, when this administration was informed of the significance of outer space, both militarily and scientifically, we did not respond. My judgment is that we did not respond there as we have not responded to our needs in Latin America, our needs in Africa, our needs in Asia, our needs in disarmament, our needs in arms, because this administration has not been able to attract people of intellectual vitality, curiosity, foresight, and vigor. [Applause.]

This is not a contest between Mr. Nixon and myself. Outer space is one example, and our failure to be first in outer space, as said Mr. George Allen of the Information Service, cost us more heavily in prestige, and I do not define prestige as popularity. I define prestige as influence, as an ability to persuade people to accept your point of view. That probably cost us more in the fifties than any other failure or any other decision or any other action. It persuaded people who lived in the underdeveloped countries that the Soviet Union, which was once so far behind, was now the equal and the superior in some degree of the United States. That is one of the reasons why I believe they are reluctant to release these polls we read about in the Department of State, because I believe these polls show that American prestige, the regard for America as a great scientific power has declined.

What is true about outer space is true about Latin America. Mr. Nixon said in September that if we had thought of a program of aid for Latin America of the kind we have now put forward as a result of our difficulties with Castro in 1955, he, and I quote him accurately [laughter and applause] said we might have been able to avoid Castro.

Why didn't they come in 1955? It could not have been so difficult to predict that these people in Latin America are part of the revolution of rising expectations. They are not going to be satisfied to live at $75 or $100 a year all the time when they see us rich and the Communists work among them. Look at Africa. Not until 1957 was there a Bureau of African Affairs. In 1957 we had more people stationed in Western Germany than in all of Africa. We had more students coming from abroad 10 years ago under Federal sponsorship than we do today. So my feeling is that this issue is not merely the old issue of the New Deal-Fair Deal issues, but really it is a question of which administration, which point of view, which philosophy can bring to Washington men of talent and curiosity, men who have some knowledge of the world in which we live, the kind of revolutionary times, and what is required of a free society in competing with a totalitarian society.

My judgment is that the Republican Party as presently constituted and presently led has not demonstrated either in the past or during this campaign that they have this kind of competence. Mr. Nixon could not run on the program that he runs on if he recognized our times. He could not run on the program that our power and prestige is at its height, that of the Communists at the lowest it has been, that everything is all right and being done in its proper measure. The very fact that he chooses that as his campaign indicates that he could not suddenly reverse in 1961 and determine on action. If he really believes these things he says, in my opinion he disqualifies himself. If he does not believe them, and runs on that program, he makes the same mistake that Stanley Baldwin made in England in 1935 which almost destroyed Great Britain, by misleading the people of England in 1935. He prevented them, by not telling them the truth, he prevented them from arming at a time when it might have been possible to prevent the disaster of Munich.

So I believe this issue involves a good deal more than Mr. Nixon and myself. It involves our parties. It involves men like the people who are going to represent you in the Congress and in the Senate, men like Senator Symington, Dick Bolling, men like President Truman, who we were with tonight, women like Mrs. Gray and others. This is a time once again for action. This is a time when we make our choice, that it is time that this country picked itself up again and went forward.

We are encouraged by the fact, as Mr. Casey Stengel showed us this week, experience perhaps does not count. [Laughter.] [Standing ovation.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Shaunee Mission East High School, Kansas City, KS Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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