John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Sioux City, Iowa

September 22, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Governor Loveless, Mrs. Price, ladies and gentlemen. I want to express my appreciation to you for your hospitality. One of the interesting things in running for the Presidency is that you have to be prepared to speak at 11 o'clock at night or 8 in the morning. I am delighted to come. You have all contributed heavily. You have been touched deeply by coming to this breakfast. But it is most useful and most worthwhile. [Laughter.] I don't think it is presumptuous in thinking that this is an important election. The Congress has vast powers. I suppose really since the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, every decision of Government affects the lives of all of us. I would say that that is more true in the sixties than it has ever been before. It deserves some of our attention, it deserves some of our lives, whether you be farmers or small businessmen or professional men or housewives. There is not any doubt that the decisions of the next President and the next Senate and the next Congress, and the Governor of this State, will affect for good or for bad not only your lives, but the lives of your children, your education, your health, your income, your taxes, your security, the peace of the world, housing, the kind of business we have in this country.

We have been successful in maintaining a free society at the same time the government, State and National, plays a great role in our lives. The question that is before us in the sixties is whether a free society can compete unsuccessfully with a totalitarian society. When the Communists, both Chinese and Russian, are able to mobilize all of the resources to serve the state, when they operate a garrison state, when they are fully mobilized for the cold war, whether we can pursue a free society and pursue our own lives, and yet have sufficient public purpose to maintain our freedom, I think that is the big question that is before the United States, which transcends party differences.

I think it is to that question that the next administration and the next Congress will have to devote itself. how can we survive in a dangerous world and still maintain our freedom? I think we can. I think the free system happens to fit the best with the desires of the people every place. I think the experience in many ways of Africa in the last 3 or 4 years, and the experience of eastern Europe, gives me the most encouragement, in spite of all the difficulties in the Congo, and that is because of the desire of these people to be free and independent. In the last 2 or 3 months we have had 8 countries, or more, break away and become independent. We had a tremendous number join the United Nations the other day. In other words, there is a basic, strong passion running through the world to be free and independent. We saw it in East Germany, we saw it in Hungary, we saw it in Poland, and we saw it in Africa. In eastern Europe it was operating against the Communists. In Africa it was operating against the colonial powers. We have seen it in our own history. We have seen it in Latin America. How can people who desire to be free and independent, who will stop at nothing to gain their own independence, how can they possibly submit themselves to the tyranny of the Communists in the next 3 or 4 years? I consider this desire to be independent the strongest force for freedom of our security in the world. We support that cause or at least we should.

One of the real criticisms that I have of the U.S. foreign policy has been that we have not associated ourselves strongly enough since the end of World War II with this tremendous force which is sweeping the world. I thought we should have in Indochina. I thought we should have in north Africa. I think we should in all of Africa. These people may not be able successfully to maintain the kind of democracy that we have, but their desire to be free is our most valuable weapon. We do not wish to dominate them; the Communists do. Therefore, I look to the future with some trepidation and concern, but also with some hope. I think this is the strong force that I think is going to favor the cause of freedom with which we are intimately associated. I think we need an administration which is alert to these kinds of changes. When the Congo difficulty began, and I don't know why I am talking about Africa at Sioux City, except this is the kind of problem we will have to deal with, we offered 300 scholarships to the Congo, for young men to come over here, even though there are less than 15 college graduates in all of the Congo, to operate a free society. Why should we suddenly offer 300 scholarships to the Congo when we have not offered nearly that number to all of Africa? We do it in the point of turmoil. Proposals are made for the relief of Latin America because of our difficulties with Castro, proposals are made for aid to the Congo because of our difficulties with Lumumba. Couldn't we look to the future? Couldn't we look through the veil of tomorrow and make some decision which would make it possible for us to foresee events?

The number of students here from Africa, by the Government, number less than 200. There are a number here on private scholarships, many more than that. But it indicates a handful of students from all of these countries where the need is for greater education. I think this administration has not looked to the future and recognized the kind of needs we will have to have in foreign policy.

And what is true of foreign policy is true in domestic policy. Therefore, while I feel these are sophisticated issues, and while people talk about foreign policy and the issue of peace and security, and that is the basic issue, nevertheless, to get peace, to get security, I think we have to have an administration with imagination, and with a consuming interest in the problems that face us.

I hope that if we are successful - and it is not, as I said before a fight merely between Mr. Nixon and myself, we lead two parties, two forces, two sources of energy. I happen to think that the Democratic Party has the kind of vitality, curiosity, that attracts people who happen to have new ideas and be associated with the future. It always has.

If you are a standpatter, you don't join the Democratic Party; you go over to the Republican Party. And they have, for the last 100 years since Lincoln's death, with the exception of Theodore Roosevelt, but if you look to the future, if you have concern, if you have a vague sense of satisfaction with what is going on and a feeling we can do better, I think you should be with our party, whether it is the agricultural policy in this country, whether it is the needs of the State of Iowa, whether it is the problems facing the United States, I happen to think that the Democratic Party has a contribution to make in the sixties.

Your presence here indicates that you feel the same. I think Iowa and this district, this State, are gifted with exceptional candidates. Governor Loveless' record is known. I have no doubt he is going to be successful. Mr. McManus has been an exceptional young figure who has come out of the State, and I think he will carry on strong. Mr. O'Brien, I think, will speak strongly for this district and the country. And I hope that if I am elected I will speak for this district, Iowa, the United States, and the course of freedom. Thank you. [Standing ovation.]

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Sioux City, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives