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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, State Capitol, Albany, NY

September 29, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Mayor Corning, Congressman O'Brien Mrs. Price, ladies and gentlemen, and fellow Government employees. [Laughter.] I don't know how much work is being done in the city of Albany this morning, but I do appreciate very much your generosity in coming out, and the mayor's. [Applause.]

One hundred sixty-five years ago Thomas Jefferson and James Madison came up the Hudson River near here searching for butterflies and fish, and then sailed down the Hudson River, met with some New York Democrats and formed the National Democratic Party, the union between the rural United States and the cities of the United States, which has lasted 165 years. [Applause.]

I do not come here this morning chasing butterflies. I come here asking your help in this campaign. I come here asking your support. [Applause.] I stand where three distinguished Governors of the State of New York have stood, Theodore Roosevelt, Al Smith, and Franklin Roosevelt, as candidates for the office of the Presidency. [Applause].

Theodore Roosevelt was a man of such understanding and such comprehension of the force of events that ultimately he left the Republican Party or it left him. But Al Smith stood here on these steps and accepted the nomination in 1928. I do not believe this is 1928. I believe this is 1932 and 1948, and I think the Democrats can win this election here in the State of New York. [Applause.]

The first American to ever sail to and open up the China trade was a Captain Dean, whose street is named after him, Dean Street, and after he had gone to China and brought back a good many goods, the American paper here in this city had written that he had given an exalted idea of the United States to the people of the world. It seems to me that in 1960 that is our function, to give an exalted idea of the United States to the world, even more importantly to give an exalted idea of freedom to the world. There have been suggestions that during the United Nations meeting that the debates of this election should be stilled. I hold a different view. I do not believe there is a more valuable exposition of the vitality of freedom to Mr. Khrushchev and Gromyko than it is to see the United States involved in a great free election, to have an opportunity to make a freedom of choice, to have the issues presented honestly to the American people, so that they can make their judgment on November 8.

I think this is a serious election, in many ways the most serious in many years of this country's long history. The issue is the same as it has been for many years. How can the United States maintain its freedom? How can it live in peace, how can it maintain its security, how can it hold out a helping hand to those countries to the south of us who stand today on the razor edge of decision, trying to determine which road they shall take? I believe that the responsibility of our generation of Americans is to build a society here in this country so vital, so vigorous, so effective, that it serves as an example to the world, that it serves as an example to those who wish to decide which road they shall take. I think by the end of the next President's administration the balance of power in the world will begin to change more or less in one direction or another. We have seen in the last 3 or 4 years where several countries, once independent, have now passed into the Communist orbit. The question is how many more in 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964. How many more in 1965, 1966, and 1967 will begin to move in the direction of the Communist orbit or begin to move in the direction of freedom?

We do not sit here on a stage watching a slow glacial like movement in history. I think these movements may take place in 5, 10, or 15 years. We have seen since 1945 enemies become friends, and friends become enemies. The world is moving faster than it ever moved before, and therefore we are settling one of the great issues of history, whether the Communist system will be successful in its charge to dominate the world, or whether freedom will spread.

It is an old struggle but it has a new form, and I think in the next 10 years or the next 15 years, in the lifetime of nearly everyone here, we will see an entirely different world picture than we see today. We will either see freedom on the ascendancy around the world, or other countries of Latin America and Africa and Asia will begin to move in the direction of China and Russia. And, therefore, I think it incumbent upon us to concern ourselves with the problems in New York, with the problems here in the United States, so that we build a stronger society, so that what we are speaks louder than what we say.

But we should also frame every action with reference to the world around us. The security of the United States is the basic responsibility now before us, and in my judgment that security can be maintained by the United States once more standing as an example to all mankind.

I am chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa of the Foreign Relations Committee, and every African nationalist 20 or 25 or 30 years ago quoted Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Now many of them quote Marx: many of them are Marxist if not Communists. Many of them believe that that represents the way of the future. What has happened to the vitality of the United States that they should feel that history moves in the direction of the most reactionary system of government ever devised? Why is it that we who represent the final flowering of the human experience in self-government should be regarded as a tired country, as a country which has seen its best days? I don't hold that view. think our high noon is yet to come. But I think if we devote ourselves to the public interest, if we are willing to bear the burdens which go with self-government and the maintenance of freedom in a country such as the United States, if we say that we will have a defense second to none, if we concentrate ourselves on building our economy so that we are the No.1 productive power in the world and maintain that position, if we provide equality of opportunity for our citizens, regardless of their religion and regardless of their race, then what we will be will speak far louder than what the Communists say we are. I think that is the responsibility of this generation of Americans.

Franklin Roosevelt early in his administration said that "This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny." I think they met that rendezvous. I am asking this generation of Americans in 1960 to do the same, to do in its time what those generations before us did, to maintain freedom and serve as an example and a bright light to the world around us. That is our opportunity, and I think that is our destiny. Thank you. [Applause.]

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

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